Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
07 Jan 2008
by Russell Levine with Brian Fremeau
Ohio State and LSU may or may not be the two best teams in the nation this year, but in the bizarre world of college football, they will face off for the national title Monday night at the Superdome in New Orleans.
This week's podcast will follow a little different format. I've brought back not one, not two, but three previous podcast guests to break down the big game. First, Orson Swindle of Every Day Should Be Saturday and The Sporting News offers the SEC perspective in his analysis of LSU. Brian Cook, who blogs about Michigan at MGoBlog offers a Big Ten opinion on the Buckeyes, while Bruce Feldman of ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com offers a national perspective on the matchup.
In addition, Brian Fremeau, creator of the Fremeau Efficiency Index ratings, has been kind enough to provide the written portion of the preview.
This will be the final regular edition of Seventh Day Adventure for this season. There may be some off-season podcasts as news develops, particularly around big events like National Signing Day. The best way to keep up is to subscribe through iTunes or your favorite RSS reader using one of the links at right.
Ohio State and LSU meet in the national championship game, and each team has the opportunity to become the world's first two-time BCS champion. Though the two teams each had more appearances in the weekly BCS Top-2 throughout the season than any other teams, both the Tigers and the Buckeyes appeared destined to miss this match-up after each suffered late November disappointment. In this season marked by weekly twists of fate, however, it seems only fitting that the championship participants were each ranked seventh in the BCS at kickoff of their respective season finales.
Are these definitely the best two teams in the nation? Not quite, according to FEI. Are they deserving candidates for a two-team playoff for the national championship? Absolutely. The Tigers were ranked by FEI as the nation's best team through every week of the season, whereas Ohio State climbed throughout the year to finish third in the final pre-bowl rankings, nestled narrowly behind No. 2 USC and ahead of No. 4 West Virginia. If both LSU and OSU turn in performances similar to the bowl efforts of the Trojans and Mountaineers, this could be a whale of a game.
Both teams are led by outstanding defenses, Ohio State particularly so. The Buckeyes were far and away the most efficient defense in college football, allowing only 98 points in opponent competitive possessions this season. Though their defense stifled opponent offenses from every position on the field, OSU can attribute much of their success to their 8.5 yard-per-possession field position advantage. Their opponents' average starting field position was their own 24-yard line, and began an astounding 77 percent of their possessions inside their own 30-yard line (the national average is 57 percent). Only four times all season did an Ohio State opponent begin a possession in Ohio State territory, and the Buckeyes gave up zero points on those drives. LSU turned in the eighth-most efficient defense this season, holding five of its opponents to their lowest point total on the season and two others to their second-lowest total.
Offensively, LSU was more efficient from long, middle and short field position, scored almost ten points more per game than Ohio State, and did so against a tougher slate of opponents. The Buckeyes, however, did get out of the gate and into the end zone faster than the Tigers this year, scoring touchdowns on six opening drives, twice as many as LSU in two fewer games. Ohio State's largest first-half deficit of the season was three points, and they trailed their opposition in the first half in only five of their 73 first-half possessions, only once since Week Two. LSU kicked it into gear in the second half of games this season, scoring nearly 3.5 points per second-half possession, discounting garbage-time drives and scores.
LSU's edge in the game lies with their strength of schedule and overall resume. The Tigers dominated Virginia Tech early in the season and defeated three other FEI Top-20 teams in SEC play. Ohio State played only one FEI Top-20 team (Illinois) and lost. Playing the meat of their Big Ten schedule down the stretch helped prepare the Buckeyes, but LSU has seemingly played dozens more championship-caliber possessions this year than OSU has, and that experience should ultimately rule the day.
Neither team faced a three-score deficit at any point this season, and Ohio State played only a single possession down two scores. Though I expect a bit more scoring than either defense is typically used to, I attribute that to the strength of both defenses in creating short fields and possibly even turning in a score or two themselves. Look for a close game throughout, including an LSU second-half comeback to claim the BCS (and FEI) national championship.
FEI Forecast: LSU 36, Ohio State 33
|BCS National Championship Picks|
|Visitor||Spread||Home||Orson Says||Brian C. Says||Bruce Says||Brian F. Says||Russell Says|
|LSU||-4.5||Ohio State||Ohio State||Ohio State||LSU||Ohio State||LSU|
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
|Last Week||Season Total|
|Guest: Brian F.||9-8-0||(1-0-0)|
175 comments, Last at 10 Jan 2008, 7:02pm by DD Ohio