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Can't-miss matchup

Buckeyes, Longhorns set for epic non-conference tilt

Posted: Friday September 9, 2005 12:23PM; Updated: Saturday September 10, 2005 1:03PM
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Early non-conference games don't get bigger than Texas-Ohio State. The two storied programs will meet for the first time in a showdown that feels like the equivalent of a BCS bowl game. The Longhorns and Buckeyes are mirror images, with game-breaking talents on offense, hard-hitting, aggressive defenses and outstanding special teams. So cancel all your plans Saturday night because this is a game you won't want to miss.

Marquee Matchup
(2) Texas at (4) Ohio State
8 p.m. ET (ABC)
Ohio Stadium (102,329)


Ted Ginn Jr.
Texas will see plenty of Ohio State playmaker Ted Ginn Jr. when the two teams meet Saturday night.
David Maxwell/Getty Images

Texas looked sharp in a season-opening 60-3 rout of Louisiana-Lafayette, racking up 591 yards of offense and breaking in a new stable of running backs. True freshman Jamaal Charles looked like the heir apparent to Cedric Benson after rushing for 135 yards and a touchdown. That was a good sign, but everything revolves around quarterback Vince Young, who will have to be on his game for Texas to beat Ohio State. He must be patient in the pocket and pick his spots. He also has to be careful about when to take off because the Buckeyes will be spying him all night. Young's top target is sure-handed tight end David Thomas, but in order for the passing game to be effective the Longhorns' inexperienced wide receivers must get open and make plays too. On defense, Texas' strength is its line so expect tackle Rodrique Wright & Co. to put steady pressure on the Buckeyes all night.

Traditionally, Ohio State's strength has been its defense and this year is no different. The Buckeyes love to blitz with a playmaking core of linebackers led by All-American A.J. Hawk. Expect Hawk or speedy strong-side linebacker Bobby Carpenter to follow Young wherever he goes. The secondary is solid with three-way threat Ted Ginn Jr. at one corner and hard-hitting safety Nate Salley in the middle. Junior quarterback Justin Zwick was efficient in a season-opening win over Miami (Ohio), but he has to be better for the Buckeyes to beat Texas. Zwick will likely start, but expect to see a lot of Troy Smith, who is back after serving a two-game NCAA suspension for accepting improper benefits from a booster. Smith won four of his five starts last year and shredded Michigan with 386 yards of total offense. Ginn, who lines up at receiver, running back and returns kicks, gives Ohio State a scoring threat every time he touches the ball. Expect the Buckeyes to give him plenty of opportunities.

Final Analysis

Ohio State has a clear advantage playing at home, where the Buckeyes have won 36 consecutive non-conference games at the Horseshoe. But Texas isn't an average opponent and is an outstanding road team. The Longhorns have won 21 of their last 22 road games and are 26-6 on the road under coach Mack Brown. Young is dangerous and if he's effective in the passing game Ohio State is in trouble. This is an awfully tough one to call, but I think this could be Texas' year and my crystal ball sees Young & Co. pulling it out in the end -- by a horn.

High Stakes I
(20) Notre Dame at (3) Michigan
Noon ET (ABC)
Michigan Stadium (110,000)

Michigan is still steaming from last year's 28-20 loss to Notre Dame in South Bend and would love to up the score like it did in 2003, when the Wolverines embarrassed the Irish 38-0 in the Big House. While a rout is unlikely, Michigan is a national-championship contender and has a clear edge in talent. New Irish coach Charlie Weis opened some eyes with an impressive 42-21 win over Pitt, but he'll learn the difference between Pitt and Michigan is like the difference between the Bengals and Patriots.