PREVIEW: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 2 LSU

NEW ORLEANS – The day has finally come; college football's grand finale.

It has been more than a month since the college football world learned who would play for the BCS National Championship. Now, the day has come to settle it on the field as No. 1 ranked Ohio State meets second ranked LSU for the BCS National Championship in the Louisiana Superdome. Kickoff is set for 7:22 p.m. and will be broadcast on Fox.

Ohio State is making its third BCS National Championship Game appearance of the decade as LSU is returning to the big game for the second time.

The Buckeyes beat Miami in 2002 and lost to Florida a year ago. The Tigers tripped up Oklahoma in 2003 before becoming the first-ever two-loss team to reach the national championship round this season.

"I'm very fortunate to be at LSU and very fortunate to represent this team," said LSU coach Les Miles on Sunday. "I want to congratulate Jim Tressel and the Ohio State Buckeyes, what a great team they have. They are an extremely talented bunch of players. It's going to be a very competitive, very hard-fought game, and to the victor goes the spoils."

No two teams may be more alike yet more different than LSU and Ohio State.

Both LSU and Ohio State were ranked No. 1in the nation on two separate occasions this season. They both won their respective conferences, having dominating defenses and coaches who hail for the state of Ohio.

But that is where the similarities end.

Look no further than the coaches of these two teams to begin discussing the differences. Sure both Miles and Tressel are from the Buckeye state, but as different as the Big Ten and SEC, Tressel and Miles are, pardon the pun, "Miles" apart.

Take Tressel.

Cerebral in nature, wearing his scarlet sweater vest and white sleeves, "the professor" leads his Buckeye team in an intuitive manner. Borderline boring, the coach that uses the word "neat" all too often leads his football team the same way.

And quoting some of the media that covers the Buckeyes, the Ohio State team has been "Tresselized." Almost as mundane as their head coach, the Buckeyes do little to overwhelm anyone with flashy brilliance. On the flip side of that, all they do is win football games, lots of football games.

On the other side of the spectrum, there is Miles and his LSU Tigers. It seems almost fitting Miles is from Ohio, but not a Buckeye. As a matter of fact, he is antithesis of a Buckeye, he was a Michigan Wolverine.

And sure his idol might have been the late Bo Schembechler, the legendary, yet conservative coach of the Wolverines, Miles coaches his LSU team with his emotions placed wistfully on his sleeve. Some call it recklessness, others call is grit, but Miles' approach to coaching the Tigers has been effective, while at the same time gut wrenching.

LSU has won 11 games for the third straight season under Miles, an achievement of unprecedented proportions in Baton Rouge. However, most of the Tigers' 11 victories in 2007 didn't come with angst.

Time after time, LSU was forced to rally in the fourth quarter, gamble on fourth down and literally wrestle victory from its opponent. All will remember Miles going for it five times on fourth down against Florida, all of which the Tigers converted. Then there is the last second pass against Auburn. And how can you forget the last second heroics as well in Tuscaloosa.

In all, six games decided by a touchdown or less.

And while the wins were euphoric, the losses were equally as devastating. Both coming in triple overtime at Kentucky and at home against Arkansas, the latter was once thought to have knocked LSU out of national title contention.

But then there was the wild weekend in Atlanta, when the most successful senior class in SEC history finally won a championship. And the next day, the planets aligned to allowing them a shot at winning another.

Now it's game time.

The game has been analyzed from every angle, every storyline has been featured and all that remains is football.

For Ohio State, the Buckeyes feature the nation's best defense. Led by all-American linebacker James Laurinaitis and defensive end Vernon Gholston, Ohio State has allowed only 11 touchdowns this season.

LSU employed a new offensive coordinator in Gary Crowton at the beginning of the 2007 season and the results speak for themselves. The 2007 Tiger offense was the most productive in the program's history. With running back Jacob Hester (1,017 yards) and wide receiver Early Doucet, the LSU offense averaged more than 39 points per game.

The Buckeyes offense isn't too shabby itself. Although not nearly as flashy or explosive as that of the Tigers', the Buckeyes have an efficient offense led talented running back in Chris "Beanie" Wells. Wells has rushed for more than 1,400 yards this season and is the featured weapon of the offense. Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman can throw it around and likes big wideout Brian Robiskie, son of former LSU star running back Terry Robiskie.

Countering the Ohio State offense will be the Tigers defense. Once regarded as the best defense in the country, injuries befell several of the stars along the LSU defense and the Tigers slipped toward the end of the season. Sure LSU finished the season as the No. 3 rated defense in the land, the Tigers surrendered lots of points and yards during the back half of the season.

But the time off has allowed all-American and multiple award winner Glenn Dorsey to rest an aching body and the Outland, Nagurski, Lott and Lombardi Trophy winner is at 100-percent, for the first time in quite a while.

As a matter of fact, LSU will be operating at full speed for the first time since a 48-7 win over Virginia Tech in week two of the season. Ohio State, which remained quite healthy throughout the season, is also operating at 100-percent.

The stage is set, the teams are ready, the fans are primed – its time for football in the Big Easy. The BCS National Championship Game.

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