Danger Zone Ahead for Ohio State Football?

Justin HearnContributor ISeptember 3, 2008

If Pete Carroll is as nonchalant about Beanie Wells’ status as he seems, then Ohio State may be in serious peril.

When a coach seems unconcerned with a major opponent’s star player’s injury, that usually means he is confident in his game plan. According to ESPN, Carroll almost seemed to brush off the reports of Wells’ injury.

“They stuck (the news) on my chair when I came in,” Carroll said.

Generally, though, a coach doesn’t shrug his shoulders at headlines such as Wells' injury unless he wasn’t concerned about Wells' team in the first place.

“We were hitting on all cylinders,” Carroll said after USC’s 52-7 win over Virginia Aug. 30.

Carroll does not sound like someone who is intimidated by Ohio State with or without Wells. Still, he’s always been quite the gamesman. He was vintage Carroll in regard to Ohio State.

Said Carroll, “We play them in two weeks, right?”

So why is Ohio State in possible danger?

USC is supremely confident and riding high after its thumping of Virginia. Also, the spotlight and pressure is totally on Ohio State with Wells' injury.

I’m sure you are well aware of what happened when the spotlight followed Ohio State before the inaugural BCS Championship Game against Florida.

Then again, Carroll and USC have every right to be confident. Did anyone honestly expect them not to believe in themselves?

The only real injury distraction they have is Rey Maualuga's fractured right ring finger. (Heck, I broke the same finger in an intramural basketball game last year and still finished the game and season.)

With Wells, though, it’s a lot worse. The offense centers around him, and Boeckman hasn’t exactly shown great response to tremendous defensive pressure.

One need only to study Boeckman’s costly fumbles against Michigan State last year, the frustrating interceptions against Illinois in his own end zone, and his pinball-like abuse at the hands of LSU.

If it weren’t for Wells, Ohio State probably would’ve faced a stiffer game last year against Michigan.

So you can’t blame Carroll for not being worried.

And if Columbus is deflated after Wells’ injury, how much more is that the case for his teammates? According to Jim Tressel, though, there‘s no reason to panic.

“Tell them to worry about Gustav and Rita and those kinds of things,” Tressel said Tuesday. “Beanie’s going to be fine.”

So either Carroll is masking his own fear of Ohio State and its powerful running back, or Tressel is masking his fear that seems to be resonating through Ohio—that Wells’ injury could mean the dashing of all the preseason dreams. Whoever is wearing the mask will be revealed Sept. 13.

Regardless, Ohio State is going to have to bring everything it has in its arsenal to Los Angeles that day. That doesn't mean it should forget that the Ohio Bobcats come to town Sept. 6, though.

The Buckeyes may be traveling with Kenny Loggins on the highway to the danger zone; however, if they keep their focus, they could take a turn onto the road leading to Miami buoyed by a victory over USC.