PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Which team is going to win the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game? Pat Forde counters with 20 reasons Ohio State will earn its second title in five years.
20. You cannot ignore the prophecy of Mr. Bo Biafra, lead singer/hypester of the band formerly known as the Dead Schembechlers and now renamed the Bastard Sons of Woody. Months ago, Biafra informed me that in August he was visited in spirit by the late Woody Hayes, and Woodrow told him this would be the most memorable season in Ohio State history. If Woody told Bo, it must be true.
19. Buckeyes fans' O-H-I-O hand motions during "Hang on Sloopy" beat Florida fans' chomp during "Gator Bait."
18. Wire to wire means something to the Buckeyes. They're on the verge of going the entire season ranked No. 1 and earning a special place in Ohio State lore, and they've transferred that motivation into focused preparation for this game. The idea of beating three second-ranked teams in a single season -- including two in a row -- only adds to it.
17. Ohio State won't be fooled by Florida's misdirection stuff. Defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock said that once you get past all the Gators' "window dressing," they run the same kind of plays as everyone else. Don't expect the Buckeyes to be flummoxed by reverses, motion or funky formations.
16. The sweater vest. Jim Tressel scores key style points over Urban Meyer, whose look is indistinguishable from 100 other coaches.
15. The speed thing is overrated, too. Something tells me, after roughly 50 questions about Florida's speed and the SEC's speed, the Buckeyes are plenty motivated to show they're not a bunch of dump trucks lined up against Ferraris. Over the past decade the high-end Big Ten teams have all upgraded their speed enough to run with the SEC -- and if you don't believe me, check video of Penn State beating Tennessee and Wisconsin beating Arkansas last week.
14. The long layoff is overrated. Sure, the Buckeyes haven't played in roughly three years, but so what? This season's 50-day layoff is only seven days longer than last season, and Ohio State was razor sharp in ripping Notre Dame. Nobody has proven better at preparing a team for a bowl game than Tressel, who has won four bowls in a row.
13. Applying heat. Ohio State is tied for sixth in the country in sacks per game at 3.1. Florida is a mediocre 44th in sacks allowed at 1.7 per game. If the Buckeyes consistently get in Chris Leak's face, he's bound to make a big mistake
12. Because it's THE Ohio State University, not THE University of Florida.
11. Place kicking. We all know that Florida's Chris Hetland is only 50-50 to hit the broad side of a barn from right in front of it, having missed 9 of 13 field-goal attempts this season. Ohio State kicker Aaron Pettrey has made his last five field goals and eight of his last nine, with a career long of 52 yards.
10. X factor receiver. Both teams have a quality third wide receiver, Ohio State in Brian Robiskie and Florida in Jemalle Cornelius. But Robiskie has been the bigger performer in the bigger games. Against ranked teams, Cornelius has five catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. Robiskie has 14 catches for 180 yards and three touchdowns.
9. Running back dependability. Ohio State's Antonio Pittman is almost criminally overlooked, which can happen when a guy is as steady as he is. Pittman has rushed for at least 58 yards in 24 straight games. Florida's top back, DeShawn Wynn, has run for that many yards only four times this season and just eight times in his last 24 games.
8. Desert karma. The Buckeyes are 4-1 in Arizona bowl games and have become so comfortable out here that the players are now communing with the javelinas (that's a wild desert pig, in case you don't religiously watch Animal Planet) near their hotel. The Gators are 0-1 here, and the loss was one of the most humiliating in school history: a 62-24 bludgeoning from Nebraska in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl.
7. Quarterback play. If you're wondering who has performed better in big games, you should already know the answer. But in case you don't, here are the numbers: Troy Smith has a pass efficiency rating of 153.8 in four games against ranked teams this year, while Chris Leak has a rating of 121.
6. Quarterback play II. Of the top 50 quarterbacks nationally in pass efficiency, only two have thrown a higher percentage of interceptions than Florida's Leak, who's had 4 percent of his passes picked off. Ohio State's Smith, on the other hand, has had only 1.7 percent of his passes intercepted, eighth-best among the top 50. If this game turns on a critical error, Leak is a much stronger candidate than Smith to make it.
5. Third down. It's the money down in football, where teams have to either make a big play or stop one. The Buckeyes are better on third down. They're converting 51.3 percent of them into first downs (fourth-best nationally) and limiting opponents to just a 30.6 percent conversion rate. The Gators aren't bad (converting 43.2 percent and allowing 33.9), but they're not Ohio State.
4. Florida coach Urban Meyer acknowledged Friday that he owns a buckeye, which is a statewide good-luck charm in his native Ohio. The luck works better if you're not trying to actively use it against the Buckeyes.
3. Flags. Florida is the second-most penalized team in the country, being flagged 8.5 times per game. Ohio State is the 18th-least penalized team in the country, drawing 4.8 flags per game. Those are the kind of yardage giveaways the underdog Gators cannot afford.
2. Been here, won that. Ohio State has 18 fifth-year seniors who were here when the Buckeyes won the national title in 2002, were here when they came back to win the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl again the next year over Kansas State and were here last year, when they punked Notre Dame in the Fiesta. That's a whole lot of BCS bowl experience compared to very little: Florida has only Utah transfer Ryan Smith.
1. The numbers say Ohio State is simply more solid all around than Florida. The Buckeyes don't have an obvious weakness. The NCAA and each conference keep stats on 17 team categories, and the Buckeyes rank in the top 33 nationally and the top three in the Big Ten in 15 of the 17. The Gators, meanwhile, are lower than 33rd nationally and lower than third in the SEC in eight of 17 categories.