NOTRE DAME VS OHIO STATE
Of the three BCS bowls not deciding the national title, Monday afternoon's Fiesta Bowl showdown between Ohio State and Notre Dame is probably the most anticipated. It's a matchup between two teams with great history and tradition, outstanding head coaches, and fabulous teams this fall. Both squads finished in the top six of the final BCS standings, and the pair has combined to win eleven games in a row, neither losing since mid-October, on their way to 9-2 records.
Quarterback - Brady Quinn vs. Troy Smith
Brady Quinn and Troy Smith are on opposite ends of the spectrum as far as quarterbacks go. Both have good arms and superb leadership ability, but what Quinn lacks in foot-speed, he makes up for in intelligence. And what Smith lacks in accuracy, he makes up for with his speed and dynamic playmaking ability. Although Smith is a tremendous playmaker, the edge here goes to Notre Dame and Quinn.
Tailback - Darius Walker vs. Antonio Pittman
Notre Dame has a tradition of great backs, but then again, Ohio State is home to the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner in Archie Griffin. Walker is lightning quick with excellent burst and acceleration, while Pittman is a less athletically gifted back with excellent acceleration. While both players are great running backs, the edge easily goes to the Irish's young Darius Walker.
Taking the field at wideout for the Irish will be Jeff Samardzija and Maurice Stovall. Samardzija was not expected to be the Irish's best receiver this season but has developed into a reliable possession type receiver with excellent hands and adequate speed. The athletic Stovall is a large, physical specimen and should have a good game against a smaller Buckeye secondary.
Ted Ginn Jr. is most likely the fastest player in all of college football. Although he is still quite young, Ginn has made people miss all year, although few ever got the chance to even touch this burner. On the other side of the field for the Buckeyes is playmaker Santonio Holmes. Holmes himself is quite the athlete, and together with Ginn, they make for an explosive receiver tandem. The edge here goes to Ohio State.
Both offensive lines come into this game laden with experience and ready to compete. Notre Dame's Mark LeVoir and Ohio State's Nick Mangold are two of the best blockers in the entire country and should help anchor their team's ground games. Edge here goes to Notre Dame due to the experience factor alone.
The defensive line is a push between the two teams as both have failed at times this season to produce an adequate pass rush. If you're looking for one player on each team to watch, look for Notre Dame's Victor Abiamiri and Ohio State's Mike Kudla.
This one is not even close. Although Notre Dame's linebackers are extremely solid, the corps of Ohio State is one of the best in NCAA history. A.J. Hawk is an absolute monster on the field and constantly causes offenses all sorts of problems. His counterparts, Anthony Schlegel and Bobby Carpenter are also extremely talented, and if not for the shadow of Hawk, they would shine as superstars as well. Edge here goes to Ohio State.
Notre Dame's secondary is mediocre at best, while Ohio State fields an extremely talented, physical group that can force most offenses into the almost certain death of one-dimensionality. Edge to the Buckeyes.
If the game comes down to a field goal, expect Notre Dame to win. Clutch place-kicker D.J. Fitzpatrick possesses a phenomenal leg.