Breaking down the unit by unit comparisons between the LSU Tigers and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
LSU rushing offense vs. Ohio State rushing defense
Like a lot of the matchups in this game, what gives? LSU ranks among the top rushing attacks in the country and the second best in the SEC behind only Arkansas. The Tigers average 218 yards per game on the ground, which is 12th nationally. LSU features its first 1,000-yard rusher in four seasons as Jacob Hester topped the mark against Tennessee and has racked up 1,017 yards on the year and has scored 11 touchdowns. Keiland Williams is second on the team with 458 rushing yards while four other LSU players, including quarterback Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux have each ran for more than 200 yards. Ohio State is giving up just 77 yards per game on the ground, which ranks third in the country. The Tigers get the slight lean here.
LSU passing offense vs. Ohio State passing defense
Ohio State ranks No. 1 in the nation against the pass giving up just 148 yards per game through the air. The Buckeyes are also the No. 1 rated defense for opponent's passing efficiency. LSU has had its struggles throwing the football this season, but that has many been attributed to injuries. Matt Flynn battled a pair of injuries through the season (ankle, shoulder) and Ryan Perrilloux actually played the entire SEC Championship Game and was named the MVP. The Buckeyes' defense gets the nod here because of outstanding credentials.
Advantage: Ohio State
Ohio State rushing offense vs. LSU rushing defense
The Ohio State Buckeyes feature their own 1000-yard rusher in Chris "Beanie" Wells. Wells has run for 1,463 yards on 254 carries and has scored 14 touchdowns. His backup, Maurice Wells (no relation), has accounted for almost 400 yards of his own and three more scores. The Tiger defense spent most of the season ranked the best in the country against the run, but poor efforts against Ole Miss and Arkansas dropped LSU's average yards against the run down to 14th nationally, 103 yards per game. Darren McFadden and Arkansas gouged LSU for big gainers as the Hawgs upset No. 1 LSU. Look for the Tigers to be much better versus the run as players like Glenn Dorsey have had a month of rest.
Ohio State passing offense vs. LSU passing defense
Replacing Heisman Trophy winning quarter Troy Smith was a tall task, but Todd Boeckman has done a terrific job in leading the Ohio State offense. On the year Boeckman has complete 175 of 272 passes for 2,164 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Ironically, Boeckman's favorite target is Brian Robiskie, the son of former LSU great Terry Robiskie. The younger Robiskie has hauled in 50 catches for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns. While those numbers are pretty good for a team in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes have likely not faced a defense as talented as that of the LSU Tigers. When Boeckman is not avoiding LSU's pass rush, led by All-American Glenn Dorsey, he must keep an eye on the Tigers' All-American safety Craig Steltz, who leads the team with six interceptions.
LSU special teams vs. Ohio State special teams
LSU's special teams didn't look all that great coming down the home stretch. The Tigers surrendered two punt returns for touchdowns late in the season and lots of big gainers on kick returns. But the Tigers do boast both the first team All-SEC kicker and punter in Colt David and Patrick Fisher. David has converted 58 of 58 extra points and 25 of 32 field goals. He led the SEC in scoring. Fisher averaged 43.8 yards per punt and ranked first in the conference in yards per punt. However, what LSU lacks in covering kicks swings the balance to even.
Lots of people believe LSU doesn't belong in the title game with two losses. Ohio State jumped seven spots in the final two weeks of the season to reach No. 1. The Buckeyes have lived a year's worth of embarrassment after getting throttled by Florida 41-14 in last year's BCS Championship Game. Ohio State would love nothing more than to redeem itself against another SEC team. However, playing LSU in its own backyard isn't necessarily the best way to redeem itself. The Tigers will be playing for the program's third national title, with the two prior championships having also been won in New Orleans. The Superdome will be rocking.