This bowl has a lot of potential, because both teams have good head coaches and a lot of talent on the field. However, I can't help but look at this game as a possible repeat of last year: a relatively untested Ohio State coming out of a weak Big Ten to play a semi-beaten up SEC team with a dynamic defense and strong offense.
Ohio State offense against LSU defense
The more I see Chris Wells, the more I like him. Beanie's a strong runner who can move the ball well north-south, giving the Buckeyes the potential to chew up a good amount of clock time with the running game. Plus, he comes up big when they need him too, as seen in his 222 yards on 39 carries against Michigan and 221 yards on 31 carries against Michigan State. Ohio State also has a relatively under-rated offensive line, which does a decent job opening up holes for both Beanie and Maurice Wells, their other back. While Todd Boeckman doesn't give Buckeyes the same gamebreaker-potential Troy Smith did last year, he has a good presence in the pocket and is a pretty accurate passer: 64.5 completion percentage on the year. While the Buckeyes don't have the same eye-popping talent at receiver they did last year (Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez), both Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline are decent options.
The one thing that strikes me every time I see LSU's defense is the speed of the secondary and the size they put on the defensive line. Obviously, it all starts with Glenn Dorsey. He has the size and talent to almost single-handedly stuff the run, and forces opposing offenses to plan blocking schemes around him. Meanwhile, the Tigers' speed at the defensive back positions allows them to use a lot of different coverage schemes and rush players from a variety of positions. Boeckman has not seen a defense this fast yet this season, nor has he seen one with the ability to bring pressure from as many angles as the Tigers do. Remember, although Ohio State is ranked No. 1 in total defense, the Tigers aren't far behind: No. 3 overall.
LSU offense against Ohio State defense
The James Laurinaitis vs. the Tigers' entire offense matchup is why I'll watch this game. Every time I see Laurinaitis play, I want to scream "SPARTANS!!" and kick some Persians into an impossibly deep well. The Buckeyes' linebacker is an absolute monster in the middle, and the leader of an incredibly good defense: Ohio State allowed just 3.58 yards per play and only 15 total touchdowns on the season, just two of which were rushing. Jim Tressel has shown he knows how to run a defense, and this year's edition is even better than last year. While Laurinaitis is the only big name, there aren't any weak spots, and the Buckeyes defend well against both the rush (No. 3 overall) and the pass (No. 1 overall). Not a lot of options left for the Tigers.
That's not to say the Tigers have some second-rate offense. LSU's running back duo of Jacob Hester and Keiland Williams helped LSU average 219 yards a game on the ground. Plus, the Tigers have a pocket/scrambler combination at QB that gave the Buckeyes problems against Florida last year. Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux give the Tigers interesting options at quarterback, though they are not in the same league as Chris Leak/Tim Tebow of last year's Gators team. In addition, LSU WR Demetrius Byrd has a real gamebreaker ability, with great speed and good hands.
Final Prediction: LSU 21, Ohio State 17