Bill Frisbie, Lead Writer -- A while back, Mack Brown said that one of the biggest parts of his job during Game Week was eliminating distractions. The Two Million Dollar Man will have earned his paycheck if he was able to successfully guide his squad past Monday's deflating accounts of misdemeanor drug possession charges Tarell Brown and Tyrell Gatewood. Then again, there's nothing like the biggest home game in school history to hold your attention.
The combination of QB Troy Smith and WR Ted Ginn, Jr. may be the most electrifying in college football. They are big-time scary. By season's end, there may not be finer pair of RBs in the same backfield than Antonio Pittman and Chris Wells. And when you lose your best cover-corner with Ginn coming to down, it can feel like a dagger that burst the bubble of confidence you had just five days ago.
But I'm Old School in that I'll always believe a game like this is ultimately won in the trenches, it's trite-but-true that defense wins championships. There's no doubt in my mind that Ohio State is a Top Five team, but I just don't see how you can lose nine defensive starters and win on the road against a team the caliber of Texas during the second game of the season unless you can come up with turnovers and get some scores from your special teams. OSU's linebackers represent the greenest component of very talented but very young defense. The Horns have incredible depth at WR, and the Buckeye DBs may be the most suspect part of the team. The Horns have the best offensive and defensive lines in Mack Brown's tenure. The Buckeyes have a clear advantage at QB, but I was encouraged that Colt McCoy played within himself last Saturday.
If there is any real hesitancy on my part, it's because Texas coaches are reluctant to feature RB Jamaal Charles. This game gets dicey if they continue to try to run wide with Selvin Young. (He is a tough, mature, and very likeable young man. But if he has regained the burst that he lost since suffering multiple ankle injuries the past two years, I'd love to see it Saturday). Young may very well be more of a "complete back", as coaches insist is, but Charles is a rare talent. He has the speed and balance to hit the holes and spin out of the grasp of would-be tacklers. Any question that we'll see him on the receiving end of more than one swing pass against the Buckeyes?
Add it up, and I'm calling it Texas 27, Ohio State 21.
Ross Lucksinger, InsideTexas.com Editor -- A No. 1 vs. No 2 match-up in the regular season is a rare thing. Texas fans will be treated to one of the most hyped games in college football history and a battle between a pair of juggernauts which will go down to the wire.
Unfortunately, they will not be treated to a win. This game will be won with defense, which should favor Texas, but there are a couple of weaknesses that will be the Longhorns' undoing.
Much has been made about the suspension of CB Tarell Brown, but Texas' secondary will adjust to the loss because of the help provided by safeties Michael and Marcus Griffin. Ohio State WR Ted Ginn's most dangerous route is the 'wheel', where he cuts to the outside, beats the cornerback up the field and QB Troy Smith drops the ball in before the deep safety can come over to help. The speed in the Texas defensive backfield, combined with the Griffins' ability to read plays, will lessen the effectiveness of this and other deep plays. Ginn will get his yards, but won't be devastating.
No, the biggest loss for the Longhorns will be LBs Drew Kelson and Sergio Kindle. The Texas defensive line is the strongest part of the defense and, despite how talented the Ohio State O-Line is, will get pressure and flush Smith out of the pocket. Then it's up to the linebackers to hunt the elusive quarterback down and that's where Texas will struggle. The Longhorns are facing their toughest running threat at QB without their two fastest linebackers. Remember, it was Kelson who forced the Justin Zwick fumble that essentially sealed last year's game in Columbus. Starting at outside linebacker for Texas will be Roddrick Muckelroy, who is fast but also inexperienced and must take better angles, and Robert Killebrew, who still hasn't proven he can play with a level head.
Smith runs for 75 yards on the game and picks up just enough yards on the ground to keep the chains moving and grind it out to a victory. Ohio State 20, Texas 17.
Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas Magazine Editor All week long, ever since Garrett Wolfe rang up 171 yards on Ohio States new-look defense, folks have been saying that Wolfe is one of the best running backs in the country. The Northern Illinois running back averaged more than six yards per carry against the Buckeyes in last weeks opener for both teams.
Granted, Wolfe is talented. And yes, Ohio State was quite likely playing "close to the vest" defense in order to save some new looks for this weeks game against Texas. But Wolfes game last week is a bad omen for the Buckeyes entering this years game of the century Saturday night in Austin.
The game plan for Texas appears fairly simple. Run the ball 70 percent of the time, thereby reducing the chance that redshirt freshman quarterback Colt McCoy make a youthful mistake in what will likely be a close game. Run it on first down and second down and third down, and run it with Jamaal Charles (who had a big game last year in Columbus), run it with Selvin Young, run it with Henry Melton. Heck, Mack Brown was a running back give it to him a couple of times and let the clock, tick-tick-tick away on this late-summer night. For grins, mix in the occasional quick screen to Limas Sweed.
Everyone knows Jim Tressel will play conservatively, and in doing so, he will act as a 12th man for the Texas defense. The Buckeyes, despite gobs of big-play talent on offense led by Troy Smith, thus wont be able to run away and hide from Texas, so a conservative offense will work just fine until the fourth quarter, when the Texas offensive line will begin to take its toll. If youre hot, sweaty and trailing on the scoreboard, having to tackle a fresh Henry Melton will not be fun.
Most importantly of all, Texas needs to avoid Ted Ginn at all costs on special teams. Hell catch a few passes, but he can do the most damage literally and psychologically on punt and kickoff returns. Kick it high, kick it deep, on-side kick it, but a key to Texas winning will be to minimize his touches. Duplicate whatever you did against Reggie Bush in last years Rose Bowl. Texas 28, Ohio State 20.
Michael Pearle, Co-Publisher -- I opened my Ohio State--Texas pick last year with the following line: "Here's why Texas should beat Ohio State Saturday -- Texas has Vince Young and Ohio State doesn't." Vince proved me right, although he got a huge amount of help from a Texas defense that time and again shut down Ohio State in the red zone after Texas turnovers, and then caused the critical turnover after the Horns had taken the late lead.
Well, the difference between the two teams again this year is at quarterback, only this time Ohio State has the clear-cut advantage. Troy Smith is this year's version of Vince Young, and although Colt McCoy is playing better and showing more maturity than probably any Texas fan could have hoped for, he is still greener than the chili sauce I've been gobbling all week during my vacation in Santa Fe, NM.
I see Ohio State scoring a lot of points in this game. The Texas defense is really good, but it was good last season and we all saw how Matt Leinart and the Trojans carved them up to the tune of 38 points in the Rose Bowl. Texas won because Vince Young and the offense kept answering, allowing Texas to finally win in a score-fest. I think Texas will have to win a score-fest again Saturday, and I am not sure that the McCoy-led Texas offense can keep up with the Smith-led Buckeyes.
The other bad vibe I am getting about the game, and it ties in with my point above, is from the loss of Tarell Brown. Ohio State has serious offensive firepower, and Brown, a veteran of the Rose Bowl and last year's tilt in the 'Shoe, would have provided a steadying influence, not to mention speed and tenacious coverage skills, going against the strength of the Buckeye team.
Tarell, good god son, couldn't you have just hung around the crib this week and maybe watched a little more game film or maybe even cracked a book for a class or something crazy like that, rather than rambling around Austin in the wee hours of the morning in a car full of weed and weapons? Thanks, man, you really were looking out for your teammates on this one.
Duane Akina is talking a good game about how Brown's loss won't hurt the Horn secondary, and that Ryan Palmer and Brandon Foster will fill the void ably, but deep down he has to be hating Brown's absence. It was gonna be hard enough stopping Smith and Ted Ginn, Jr. as it was, but without Tarell Brown, it will be a whole lot harder.
