Five Questions: BCS National Championship

All season has highlighted five keys to the Buckeyes' next game, and the BCS National Championship Game is no different. We examine fast starts, quarterback play, coaching adjustments, health of some stars and turnovers in this final edition of The Five Questions for this season.

1. Which team will win the first quarter?

Ohio State has done its best damage in the first quarter while the Tigers have been more of a second-half crew.

The Buckeyes' highest-scoring quarter has been the first, which happens to be the lowest-scoring stanza for LSU, which has scored nearly 60 percent of its points in regulation after halftime.

With both teams sporting big, physical tailbacks and good run-blocking offensive lines, either is equipped to grind away and protect a lead, so a strong start figures to be key.

2. How healthy will each team be?

The long layoff figures to be good for both teams, but just how healthy each team got will not be apparent until after the opening kickoff.

The Buckeyes were banged up on the defensive line and at tailback by the time they finished their 12-games-in-12-game-weeks grind, while LSU finished a 13-game slate with an injured starting quarterback, wide receiver and star defensive tackle, among others.

Though he continues to nurse a broken bone in his wrist, OSU tailback Chris "Beanie" Wells is by all indications in good shape for the game.

The OSU defensive line should benefit from having starting tackles Todd Denlinger and Doug Worthington enter the game after a month to heal nagging injuries that plagued both through the latter part of the season, but end Robert Rose will not return this season after having shoulder surgery in December. There remains an outside chance end Lawrence Wilson could play Monday night, but defensive line coach Jim Heacock said that Wilson's broken leg would probably not be heeled enough to allow him to do so.

As for the Tigers, wide receiver Early Doucet told reporters he is "110 percent" heeled from a groin strain that kept him out of a handful of games earlier this year.

The man who will generally throw him the ball, quarterback Matt Flynn, is over shoulder and ankle injuries, while star defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey is back from separate knee and back troubles.

3. Will a quarterback play the goat?

OSU's Todd Boeckman and Flynn are in remarkably similar situations.

Both are first-year starters who spent multiple seasons on the bench behind stars.

Having replaced Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, Boeckman led the Big Ten in passer efficiency and threw for 2,171 yards and 23 touchdown passes. With JaMarcus Russell having moved on to become the No. 1 pick in the most recent NFL draft, Flynn stepped in to provide 2,233 passing yards and 17 TDs.

Both are capable of getting the ball to big-play receivers but neither is exactly averse to throwing the ball to the other team: Boeckman was intercepted 12 times in 12 games while Flynn tossed 10 picks in 11 games.

Don't forget either backup, either. LSU's Ryan Perrilloux engineered two victories while Flynn nursed injuries. Like Perrilloux, OSU's Antonio Henton has the potential to change games with his athleticism. Although Henton has seen little game action this season in because of midseason legal issues, Buckeye coach Jim Tressel told reporters Saturday there was a 50-50 chance he could play tonight.

4. Which coach will push the right buttons?

Take this one a couple of ways.

First we will be on the lookout for unique wrinkles conjured up during bowl practices. Both teams have heavily diversified offenses and talented defenses, and an evenly matched game could turn on a trick play.

Might one team gain an edge with its reserve quarterback taking off on the option? Could a reverse pass or State of Liberty play lead to the game-changing score?

Beyond that, in-game adjustments figure to be critical.

The Ohio State staff received much criticism last season for failing to alter its game plan when things went bad against Florida. With the Gators carving up the soft zone defense and running circles around the offensive line, the Buckeyes did little to avoid either in the second half, but Jim Tressel is regarded by many as one of the finest game-day coaches in the nation. Did he learn anything from last season's debacle?

5. Which way will the turnovers go?

Sure, sure – this is a key in all games (except the last three OSU-Michigan tilts), but look closely at this stat tonight in particular.

LSU has a ballhawking secondary (21 interceptions) while the Buckeyes have just 10 picks as a team while dropping passes at an alarming rate.

Then there are fumbles: The Tigers have lost just three on the year while recovering 12. Ohio State has lost seven and recovered eight.

Bottom line: LSU is third in the nation in turnover margin (plus-18) while Ohio State is tied for 63rd at minus-1.

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