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2008-2009 Fiesta Bowl Preview

#3 Texas (11-1, 7-1 Big 12) vs. #10 Ohio State (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten)

January 5, 2009 @ 8:00 PM (EST) – FOX – Glendale, AZ



Texas Longhorns - Big 12  

2008 Record: 11-1, 7-1
Last Bowl Appearance: 2007 Holiday Bowl vs. Arizona State (W 52-34)
Coach: Mack Brown (114-26 at Texas, 200-100-1 overall)
Bowl Record: 7-3 at Texas, 10-5 overall
Offensive Coordinator: Greg Davis
Defensive Coordinator: Will Muschamp
Big Wins: 10/11 vs Oklahoma (45-35), 10/25 Oklahoma State (28-24)
Losses: 11/1 at Texas Tech (33-39)


Statistical Leaders for the Longhorns:

  • Rushing: Colt McCoy, QB, 576 yards

  • Passing: Colt McCoy, QB, 3,445 yards

  • Receiving: Jordan Shipley, WR, 982 yards

  • Tackles: Roddrick Muckelroy, LB, 106

  • Sacks: Brian Orakpo, DE, 10.5

  • Interceptions: Ryan Palmer, CB, 3

The Longhorns had a brutal stretch of games in October and into November. Texas managed to beat Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma in consecutive weeks before falling on the road to Texas Tech by a score of 39-33. Besides those four games, Coach Mack Brown’s team has not even been in a close game and won their other eight games by an average score of 46 to 12. More impressive than Texas’ domination of inferior opponents is the fact that they beat some of the best teams in the nation during a single stretch of games.


Texas' Strengths:
No team in the nation tallies more sacks per game than Texas. End Brian Orakpo is tops in the conference with nearly one per game and linebacker Sergio Kindle is not far behind. Roy Miller and Henry Melton are also threats to pick up a sack at any given time and opposing offensive lines always have trouble trying to protect their quarterback from just about every direction. The front seven does more than simply go after the quarterback. The Longhorns rush defense is second in the nation and the best in the conference. The Big 12 is not known for their running attack and most of Texas’ non-conference schedule was against teams that pass more than they run, but the Longhorns front seven is still a talented group that will not let anybody have a big game on the ground. Like most teams in the conference, Texas has a dynamic passing game. Quarterback Colt McCoy completed nearly 78 percent of his passes on the season and threw for 32 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. With a talented group of receivers led by Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby, the Texas passing game is nearly impossible to stop.


Weaknesses for the Longhorns:
However, there is not much of a ground game to speak of in Austin this year. McCoy is a decent running quarterback and actually leads the team in rushing yards, but the team needs Vondrell McGee, Cody Johnson and Chris Ogbonnaya to step up if they want to have a more balanced attack. None of those three running backs have had a ton of carries, but at least Coach Brown has options for different situations. The concern on defense is the pass coverage. The Longhorns have defended some of best passing games in the NCAA this year with generally positive results, mostly due to the ability of the front seven to get in the face of the quarterback; however, the team does lack a premiere corner. Ryan Palmer and Deon Beasley have done an admirable job considering what they are up against week in and week out, but if the opposition can give their quarterback time to throw the ball, they could be exposed. And that is exactly what happened in the loss to Texas Tech. The Longhorns only garnered two sacks in that game and Red Raiders quarterback Graham Harrell threw for 474 yards against the Longhorn defense.


2008 Team Stats:

  • Rushing Offense: 176.92 (34th in nation, 4th in Big 12)
  • Passing Offense: 299.50 (11, 5)
  • Total Offense: 476.42 (9, 5)
  • Scoring Offense: 43.92 (5, 3)
  • Rushing Defense: 73.58 (2, 1)
  • Pass Defense: 266.33 (109, 8)
  • Total Defense: 339.92 (50, 1)
  • Scoring Defense: 18.58 (20, 1)
  • Turnover Margin: .25 (46, 6)
  • Sacks: 3.67 (1, 1)
  • Sacks Allowed: 1.83 (58, 8)