The suspensions of Brown and Tyrell Gatewood remind me of the losses of Aaron Humphrey and Kwame Cavil before the 2000 Cotton Bowl. I spent the week in Dallas covering the team before that game and I remember the news that those two guys had been booted gave me a sick feeling. Missing two of their most crucial players, the Horns went out and got smoked by Arkansas. Sure there were other reasons for the defeat, like an offensive line that forgot how to pass block, but the loss of those two guys put a bad spin on the game. You can argue that losing Cavil and Humphrey represented a bigger blow than the loss of Brown and Gatewood, who has not played much for Texas, but the suspensions this week seem eerily familiar. The team didn't need the distraction.
Anyway, it has been so long since I picked against Texas I can hardly remember how to type this in, but here's how I see it: Ohio State 34, Texas 31.
Clendon Ross, Co-Publisher -- Based on much of the conventional wisdom heading into Saturday's DKR showdown, Texas should be the underdog vs. Ohio State. The Buckeyes are the 'No. 1 Team in the Nation' (just ask Jim Tressel; oh wait...). The visitors have an offense that rivals that of 'The Greatest Team Of All Time' (ya know, the 2005 USC Trojans). And Texas must face OSU's Mr. Smith ('The Next Vince Young') and Mr. Ginn ('The Most Exciting Player in College Football'), et al, without 'Top Cover Corner' Tarell Brown. It's enough to expect a Buckeye blowout.
That makes it interesting to note the surprisingly UT friendly picks from the talking heads and media analysts (notorious Texas hater Jason Whitlock even put the odds on a UT win at 99.99 percent, claiming that he is willing to put his credibility as a sports journalist on the line with the pick). What is it, then, that these folks see in the Longhorns that trumps the advantages described above?
Well, I'd like to think it's the same things that I see that have led me to pick Texas in this game that I still believe, like last year, to be a virtual toss-up. (And, no, it's not 'The Heat'.) I like UT's balance of ability on both sides of the ball. Yes, the Buckeyes are a potentially explosive offensive team, and will win some battles with Gene Chizik's Texas defense, but I don't see Tressel's offense, either in scheme or in personnel, being capable of exploiting that defense for a USC-like 30-plus points. A couple of TDs and a couple of field goals, sure, but much more than that I just don't see.
So going on that premise, the Texas offense needs to be in the upper 20s to pull this one out. If this freshman-QBed Longhorn offense were going up against last year's Buckeye defense, I'd say no way. But this is not last year's Buckeye defense. Look no further than last week vs. Northern Illinois for the proof. But that's only half the story. If this freshman-QBed Longhorn offense didn't have such experienced talent across the line, in the backfield, and at wideout, I'd probably still say no way, even against that defense we saw against NIU. But Texas does have the offensive line, the running backs, and the wide receivers to take a huge amount of the pressure off of young Mr. McCoy. So those are the two factors I see that give Texas the ability to put enough points on the board to out-score the OSU O.
What about Tarell Brown's absence? Well, I'm more concerned with the Horns' linebacker play than I am the secondary play. Texas needs Drew Kelson at near 100-percent, and the information on his status is contradictory. Rod Muckelroy's play last week in the opener somewhat mitigates the effects of Kelson's absence, but I like the Horns' chances to hold Ohio State in the low 20s better with him than without him.
I expect it to be another nailbiter to the end, just like last year, but this time with Texas withstanding the Buckeyes' late attempt to duplicate the Vince Young-to-Limas Sweed connection. Texas 26, Ohio State 20.
Inside Texas Members Consensus Prediction: Texas 28, Ohio State 22.
Note: We've extended the deadline on this week's Pick 'Em Contest till kickoff Saturday, so if you didn't get a chance to get your pick in by the normal Thursday, midnight deadline, you're in luck! IT Members, click here to make your picks. See Pick & Win A 'Next Generation Gaming Console'for more contest details