Analysis: Ohio State's last real shot came on a fourht-and-7 from LSU's 35 with 10:51 left. But Boeckman was hit by LSU LB Ali Highsmith and fumbled, with the Tigers recovering. Boeckman threw an interception with 5:43 remaining in the game to end another drive. Both teams scored garbage TDs in the final two minutes, but all the suspense was long gone by then. Frankly, the only intrigue left after Boeckman's fumble was how many TDs LSU would score the rest of the way.
Our take: Last season, Ohio State led 7-0 in the title game before getting its doors blown in. At least the lead was 10-0 this season. Ohio State's vaunted defense was gutted for the second title game in a row, and with the Buckeyes falling behind early, TB Chris Wells was rendered a non-factor in the second half. LSU controlled the line of scrimmage from the second quarter on. Forget all the talk about SEC speed vs. Big Ten brawn; in this one, the SEC team was the toughest team. And it wasn't close -- sort of like the final score.
Analysis: Ohio State's top-ranked defense finally has started living up its billing, but is it too late to matter? Malcolm Jenkins kept the Buckeyes' title hopes alive with a 23-yard interception return that set up Brian Robiskie's touchdown catch on a fourth-and-4 play. Jenkins made the interception near the sideline by capitalizing on an apparent miscommunication between LSU quarterback Matt Flynn and wide receiver Terrance Toliver. Before Jenkins' interception, LSU had scored on four of its last five possessions, with the lone exception coming when the Tigers got the ball with 49 seconds left in the first half and chose to run out the clock. Until that turnover, LSU had played virtually mistake-free football while watching Ohio State continually make errors in critical situations. LSU had been penalized just once all night while Ohio State has made huge penalties on two of the Tigers' touchdown drives. The Buckeyes finally had stopped LSU's red-hot offense in the first series of the third quarter until Austin Spitler was called for roughing the punter on fourth-and-23, giving LSU an automatic first down. Freshman defensive end Cameron Heyward committed a personal foul on the next play to give LSU the ball at Ohio State's 29-yard line. Ohio State defensive backs Anderson Russell and Donald Washington then both missed tackles on Early Doucet's 4-yard touchdown catch that gave the Tigers 31 unanswered points.
Our take: Ohio State desperately needed that touchdown because it allows the Buckeyes to continue handing the ball to Chris Wells, who has rushed for 128 yards on 15 carries. If they had entered the fourth quarter trailing by three touchdowns, they would have needed Todd Boeckman to throw the ball on virtually every down. But they still probably won't win unless their defense forces at least one more turnover and Boeckman makes a few big plays down the stretch.
Analysis: All that Ohio State momentum? It's gone. LSU ran roughshod over Ohio State's defense, which came in allowing just under 11 points per game. LSU's rushing attack worked, and its receivers seemingly were wide open on every play. Defensively, LSU became much more aggressive. Ohio State's tailbacks made big plays in the first quarter, but LSU doesn't seem worried about the Buckeyes' wide receivers, leaving the corners in man coverage and attacking with everyone else. Ohio State responded briefly early in the quarter, then had a 39-yard field-goal attempt blocked. LSU's lines are controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton has called a masterful game.
Our take: This has the feel of another title-game blowout. Ohio State is in for a long night unless TB Chris Wells gets involved. Todd Boeckman cannot win this game with his arm. Defensively, the Buckeyes have to show some of the toughness that enabled them to lead the nation in total defense. As for LSU, what it's doing is working fine.
Score: Ohio State 10, LSU 3
Scoring: Ohio State's Chris Wells ran for a 65-yard touchdown on the game's fourth play from scrimmage to give the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead with 13:34 left in the first quarter. Ryan Pretorius' 25-yard field goal extended the margin to 10-0 with 9:12 remaining. LSU's Colt David cut the lead to 10-3 by making a 32-yard field goal with 2:21 left.
Analysis: Ohio State's championship game experience showed in the early going. While the Buckeyes wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, the Tigers appeared flustered in the opening minutes. Early Doucet dropped a short pass on LSU's second play from scrimmage. The next snap got away from Matt Flynn. Less than a minute later, the Tigers allowed Brandon Saine to get open for a 44-yard reception that set up Pretorius' field goal. LSU coach Les Miles earned a reputation for his gambling nature, but Ohio State's Jim Tressel displayed a free-wheeling approach of his own in the first quarter. The Buckeyes kept the Tigers off balance by lining up in an empty backfield on occasion, throwing downfield often and having Saine – a tailback – run a deep route for one long gain. LSU got back into the game by relying on its best offensive playmakers: Jacob Hester and Early Doucet. Hester had five carries for 30 yards and Doucet made two catches for 26 yards in a 14-play, 65-yard drive that put LSU on the scoreboard. The Tigers barely avoided disaster in the final seconds of the first period, as Chad Jones fumbled a punt return deep in LSU territory before a teammate recovered it.
Our take: LSU has settled down after a rough start and has proved time and time again this season that it knows how to come from behind. But the Tigers can't allow Ohio State to stay in front for too long because Chris Wells may be good enough to keep LSU's offense off the field for most of the fourth quarter. Wells already has gained 89 yards on just six carries. LSU also must do a better job of pass protection, as Ohio State's pressure late in the period forced the Tigers to settle for a short field-goal attempt.
NEW ORLEANS – Streets near the Superdome resembled the French Quarter on Saturday night well before Monday's first quarter as packs of fans in purple-and-gold and scarlet-and-gray crowded overflowing parking lots and jammed sidewalks in anticipation for the championship game.
Four hours before kickoff, a man wearing a purple-and-gold felt suit and top hat with "LSU TIGERS" printed down the legs of his trousers posed for photos with fans from LSU and Ohio State. Another posed by his Mercedes, which had a mural of the LSU logos painted under the hood - which was raised for everyone to see. Women accessorized purple dresses, blouses and tank tops with Tiger ears and tails. Someone was walking two large poodles – with LSU and TIGERS shaved into their coats.
Not to be outdone, hundreds of visitors from Ohio wore jerseys of Buckeyes stars of yore and were draped in Mardi Gras beads – and many of those were men. An older gentleman in a black Buckeyes cap, horned rim glasses, a short-sleeved white shirt and black tie looked like Woody Hayes resurrected and exchanged greetings with other Ohio State fans.
LSU fans, hoping for their second national championship in four years, chanted "Tiger Bait" at their counterparts from Ohio. The Buckeye fans, hoping for their second national championship since 2002, answered with their "OHIO" cheer.
Insults and taunts were exchanged – some good naturedly, some not – until masses began leaving the streets and filing into the Superdome where the noise reached deafening decibel levels leading up to kickoff.