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The Breakdown

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Posted: Saturday December 19, 1998 10:20 AM

Ohio State
(10-1 record; John Cooper, 11th year)
Texas A&M
(11-2 record; R.C. Slocum, 10th year)
School's Bowl Record: 13-17

Coach's Bowl Record: 4-8

Last Bowl Appearance: January 1, 1998 (Lost to Florida State 31-14 in Sugar Bowl)

Record in Sugar Bowl: 0-2 (Lost to Florida State 31-14 in 1998)
School's Bowl Record: 12-11

Coach's Bowl Record: 2-5

Last Bowl Appearance: January 1, 1998 (Lost to UCLA 29-23 in Cotton Bowl)

Record in Sugar Bowl: 1-0 (Beat Tulane 14-13 in 1940)
Offensive Stud
David Boston, WR, Jr. (75 catches, 1,324 yards, 13 TDs): Prototype NFL receiver has size (6' 3", 205 pounds), speed and great hands. A true gamebreaker. Dante Hall, RB, Jr. (243 carries, 1,024 yards, 8 TDs): Career average of 7.2 yards per carry dropped significantly, but small (5' 8", 190 pounds) runner still led Aggies in rushing for second straight year.
Defensive Stud
Na'il Diggs, LB, So. (74 tackles, 6 sacks, 14 TFLs): Ultraquick playmaker burst onto national scene and out of considerable shadow of Andy Katzenmoyer. Dat Nguyen, LB, Sr. (147 tackles, 4 sacks, 20 TFLs, 2 INTs): Stiffed out of the Butkus Award, but did grab the Lombardi and Bednarik. Great nose for the ball and terrific will to win.
Player to Watch
Joe Germaine, QB, Sr. (210-347, 3,102 yards, 24 TDs, 7 INTs): Threw for more than 300 yards in six of last seven games; veteran comes up big when it matters most (see: 1997 Rose Bowl). Ja'Mar Toombs, FB, Fr. (86 carries, 425 yards, 3 TDs): Prototype fullback is a bruiser who's bigger than his listed 235 pounds; his blocking is significant part of Hall's success.
Key Stats
No. 6 nationally in total offense (503.6 ypg); No. 9 in scoring offense (36.9 ppg); No. 1 in rushing defense (67.4 ypg); No. 2 in pass-efficiency defense (87.4 opp. rating); No. 2 in total defense (257.7 ypg); No. 3 in scoring defense (11.8 ppg). No. 10 nationally in total defense (289.3 ypg) and scoring defense (14.6 ppg); No. 15 in pass-efficiency defense (105.4 opp. rating).
Surprise Stat
That 1 under the L column. No. 91 nationally in total offense (312.0 ypg), behind such football powers as Duke (No. 70) and Temple (No. 90), but No. 55 in scoring (24.7 ppg).
1998 Turning Point
November 7 -- Stunning 28-24 home loss to Michigan State cost Buckeyes a trip to Tempe and almost knocked them out of the BCS. December 5 -- Upset Kansas State 36-33 (2OT) in Big 12 title game to secure a lucrative BCS spot.
Key to Victory
Play to the level the players' ability dictates -- i.e., at least an average game. Aggies need to play a perfect game or Ohio State has to self-destruct.
Outlook
Still considered by many to be the most talented team in the country, and this is the Buckeyes' chance to prove it. Won't overlook A&M after Aggies upset Kansas State. Theoretically still have a chance at the AP national title with a blowout victory and a sloppy win by Florida State over Tennessee in Fiesta Bowl. Grim. Slocum will face a tough decision if starting QB Randy McCown can play with a fractured left (non-throwing) collar bone, since Branndon Stewart threw so well against K-State. One miracle a season is probably all the Aggies will get.

 
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