On Saturday September 12th, 2009 the 3rd ranked USC Trojans travel to Columbus Ohio to take on the 8th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in a match up that will not only effect each teams title chances, but also the recruiting war. I have heard that ten 5 star high school prospects will be in attendance "officially" and many others watching.
Last season the Trojans dominated the game between the two college power houses with a 35-3 rout in Los Angeles but this time the Buckeyes think they are more prepared and want revenge on a Trojan team starting a true freshman quarterback in Matt Barkley.
The Trojans on the other hand take the same approach that head coach Pete Carroll has instilled in the nations top football program since he arrived at USC, "any team, any time, any where". They have the utmost confidence in Barkley, a seasoned offensive line and arguably the nations best defensive player in safety Taylor Mays.
The key to the Buckeyes on offense will be sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor. He is a dynamic dual threat that the Trojans have had trouble with in the past (Jonathan Beasley, Vince Young and Dennis Dixon come to mind) and Carroll has said that if he had that type of quarterback at USC, he would be starting. If Pryor can keep the Trojans honest with his passing that will make his running ability that much more deadly.
On defense the Buckeyes will have to force the Trojans to pass and make Barkley beat them. If they can stop a Trojans rushing attack (that ran for 342 yards against San Jose St. last week) that gives them a legit shot at victory.
The Trojans on offense will have to continue to run the ball and protect Barkley. Joe McNight, Stephon Johnson and CJ Gable the Trojans boast one of the deepest and dynamic rushing attacks in the nation. Barkley also has to pick up where he left off from last week. He did a masterful job of managing the game and not make mistakes.
On defense the Trojans have to stop Pryor. He is the key to the Buckeyes offense and how he goes so go the Buckeyes. Mays, Chris Gallippo and company will play a "zone" package that will keep a "spy" on Pryor.
The Trojans should win this game, and I wouldn't be shocked if it was by a larger margin then last year. The Trojans are faster and more athletic then any Big 10 team including Ohio St. Pete Carroll knows this game is a defining game for the 2009 season and the Trojans title hopes in general. Jim Tressel knows that if the Buckeyes (really the Big 10 in general) loses to another "big game" team in the Pac 10 or SEC, it will seriously hurt Ohio St.'s recruiting for a long time because the perception will be that Big 10 teams are to slow to compete with other teams "power" conferences.
This is the NCAA's marque game for the early season. Both schools need to commended for scheduling this match up and sticking to it. It is a shame that one of these schools will not be considered a national title contender after Saturday's game because of the NCAA's poor choice to not have a college football playoff (that is a completely different subject for another day). More schools need to do this instead of running up the score against the likes of the Charleston Southern Buccaneers.
Key players to watch:
USC: Damian Williams, Joe McNight, Matt Barkley and Taylor Mays
Ohio St.: Terrelle Pryor, Daniel Herron, Ohio St. Defense