2010 BCS Bowl Preview: 5 Things to Watch for in the Rose Bowl

Big Ten champion Ohio State will square off against Pac-10 champ Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day at 4:30PM ET. Here are five things to watch for when the No. 8 Buckeyes clash with the No. 7 Ducks.As part of our 2010 BCS Bowl Preview, here are five things to watch for in the Sugar Bowl.

1. Oregon’s dynamic backfield vs. Ohio State’s physical defense
The Ducks’ offensive backfield features a running back in LaMichael James that rushed for 1,476 yards and 14 touchdowns while averaging 6.9 YPC, as well as a quarterback in Jeremiah Masoli that rushed for 659 yards and 12 TDs, while also completing 58.9 percent of his passes for 2,066 yards and 15 scores. Oregon can beat opponents in a variety of ways, but Ohio State’s defense limited the opposition to only 12.2 points and 262.5 total yards per game this season. The Buckeyes are one of five FBS teams that did now allow a 100-yard individual rushing performance this year and will test the fortitude of James, Masoli and one-time Hesiman candidate LeGarrette Blount. This should be a classic battle.

2. Terrelle Pryor’s (lack of) development as a passer
Pryor was considered the top high school recruit coming into the 2008 season and was supposed to quickly transform into one of the best college football players in the nation. But after showing flashes of brilliance as a freshman last year, Pryor has been criticized more than he’s been praised this season. Among other things, he started struggling with his accuracy and decision-making and some in the media wondered if he should move to another position due to his lack of development as a quarterback. Things came to a head in mid October when he lost two fumbles and threw two interceptions in an embarrassing loss to Purdue. But in his final five games, Pryor led the Buckeyes to five straight wins (including victories over Penn State, Iowa and rival Michigan) while tossing six touchdowns and only two interceptions. The problem is that he wasn’t asked to do too much either. If Oregon’s high-powered offense starts lighting up the scoreboard, can Pryor keep Ohio State in the ballgame with his arm or will his issues as a passer bury him and the Buckeyes? Better yet, can coach Jim Tressel figure out how to best use his athletic QB?

3. Masoli vs. the Buckeyes’ front four
Oregon’s massive offensive line has only allowed 12 sacks this season, which is only one reason why the Ducks have had so much success this year. But the low sack total can mostly be attributed to Masoli, who rarely stays in the pocket on passing downs. Ohio State’s aggressive front four has produced 22 sacks this season, but even when they don’t get to the quarterback they’re in his face creating pressure. Oregon loves to use the no-huddle in order to confuse the defense and create matchup problems all over the field. But the Buckeyes do an excellent job rotating their defensive line, which will be an advantage when facing the Ducks because they shouldn’t wear down. If OSU can keep Masoli in the pocket, it’ll be interesting to see if the signal caller can adjust.

4. Ohio State loses four players to academic issues
The Buckeyes suffered a huge blow when it was discovered that freshman receiver Duron Carter, sophomore running back Bo DeLande, defensive lineman Rob Rose and returner/receiver Ray Small were all declared ineligible for the Rose Bowl. Losing Small is crucial because of what he brings to the return game, but Rose also provided depth to the defensive line. Small was also the team’s No. 3 receiver, so losing both him and Carter (OSU’s No. 4 wideout) cripples the Buckeyes’ depth at the position. That said, the No. 3 receiver in Tressel’s offense doesn’t usually play a key role, so maybe these losses won’t hurt the Buckeyes in the end. Still, the situation will be something to follow leading up to the game and it’ll be interesting to see how Taurian Washington does in the return game.

5. Can the Buckeyes get over their BCS slump?
OSU’s 24-21 loss to Texas in last year’s Fiesta Bowl marked the Buckeyes’ third straight BCS bowl loss. Florida beat Ohio State in the 2007 national championship game and LSU knocked the Buckeyes off in the ’08 title game. Their three-game bowl losing streak marks the Buckeyes’ longest such streak since they lost four straight bowls from 1989-92. While this isn’t the most talented team Tressel has had during his OSU tenure, supporters are desperate for the Buckeyes to end the streak and quiet Big Ten critics. Tressel has been highly criticized for his conservative play calling and game plans during big games; will he be on the hot seat if OSU flounders again in a bowl?

2010 Rose Bowl Game Information
Matchup: Ohio State (10-2) vs. Oregon (10-2)
Kickoff: 4:30PM ET
TV: ABC
Odds: Oregon –3.5

Talk smack about the 2010 Rose Bowl.

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