Ohio was said to be the key to the recent presidential election. Now on a slightly different scale, Ohio, which is often said to be the crucible of football, could be the key to the 49ers-Rams game this Sunday at Candlestick Park.
Two players who attended Ohio State will be instrumental in this game, namely, 49ers right guard Alex Boone and Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis. The two players roomed together as Buckeyes and their battle could define the winner of the game.
The 49ers own the most explosive run game in the league and are one of the few teams that run more than they pass. Stop Frank Gore and the running game and generally the entire offense comes to a halt.
Meanwhile, Laurinaitis as the Rams' middle linebacker, is the face of St Louis' defense. He led the team in tackles last season with 142 and is doing the same this year; he has recorded double-digit tackles in six of the Rams' eight games.
Laurinaitis also rarely comes off the field and led the Rams with 1,052 snaps last season. He also signed a five-year deal a day before the season started.
"Mobile, rangy, tough, real savvy understanding of the game," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said when asked about Laurinaitis. "And they use him in a lot of different ways. In the blitz packages, rush to cover packages, cover packages. So, he's a force to be reckoned with."
Laurinaitis, meanwhile, said Boone was a force to be reckoned with as a roommate.
"He's a big man," Laurinaitis said. "The whole sleep apnea -- all that stuff. I would always advocate to get him one of those things to put over his face because I don't want to hear him snoring anymore."
Boone admitted he is a champion snorer.
"Oh, I'm terrible," he said.
Boone is loud when he's awake as well. Both players like to talk on the field and there will be plenty of chatter when the two clash on Sunday.
"I have got a lot of trash talk for him believe me," Boone said.
Laurinaitis is also proud of his former roomie, who nearly kicked away a promising NFL career with off-field troubles mainly centering around alcohol.
"Just to see him get things right and to really go forward with that. The physical stuff, I never questioned at all with Alex Boone," Laurinaitis said. "He is an extremely big human being. He always worked hard. Seeing him catch on and seeing how much he battled -- I mean, talk about perseverance. He's a practice-squad guy who's worked his way into this lineup. It's cool to see that with guys that you don't know. But when you know somebody personally, it's awesome to see that."