In less than 24 hours, Ohio State and LSU will meet in New Orleans to determine the BCS national title and, as far as I'm concerned, the No. 1 country in the nation. (There are not, in my mind, any other teams that can possibly lay claim to the crown, with Southern Cal and Georgia possessing losses that should disqualify them and the only other possible contender, Oklahoma, falling in the Fiesta Bowl.)
First, lets look at the tale of the tape.
Schedule ranks are from Sagarin. No, I don't like him any better than anybody else, but he's the most recognizable source.
What was interesting to me was how well LSU did on offense against a much tougher schedule. Two overtime losses probably contributed to that, and are probably part of the reason that LSU has slightly worse defensive numbers.
For me, that points to Ohio State doing slightly better against a significantly worse schedule. Does that mean LSU is that much better than Ohio State? I don't think so. It looks, to me anyway, like these teams are pretty evenly matched.
But let's go beyond the overall view and consider the teams' losses.
Ohio State lost one game, to Illinois. A few things are striking about that game, but one of them that stands out is Illinois picked off Ohio State QB Todd Boeckman three times. In the other 11 games, Boeckman threw 9 INTs. Illinois sacked Boeckman twice, compared to 12 times for the other 11 teams (or a shade more than one a game).
The Illini also did what outgunned teams are supposed to do: They chewed up the clock. Illinois held the ball for 33 minutes, compared to 27 minutes for the Buckeyes. Actually, that's not entirely fair. Ohio State outgained Illinois for the first three quarters before the Illini kept the ball for 13:46 of the fourth quarter.
That lets us know that LSU will want to try to pressure Boeckman and eat up clock. The Bayou Bengals sacked opposing signal-callers 32 times in 2007 and forced an eye-popping 21 picks. The average time of possession difference was 32:07 to 27:53.
So, what mistakes did LSU make in its loss to Kentucky? Well, the Bayou Bengals outgained the Wildcats, 403-375. Kentucky QB Andre Woodson threw two picks; LSU QB Matt Flynn threw one, though he was sacked three times. (LSU allowed 26 sacks the rest of the season, so this number was not terribly far out of line.)
The worst mistake LSU seemed to make was that Charles Scott ran for one yard instead of two on the last overtime down of the game.
In the Arkansas game, on the other hand, LSU got outgained by nearly 100 yards, 513-413. That was in no small part to the 385 rushing yards put up by McFadden, Jones and Co. Arkansas got one sack and no interceptions. (LSU rushed for 204 yards.) Or not according to the official stats, but that doesn't count the mistake that cost LSU the game: Matterral Richardson gaining his only 15 minutes of fame when he intercepted a Flynn pass on the required two-point conversion in the third overtime to end the game with Arkansas on top, 50-48.
As we've seen above, Ohio State has a great running game. But it's also not like LSU regularly gets gashed on the ground, and -- all due respect to Beanie Wells -- McFadden is a singular talent.
Overtime might be in Ohio State's interest -- it's so far proven to be the only surefire way to beat the Bayou Bengals.