Drew Thurman (2:51 pm)
If there is one thing that is known about the 2008 Buckeye football team, it is that they love to run the ball. With Beanie Wells, Boom Herron, and Terrelle Pryor in the backfield, the Buckeyes run often with 42 carries a game. Texas on the other hand quietly brings in the second best rushing defense in the country, and will force Tressel and Bollman not be one diminsional.
If there is any good news about this, it is that the Longhorns bring in the 109th ranked passing defense in the country. With the exception of Baylor every team on Texas' schedule saw success through the air, and in only one game did the Longhorn secondary bring in more than one interception. This may be even better news if the Buckeyes had actually been more dynamic through the air this season. With Pryor as the starter, Ohio State only averages 128 passing yards a game.
So I say all of this to set up what I believe will be one of the most crucial matchups of the Fiesta Bowl, the Buckeye wideouts versus the Longhorn secondary. Let's take a look at the individuals that make up the matchup:
The Texas Secondary:
CB Ryan Palmer - Palmer is a senior listed at 5-10, 186 pounds. During the regular season he accumulated 30 tackles, three interceptions, and seven pass break ups. Palmer is in his fifth year with the Longhorns (redshirted), and has played in 48 games in his career.
CB Deon Beasley - Beasley like Palmer is pretty small, listed at 5-10, 175 pounds. He is in his junior season and has seen action since his true freshman year, appearing in 32 games in his career. Both corners for the Longhorns have plenty of experience under their belts. This season he has 38 tackles, three tackles for loss, and six pass break ups.
S Earl Thomas - Thomas is one of the best players on the Longhorn secondary, and is only a redshirt freshman. He is only listed at 5-10, 195 pounds, but has posted some impressive statistics thus far. He has 63 tackles, two interceptions, and 15 pass break ups. Keep your eye on #12 throughout the Fiesta Bowl.
S Blake Gideon - Gideon has the best size of any of the Longhorn starting defensive backs at 6-1, 197 pounds. He is in freshman season, but has stepped up nicely for Texas. He has 59 total tackles, one tackle for loss, and seven pass break ups on the season.
Others to watch - S Christian Scott, CB Curtis Brown, CB Chykie Brown
The Ohio State Wideouts:
Brian Robiskie - Robo has not put together the senior campaign he would have anticipated, but very well may play a bigger role in the Fiesta Bowl than some believe. At 6-2, 200 pounds, he has a large size advantage over the Longhorn secondary, and of course he has great hands. This season he has 37 catches for 419 yards and eight touchdowns.
Brian Hartline - Hartline has been the big play receiver for the Buckeyes this season, and averages 22.8 yards a reception. All together he has 479 yards and four touchdowns on only 21 receptions. At 6-2, size could be an something in Hartline's favor as well.
Dane Sanzenbacher - Due to his toughness and great route running, Sanzenbacher has already become a fan favorite. He spends most of his time in the slot, and has brought in 21 catches for 272 yards and one touchdown. I could very easily see Dane bringing in the most receptions of any of the Buckeye receivers in the Fiesta Bowl, due to the good pass rush from the Longhorn defense.
Ray Small - It's not hard to be frustrated with Small at times, but the Buckeyes need him to step up in this game. His 18 catches for 149 yards on the season are not impressive, but having another big having another big play receiver on the field is important.
Others to watch - DeVier Posey and Lamaar Thomas