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Friday, December 13, 2002
Ohio State's season and team both complete
By Terry Bowden
Special to ABC Sports Online
Ohio State is now truly a championship-caliber team because it is now a complete team after its 14-9 win over arch-rival Michigan.
The Buckeyes had a lot of success this year playing great defense and winning in the fourth quarter with the kicking game, but now that running back Maurice Clarett is back to help them get the ball into the end zone they have a legitimate shot at the national championship.
It Miami wins out and gives us a Buckeye-Hurricane matchup in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl it will be a great one. The one thing OSU does without fail is play great defense, and when it comes to winning championships it is almost always the team with the best defense that comes out on top.
Miami will have the most explosive defense Ohio State has seen this year, but because the Buckeyes' strength is their defense Miami is no better than break-even when matching up with OSU.
What should make that pairing exciting for Ohio State fans is that while Miami has the best pass defense in the country it continues to struggle against the run. That works just fine for the Buckeyes, because even though Craig Krenzel is an efficient quarterback they will run Clarett at teams until it hurts. And he will hurt teams eventually.
Miami has more top-to-bottom talent than anyone in the country and we cannot say for sure that Ohio State would win the game, but I like the Buckeyes' chances.
Pat on the back for the 'Pack
It almost hurts me to describe Florida State's 17-7 loss to NC State because I have not seen a more disappointing performance from FSU in recent memory. With so much riding on the game and so much prestige at stake, the wrong team came out with the swagger.
The fact that FSU was without its top two backs in Greg Jones and Nick Maddox and had to go with freshman Leon Washington hurt the Seminoles, but that is no excuse for the poor performance.
Florida State had minus-2 points on offense when you count the the safety it gave up, also had a punt blocked and left the defense on the field much too long. That eventually meant some big plays for Philip Rivers and Company.
What is amazing is that the Wolfpack was coming off a three-game stretch in which it lost all three in the final minutes and still played such a tough game. NC State now reminds me of Florida State about 10 years ago: a hungry team with a veteran quarterback and the ability to block punts.
Much of what Chuck Amato knows about coaching he learned during his 18 years as an assistant at FSU, and with the job he is doing at NC State he doesn't need to hide behind those crazy sunglasses.
K-State, USC better than anyone right now
If the teams that were playing the best football at the end of the season met in the national championship game, we would see a Fiesta Bowl featuring Kansas State and USC.
Anyone who has not seen K-State dominate its last five opponents by a combined margin of 253-30 has missed a chance to see what is the best team in America right now.
The Wildcats have the best combination of offense and defense in the country. The duo of quarterback Ell Roberson and running back Darren Sproles is unstoppable, and teams are lucky to score touchdowns against the nation's best defense. Of all the great seasons coach Bill Snyder has has at Kansas State, this has turned into his best team.
And while UCLA was not supposed to give USC a game -- and didn't in a 52-21 Southern Cal romp -- Carson Palmer continued to show why he is the hottest Heisman Trophy candidate on the west coast with four more touchdown passes against the Bruins.
The Bruins have relied all year on sensational freshman running back Tyler Ebell, who came into the game with six straight 100-yard performances, but by holding him to 57 yards the Trojans put the game in the hands of freshman QBs Drew Olson and Matt Moore. They were not ready for such a difficult situation and combined for just 15 completions and 185 yards.
It is easy to see why they are the best team in the Pac-10 right now with Palmer leading the offense and the best defense in the conference giving up just 297 total yards per game. There will now be a lot of Trojan fans cheering for the Bruins next week as they root for UCLA to knock off Washington State, thus sending USC to the Rose Bowl.
Performance speaks for itself
What more can you say about Penn State's Larry Johnson? I sat in the studio last weekend wondering if he could get to 2,000 rushing yards by gaining 264 against Michigan State, and then he went and got 279 in the first half.
Joe Paterno did something out of character earlier this season when he said Johnson should win the Heisman, and whether he does or not there will not be a back taken higher in the NFL Draft. The thing that is amazing about Penn State and gives the Nittany Lions a bright future is that their powerful running attack is a result of the decision to play a wide-open offense.
Because teams now have to prepare for the shotgun, spread formations and the option game they no longer have the time to stop what PSU does best, and that is run the tailback down your throat.
If JoePa had gotten his wife Sue to work that referee voodoo a little earlier in the season no one would have beaten this team.
Terry Bowden is an analyst for ABC Sports and contributes a weekly column to ESPN.com.