No combination in athletic competition is more dangerous than talented athletes with a point to prove. That's why Ohio State cannot be overlooked in Monday night's championship game. But all that motivation still doesn't figure to be enough for the Buckeyes to defeat LSU. The Tigers figure to benefit greatly from their extended time off ? which has allowed them to heal. All-American defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey has recovered from a knee injury, and there is no more dominant force in college football. QB Matt Flynn, who has been hobbled by ankle and shoulder injuries, is healthy. Ohio State has had some problems facing mobile quarterbacks, and Flynn and backup Ryan Perrilloux definitely fit that mold. Unlike last year, the Buckeyes will be in contention heading into the fourth quarter. Ultimately, I think LSU has more speed, more weapons and is more likely to make a pivotal big play. I think the Tigers will pull away in the final 15 minutes.
MIKE HUGUENIN, Rivals.com college sports editor
Ohio State's pitiful performance in last season's title game will serve as the fuel that gets the Buckeyes the crown in this season's championship game. Florida's defensive ends controlled the game last season, but LSU's ends this season aren't nearly as good as the Gators' ends were last season. Only one running back has reached the 100-yard mark against LSU this season (Arkansas' Darren McFadden), but look for Ohio State's Chris Wells to reach that plateau Monday. Actually, if Ohio State is to win, Wells must rush for 100. LSU's tailback-by-committee group will have some success, but not as much as Wells. And Wells' success means there will be more time for Buckeyes QB Todd Boeckman to make some plays in the passing game. Boeckman will make enough plays to give Ohio State's Jim Tressel ? a better coach than LSU counterpart Les Miles ? his second national title this decade.
BILL KING, Rivals Radio host
Actually, I feel as if these teams match up quite evenly. When I break the two teams down by position, it comes out as a relative wash. For example, I rank Glenn Dorsey as the obvious top defensive interior lineman in this game, but prefer Vernon Gholston on the outside. LSU has the advantage of playing in front of a partisan crowd in the Superdome.
Ohio State has the coaching advantage and the intangibles with Jim Tressel. I just feel that with the constant reminder of last season's title-game disaster and the 0-8 mark versus the SEC in the postseason, the Scarlet and Gray are poised to win this one.
STEVE MEGARGEE, Rivals.com college football writer
Criticize Ohio State's schedule all you want, but the Buckeyes definitely belong in this game. Ohio State leads the nation in most defensive categories and has allowed more than 17 points just once all season, in its loss to Illinois. LSU also should get at least 17 points Monday, but this still figures to be a relatively low-scoring game that comes down to which team gets better production from its quarterback. Ohio State's Todd Boeckman exceeded expectations this season, but he threw four interceptions with no touchdown passes in his last two games. I have more faith in LSU's one-two punch of Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux. This won't be a repeat of last year's championship-game blowout. Six of LSU's past eight games have been decided by seven or fewer points, so we shouldn't expect anything different Monday. But we'll end up with the same type of result - an SEC team winning the title over Ohio State.
DAVID FOX, Rivals.com college football writer
Ohio State's loss in last year's national championship game was a defining event not only for the Buckeyes, but for the landscape of college football. The game was a highlight reel for SEC speed and Big Ten inferiority. I don't buy it ? at least not this year or in this game. The Buckeyes have plenty going for them despite being the underdog and playing a de facto road game. Ohio State's defense has held opponents 17 points below their season scoring averages. Chris Wells got stronger as the season progressed, and I expect the Buckeyes coaches have adjusted to the long layoff blamed for last year's collapse in the title game. The LSU coaching situation troubles me as well. Don't forget about Mark Richt's departure (or lack thereof) before the 2001 Sugar Bowl. Then Florida State's offensive coordinator, Richt doubled as an assistant for the Seminoles and Georgia's head coach. The Seminoles couldn't find the end zone in that title game loss to Oklahoma. Bo Pelini is in a similar role, splitting his attention between his LSU defensive coordinator post and the Nebraska head coaching position.
Gerry Ahern, Yahoo! Sports Senior Editor
The Buckeyes have the edge in two crucial areas ? defense and coaching. And they have enough weapons on offense to surprise the Tigers and make plays deep. Ohio State is No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense and total defense. Expect LSU quarterbacks Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux to face relentless pressure. While Les Miles was the coveted candidate to succeed Lloyd Carr at Michigan, I'll take my chances with Jim Tressel on any given Saturday, or in this case, Monday. He will have the Buckeyes ready to play the kind of tough, physical game that wins championships. The key to the game though will be the play of OSU quarterback Todd Boeckman. Should his line provide him adequate time, expect Boeckman to find top targets Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline down the field after the Buckeyes establish the run with Chris Wells.