The day when the invading forces of Pete Carroll and his Trojan army land upon Ohio State soil to lay claim to another blowout against the Buckeyes. But things will be very different this year, or so I hear.
Despite the 35-3 slaughter of last season, there appears to be a strong thread of optimism running through the scarlet and gray faithful boasting that the USC Trojans will be repaid for the embarrassment. By no means do I hear predictions that Ohio State will dominate, but some believe that the Buckeyes could nonetheless pull off the upset or at least be competitive. Here is a list of the evidence that supports such predictions:
- QB Matt Barkley is a true freshman who will be playing only his second start. He lacks experience and has never played in a place as intimidating as The Shoe. If the Buckeye defense can put pressure on him, he's bound to crack.
- USC lost most of their starters on defense.
- USC has suffered some injuries in the past few weeks, namely WR Ronald Johnson, Center Kristofer O'Dowd as well as defensive linemen Armond Armstead and Averell Spicer. On top of that, starting CB Shareece Wright has been declared academically ineligible for the 2009 season.
- USC lost both their defensive and offensive coordinators.
Too much for the Trojans to overcome?
I admire the optimism not to mention the confidence my fellow Buckeye fans have in their team but a victory against USC is highly improbable. Have we forgotten the 35-3 pummelling of last year? For all those like myself who are mathematically challenged, that was a loss by a whopping 32 points, worse than the infamous 41-14 spanking we got from Florida.
To this day, I'm puzzled why so many people were shocked and even now, the media and fans are billing round 2 as one of the top five games to watch this season. I guess its because so many are waiting for Ohio State to show that for the last 3 years they have been underachievers not living up to the elite status that many fans believe their team deserves.
While some believe that the USC game will provide the Buckeyes with another shot at redemption, the following desperately need to be taken into consideration.
- USC reloads year in and year out so take little confidence that they lost 8 starters on defense. Also, take no comfort that the Trojans no longer have defensive coordinator Nick Holt. That is ultimately Pete Carroll's defense.
- Speaking of Carroll, has anybody taken a look-see at his record against the Big Ten? Since becoming the head coach for Southern Cal, he has never lost to the Big Ten. In fact, no Big Ten team has even come close to scaring the California swagger out of his step, embarrassing the conference by an average of 23.7 points per game. To put it mildly, Pete Carroll owns the Big Ten.
- Sure there's a big question mark on true freshman QB Matt Barkley, but people had the same worries surrounding Mark Sanchez last year. The bottom line is that if Pete Carroll has the confidence to put you under center that means that you are an official bonafide mother... End of story.
- Yes, Ohio State returns with the same experience-laden defensive line as last season, but USC returns the same offensive line that manhandled the Buckeyes' front four. I dare any Ohio State fan to YouTube last year's meeting and watch in horror as the Trojan o-line simply steered the Buckeye defense at will. When pressure was applied, Sanchez would just throw a screen for big yardage. Matt Barkley will be more than well-protected so getting him to crack under pressure will be more easily said than done.
- The USC o-line isn't alone. With the exception of quarterback, they return their entire backfield including junior tailback Joe McKnight who ran over the Buckeye defense for 105 yards on just 12 carries averaging 8.8 yards per carry and tallied 145 rushing yards against San Jose State. Barkley will have plenty of weapons to throw to, a receiving unit led by senior Damian Williams who scored 2 touchdowns against Ohio State.
- Southern Cal shouldn't worry too much about losing a few starters. The fact remains that their roster is so rich in talent that their bench consists of players who would be starting-caliber players on most other teams.
- My fellow Buckeyes should be nervous after Saturday. Upon making my way to the Shoe, the tunnel by St. John's Arena was rowdy with O-H, I-O cheers. Not so much on the way back. While leaving the stadium after the unimpressive win against Navy, you could hear the rumblings from the other fans that they weren't too excited about what they just witnessed, especially considering who's coming to town soon.
- I don't advise throwing all those bubble screens against USC as there were against Navy. I'm glad that Jim finally discovered some "trick plays" but it won't work next time.
- Jim Tressel is holding nothing back. He isn't keeping anything close to the vest, as they say. So stop looking at last Saturday's scare as if coach was withholding something special for the Trojans. Pete Carroll already knows what The Vest is going to bring on Saturday since the man is easier to read than Dr. Seuss.
- Ohio State really needed to wow on Saturday. They didn't do it. Sorry.
Again, I admire the fighting spirit and I hope that the Buckeyes have half as much as its fan base, but this Ohio State program is not on the caliber of what Pete Carroll will be bringing Saturday, so let's keep the boasting in check.
Prediction: USC 42, Ohio State 10