#1 Ohio State (11-1) vs. #3 LSU (11-2)
This is really much too familiar. Unlike Florida last year, I feel LSU legitimately deserves to be here (yes, USC's playing better, but they lost to Stanford and can go away), but on paper, this is OSU and OSU's game easy. There's the perception that the Buckeyes are the result of a weak schedule, but even allowing that (which I don't agree with), they've absolutely dominated that weak schedule like a #1 team should. Their only win that was close was against Michigan State, in a game where OSU outgained the Spartans by 235 yards. They've racked up the offense - outside of the Michigan game, they've cracked 350 yards in all their wins - and absolutely dominated on defense, holding 5 of their 12 opponents under 200 yards. This is not a paper tiger. But that said, there are cracks in the armor - even though OSU held Michigan to only 95 yards, the Buckeyes' 281 yards and 14 points was their worst output of the year. And that was coming off the heels of the Illinois loss, an absolute sore thumb of an anomaly where OSU's elite run defense was gashed for 260 yards. A mobile QB can throw a wrench in Ohio State's machine, and uh oh, LSU has one of those in Ryan Perrilloux! As for the Tigers, they're a bit of an enigma. They started out as an absolute monster going on a five-game tear where they looked like one of the all-time great teams, including a 48-7 whipping of Virginia Tech. But after being punched in the mouth by Tim Tebow's Florida Gators, LSU hasn't looked nearly as good, Louisiana Tech game aside. There's been, obviously, the overtime losses against Kentucky and Arkansas, as well as games against Auburn and Alabama that weren't close statistically, but wound up as LSU wins by 6 and 7 points respectively. But the real headscratcher is their 41-24 win against the Mississippi Rebels, where that stout LSU defense somehow gave up 478 yards to the bad offense of a bad team. As much flak as OSU's gotten for playing in the supposedly weak Big Ten, I think we can agree that most of that conference is better than Ole freakin' Miss. And really, that game in particular among LSU's late stretch makes me say that, if Ohio State's offense hadn't been stumbling down the stretch, the Buckeyes would be the easy pick. If that Buckeye offense had been rolling all year, this would be a no-brainer - Ohio State would get their points against the LSU defense either way, and would likely be able to hold the Tigers to enough where they could win, say, a 28-24ish game. But with the OSU offense faltering a bit, the spectre of that LSU/Virginia Tech game lurks - LSU could absolutely shut down an ineffective offense and has the offensive talent to put things away early and make it ugly late. But Ohio State is easily better than Virginia Tech - the Hokies are near the bottom in terms of offense, and while they have the statistically great defense, offensive talent in the ACC is down to Matt Ryan and the skill position players for Clemson. But it's that little seed of doubt planted in the OSU/Michigan game that makes this interesting - yeah, OSU absolutely shut down that Wolverine offense, but LSU probably won't roll over so easy, and if the LSU defense plays at 100% of their ability, they're easily better than the Michigan D that the Buckeyes didn't look too great against. Still, I'll go with my initial gut feeling - that Ohio State defense is quite excellent, and I mean, come on, Ole Miss?
My Pick: Ohio State