By JOHN SEARS - BIG TEN INSIDER
When this year’s schedule revealed the Trojans and Buckeyes would begin a home-and-home series in Los Angeles this year, the date was circled on our calendars. And if you live in the Midwest, a few extra pounds of bratwursts were stuffed in the freezer in anticipation of this early season BCS-type match up. What goes better with college football than a nice grilled brat on a clear, fall afternoon? How about a beer and a brat on a Saturday night? This version of Saturday Night Live is a showdown that carries potential national championship implications.
This game will showcase the Big Ten vs. the PAC-10, former owners of the Rose Bowl where Ohio State last tasted victory in the “grand-daddy of them all” back in 1974. Thirty-four years is a long time to seek redemption. However, if you’re cheering on the crimson and silver, you may have to wait until next year’s game in Columbus in order to taste victory against the Trojans.
Breakdown of the key match-ups in order of relevance:
1. OSU LB unit vs. USC RB unit: Sure the Buckeyes are loaded on defense, particularly with MIKE LB James Laurinaitis anchoring the LB corps. He was an All-American last year, and is expected to reproduce and/or exceed his production from last year. But can this group slow down the speedy combination of CJ Gable and Joe McKnight? The Trojans’ backfield shredded UVA in their road-opener; they proved more than shifty enough to slip in and through the second level of the Cavalier’s defense. Can Ohio State’s LBs keep containment and prevent repeat performances? I’m dubious. EDGE: USC
2. OSU RB unit vs. USC LB unit: You’re now considering my lack of football intelligence as I am putting the status of “Beanie” Wells and OSU’s rushing attack secondary. And you’re right – Wells’ injury is by far and away the largest injury/Heisman storyline to start the year. However, there’s a strong chance that even a healthy Wells does not break through USC’s LB corps, led by 2009 1st round draft picks Ray Maualuga and Brian Cushing. I appreciate that Wells has played through nagging injuries and is a fierce competitor, but for OSU to bank on a strong performance from Wells without the injury would be a lot to ask. With that being said, the EDGE would have gone to the Trojans, but this is muddied by…
3. PT for TP: If Wells can’t run effectively, wouldn’t this be the opportune time to take the 2007 #1 recruit Terrelle Pryor out for a spin? In limited action as the dual threat change-up QB—as opposed to the pure drop-back Todd Boeckman--Pryor has already glided in to the end zone a la Vince Young (ahem, the all-world Vince Young from Texas, not the Vince Young getting booed out of Nashville enough to be reported as missing for a night) by fleeted-foot. If Pryor gets some reps and catches the USC defense by surprise, perhaps he could keep the Trojans off balance long enough to run to victory. Alas, this may be throwing a freshman in to the fire too early in his career. EDGE: USC
4. History: Remember a certain national title game a few years ago when an underdog Ohio State team with a conservative offense, pro-style quarterback, manhandling defense pulled out a win against a proclaimed unstoppable, too athletic, too fast, too powerful offense, too powerful defense powerhouse (looking for the chime in from disgruntled Hurricane fans – yes, that should have been a no-call)? Me too. The Buckeyes of recent past find ways to get it done, no matter the stage. If they can do it to win a national championship, they certainly can do it at the Coliseum Saturday night. EDGE: OSU
PREDICTION: And that’s why the game is played. USC on their home turf goes up by double-digits early as the Buckeyes slowly adjust to their opponent’s team speed. If Wells or Pryor can deliver a spark, Ohio State may be able to climb back, but they won’t. The Trojans are just too tough all-around.Final Score USC 27 OSU 16
Ohio State Freshman to watch: Terrelle Pryor (QB)
Photo Credit: Collegiate Images, Chris McGuire (USC)
Friday, September 12, 2008
By JOHN SEARS - BIG TEN INSIDER