It's UT's Special Teams vs. OSU's Ginn, Jr.

There is such a mother lode of talent on both sides of the ball when Texas and Ohio State collide Saturday that it begs the question: will the scale-tipper be a Buckeye special teams unit led by ultra back Ted Ginn, Junior?

Unless Texas gives away the football like it's government cheese, the first-ever meeting between the road warrior Longhorns and the home field Buckeyes shapes up as Rose Bowl II (whereby Texas wins a down-to-the-wire thriller on the strength of its offensive and defensive fronts, an infusion of young talent at RB, the most versatile TE that Mack Brown has ever coached, college football's biggest playmaking QB east of Matt Leinart and, arguably, the deepest secondary in program history). This time next week, Horn fans will be enjoying an ESPN Instant Classic assuming Texas doesn't furnish more turnovers than Betty Crocker. The assumption is also that the game doesn't hinge on say, a special teams miscue and/or or a heartbreaking, tide-turning Ginn return for TD against Texas' not-so-special teams.

The latter is the greater concern.

Media attending Brown's press conference Monday compared Ginn to Longhorn all-purpose back Ramonce Taylor. With all due respect to RT, that's selling Ginn a little short. Ginn has yet to produce a 100-yard receiving game but he's a younger version of Michigan All-American WR Braylon Edwards. And if you're looking for a man in Burnt Orange for comparative purposes, you'd have to pick QB Vince Young. Both playmakers are just that transcendent; both inflict the most damage during off-schedule plays.

The thought that keeps me awake at night is a scenario where Texas has generally controlled the tempo on both sides of the LOS, is nursing a 25-20 lead late in the fourth quarter (only because Richmond McGee has missed three PATs and two FGs) and then he kicks off to Ginn. Relatively speaking, few outside of the Big Ten had ever heard of Michigan's Steve Breaston until he set a Rose Bowl record 221 yards in returns last January. Meanwhile, college football enthusiasts have gushed over Ginn ever since the former USA Today Defensive Player of the Year moved to offense midway through last season and, as a go-the-distance threat as both a FL and return specialist, almost single-handedly rescued the Buckeyes from a nightmarish season

So, how's Mack Brown sleeping these days? The eighth-year Texas coach doesn't sleep much during football season but said Monday, "We felt like our kicking game was, overall, really good (against UL-Lafayette) except for the obvious: the missed points."

McGee was booed Saturday after his third PAT attempt failed to clear the uprights. Brown has since said two of those botched kicks resulted from blown blocking assignments. The result, obviously, remains the same as Texas heads into a showdown where points will be at a premium.

"Richmond made all the ones at the end, he kicked-off really well and he punted well," Brown said of the senior. "He's been around a long time. He's been in our stadium long enough to know that when you're ahead by 57, you can still get booed. He didn't miss a single one in warm-ups."

UL-Lafayette's Michael Adams returned the first KO of the season 31 yards Saturday, leading to a 7-play, 39-yard drive and a 47-yard Sean Comiskey FG.

"We had two guys overrun it," Brown explained, "and they were probably too excited because we talk so much about (special teams). But all the other kickoff coverages were inside the 15. The two punts they didn't return, so they were good punts. And the one kickoff return we had was 34 yards. It was really good."

It's just that Texas' special teams are going to have to be really, really good against the best return specialist it will face all season. As a true freshman, Ginn led the nation with a 26.5-yard average on punt returns. His four TDs on punt returns tied the NCAA single-season record, while breaking Big 10 and school records. Ginn also lined up at tailback and at QB last season in addition to returning punts.

This year, he is also returning KOs and may also play a little defensive back. He collected five passes for 75 yards, including a 42-yard TD reception in Ohio State's 34-14 season-opening win over Miami (Ohio). He also rushed three times for 13 yards.

"Teddy is a terrific weapon and we want to get the ball in his hands as often as possible," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "The majority of his plays will come on offense, but he gets a great break on the ball so there will be times in the red zone where we will utilize him on defense, too. We will use him on both punt and kick returns. He and Santonio (Holmes) give us two very dangerous weapons back there."

So, is Brown concerned that special teams could loom larger Saturday than in any game going back to the 1999 season-opening loss to N.C. State (three blocked punts, including one for the game-winning TD, produced the upset in the home-opener of Brown's second season)?

"Usually, special teams, turnovers and explosive plays is what they all come down to if they are close," Brown said, mentioning that Texas has blocked more kicks than any D-I team since the 2000 season.

Horn fans may take comfort in the fact that Texas' punt return unit last season was the strong suit of its special teams play, yielding just 6.79 yards-per-return (NCAA No. 18). And PR/CB Aaron Ross showed some of the explosiveness we've come to expect before the junior was hampered by a nagging hamstring injury last season. On Saturday, Ross notched 106 yards on five returns, including a game-best 52-yarder to the Ragin' Cajun 10. (He also produced the first INT of the 2005 season.)

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. (Central) in an ABC national telecast.

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