Ohio State Buckeyes - Big Ten

2008 Record: 10-2, 7-1
Last Bowl Appearance: 2007 BCS National Championship vs. LSU (L 24-38)
Coach: Jim Tressel (83-17 at Ohio State, 208-73-2 overall)
Bowl Record: 4-3 at Ohio State, 4-3 overall
Offensive Coordinator: Jim Bollman
Defensive Coordinator: Jim Heacock and Luke Fickell
Big Wins: 10/18 at Michigan State (45-7), 11/8 at Northwestern (45-10)
Losses: 9/13 at USC (3-35), 10/25 Penn State (6-13)


Statistical Leaders for the Buckeyes:

  • Rushing: Chris Wells, RB, 1,091 yards

  • Passing: Terrelle Pryor, QB, 1,245 yards

  • Receiving: Brian Hartline, WR, 479 yards

  • Tackles: James Laurinaitis, LB, 121

  • Sacks: Thaddeus Gibson, DE, 4.0; James Laurinaitis, LB, 4.0

  • Interceptions: Kurt Coleman, CB, 4

To many, the Big Ten is not very good this year. The argument can be made that Penn State and Ohio State are the only two decent teams in the conference. That means the Buckeyes only played two good opponents all year long…both of which they lost. The first was against USC in which Ohio State lost 35-3, but that was when Chris “Beanie” Wells was hurt and Terrelle Pryor was just a change of pace quarterback. The second was a horrible offensive performance against Penn State. Any way you look at it, Michigan State and Northwestern were the best two wins for Coach Tim Tressel’s squad.


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Ohio State's Strengths:
But that does not mean that OSU cannot pull off a victory over a quality opponent. The defense is so strong that even with their offensive deficiencies, the Buckeyes will be in just about every game. The team ranked in the top three in just about every possible defensive category in the Big Ten. Senior linebacker James Laurinaitis is the heart and soul of the unit and easily led the team with 121 tackles on the season. Fellow linebacker Marcus Freeman is often overshadowed by Laurinaitis, but Freeman is the team’s second leading tackler and another experienced senior who will be playing professionally next year. Speaking of NFL caliber players, the Buckeyes have one in the secondary. Cornerback Malcolm Jenkins has not put up great numbers this year, but that is because everybody knows better than to throw in his direction. Jenkins is a true shutdown corner and will make life difficult for any receiver who is unfortunate enough to have Jenkins lined up across from him. The Buckeyes defense struggles to get into the backfield, yet sophomore end Thaddeus Gibson has had some good games this year and will need to again for OSU to come home with a BCS Bowl victory.


Weaknesses for Ohio State:
Pryor is obviously a talented and dynamic quarterback. He has thrown for 1,245 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 553 yards and six scores during his freshman campaign. Those are not great numbers, but Pryor does do a great job of keeping the mistakes to a minimum and not losing any games. But can Pryor win a game for the Buckeyes when they need him to do so? He did not against Penn State. Pryor certainly plays like an upperclassman as some of his best games were on the road, but it is important to remember that he is still a freshman. If the Buckeyes have to depend on the youngster to win the game for them, then they will be in trouble. Instead, Coach Tressel hopes that Wells will generate enough offense on the ground. On the year he has averaged 121 yards per game, but the offensive line has not done much to help him. Left tackle Alex Boone is a top notch player, but the rest of the line has been inconsistent at times.


2008 Ohio State Team Stats:

  • Rushing Offense: 191.58 (28th in nation, 3rd in Big Ten)
  • Passing Offense: 148.08 (104, 10)
  • Total Offense: 339.67 (78, 9)
  • Scoring Offense: 28.17 (45, 5)
  • Rushing Defense: 114.92 (20, 3)
  • Pass Defense: 164.33 (6, 1)
  • Total Defense: 279.25 (8, 2)
  • Scoring Defense: 13.08 (7, 2)
  • Turnover Margin: 1.25 (6, 1)
  • Sacks: 2.00 (51, 7)
  • Sacks Allowed: 2.17 (76, 7)


Fiesta Bowl Pick: Texas 31 - Ohio State 17


by Joel Welser Senior Staff Writer

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