Monday, December 26, 2005

Notre Dame-Ohio State Preview/Prediction

Let's see how Notre Dame and Ohio State match-up against one another.

Notre Dame Passing Offense vs. Ohio State Passing Defense
Notre Dame has one of the best passing offenses in the country (4th in the nation). Brady Quinn is the best dropback passer in the nation and he has two of the best receivers in the country in All-American Jeff Samardzijia and Maurice Stovall. Quinn also has one of the best tight-ends in the country to throw to in Anthony Fasano. Ohio State should provide one of the stiffest tests of the season for the Notre Dame passing offense. Ohio State is currently 8th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. Their effective pass defense is keyed by their two big corners, Ashton Youboty (6'1", 188) and Tyler Everett (5'11", 196), blitzing linebackers (Bobby Carpenter and A.J. Hawk were first and second respectively on the team in sacks), and a solid front four led by Mike Kudla. While Ohio State has one of the better pass defenses in the country, it is has also shown some cracks, as in games against two of the better pass offenses in the country, Texas and Michigan State, Ohio State gave up 270 and 340 yards respectively. The key for Notre Dame will be its ability to pick up the blitzing linebackers of Ohio State.
Advantage: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Rushing Offense vs. Ohio State Rushing Defense
Darius Walker has proven to be a solid running back this year and Notre Dame has a solid offensive line; however, Notre Dame has struggled to run the football against good run defenses (see the Tennessee and Purdue games). Ohio State has the number one rushing defense in the country lead by the best linebacker core in the country in A.J. Hawk, Anthony Schlegel and Bobby Carpenter. Carpenter is likely not going to play and even if he does play, he will be far from 100 percent. Despite the injury to Carpenter, Ohio State run defense should still be really good and Notre Dame does not have a talented enough offensive line and running backs to run effectively against this dominant run defense.
Advantage: Ohio State

Ohio State Passing Offense vs. Notre Dame Passing Defense
Ohio State's passing offense has looked very impressive since the Penn State game as Troy Smith threw for at least 225 yards in every game except in the 48-7 blowout of Northwestern, where Ohio State ran for over 320 yards. Smith has proven himself to be more than just a runner at quarterback. Smith has three good targets to throw to in Santonio Holmes (48 receptions, 853 yards and 10 touchdowns), Ted Ginn (43 receptions, 636 yards and 3 touchdowns), and Anthony Gonzales (27 receptions, 358 yards and 3 touchdowns). While Smith improved as the season went on as a passer, he also did it against some of the worst defenses in the Big Ten. Notre Dame's pass defense while greatly improved over last season, is far from being dominant. They struggled to consistently rush the passer and the secondary has had a tendency to give up big plays. The interesting thing to watch for is how Notre Dame handles the scrabbling ability of Smith. Notre Dame has not faced a single dual threat quarterback all year and its unclear how prepared they'll be to defend it.
Advantage: Ohio State

Ohio State Rushing Offense vs. Notre Dame Rushing Defense
Jim Tressel loves to run the football, and his workhorse is Antonio Pittman. Pittman had an excellent season, rushing for over 1200 yards and scoring 6 touchdowns. Pittman is supplemented by the scrabbling of Smith and back-up running back Maurice Wells. Notre Dame has one of the better run defenses in the country (26th in the nation), and repeatedly has shown the ability to stop any running back not named Reggie Bush. Notre Dame's ability to stop the run, specifically Antonio Pittman, may be the key to the game. In the nine games Ohio State won, Ohio State ran for an average of nearly 210 yards a game (Pittman averaged over 121 yards a game in Ohio State wins), and in the two games Ohio State lost, Ohio State ran for on average barely 100 yards (Pittman averaged 63 yards rushing in the two Ohio State losses). Were it not for the scrabbling ability of Smith, Notre Dame would have the advantage here, but Notre Dame's lack of experience in handling a running quarterback concerns me.
Advantage: Even

Special Teams
Towards the end of the season, outside of the punt returning of Tom Zbikowski, Notre Dame's special teams struggled whether it was a botched snap or hold or poor kick coverage or poor place kicking (let's try to forget the Stanford game). D.J. Fitzpatrick is allegedly completely healthy, but it remains to be seen if he can regain the success he enjoyed earlier in the season. Ohio State's special teams was suppose to struggle some with the graduation of place kicker Mike Nugent. However, Josh Huston has done an admirable job filling Nugent's shoes, hitting 20 of 24 field goals. Ohio State also has one of the most dangerous return men in the nation in Ted Ginn (1 kick return touchdown and 1 punt return touchdown).
Advantage: Ohio State

Charlie Weis has probably reminded his team about 2, 378 times that Notre Dame has not won a bowl game since 1994. Notre Dame should be really fired up to end that dubious streak and Charlie Weis should have the Irish extremely well-prepared to face the Buckeyes. Unlike Notre Dame, Ohio State has won its last three bowl appearances including 2 Fiesta Bowl victories. Jim Tressel always seems to get the best performances out of his players in bowl season.
Advantage: Even

On paper, Ohio State should win this game. They have more talent and Jim Tressel always has his team well-prepared for their bowl game. However, Notre Dame has shown time and again this season the ability to stick with any opponent and Jim Tressel has a tendency to get conservative with his playcalling when the game gets tight. Ohio State is not going to be able to run the ball up and down the field as they have in their other victories and they are going to have to rely on the arm and legs of Troy Smith if they want to win. Similarly, Notre Dame is going to need to rely on Quinn's arm to win. Darius Walker is going to struggle to find running room and Quinn may have to throw 40 to 50 passes in the game. In the end, it's going to be too much Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardizija and Maurice Stovall. Notre Dame 28 Ohio State 27