USC-Ohio State: RJ's Four Keys to Victory for Each Team

Robert GardnerSenior Analyst ISeptember 8, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Running back Joe McKnight #4 of  the USC Trojans dives into the end zone for a touchdown against the San Jose State Spartans on September 5, 2009 at the Los Angeles Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Saturday night, Sept. 12, the Ohio State Buckeyes will face off with the USC Trojans. The winner is put into the driver's seat to a possible BCS title game berth, while the loser will be forced to the back of the championship pack and will have a long road ahead to get back into the title picture.

This game features two of the most storied programs in college football history. The Trojans are coming off of an impressive showing against overmatched SJSU. The Buckeyes are coming into this game with a chip on their shoulders and will be looking to regain some pride for themselves and the Big Ten conference.

After seeing both teams opening weekend, it is safe to say that they kept the playbook close to the vest. Both teams ran a very basic offense. Neither team wanted to show too much.

USC was able to win big and gain some momentum for their young true freshman quarterback. Ohio State, however, had their hands full with a very game and motivated Navy squad. Ohio State was able to secure the victory in the end while not having to reach too far into their bag of tricks.

Ohio State Keys to Victory

1. Stop the Run

This is without a doubt the most important piece of the puzzle in the Ohio State defensive game plan. Stopping the run is going to play a key role in their ability to rattle young Matt Barkley. Take the ball out of the hands of USC's stable of running backs and put the game in Barkley's control.

Ohio State needs to force Barkley to beat them, and the only way to do that is to take away the ground game.

2. Get Out to an Early Lead

By forcing the Trojans to play from behind, Ohio State can limit USC's play selection and force them to make plays down the field. Ohio State needs to put Barkley into a position where he is forced to make plays with his arm. Barkley is a young quarterback, and it is important for Ohio State to force him into situations that he has not faced.

3. Pressure and Confuse the Quarterback

This is going to be Barkley's first game on a national stage in front of a hostile crowd. Ohio State needs to take advantage of any jitters Barkley may have. Blitz him early and often and keep the coverages disguised. Force Barkley into making poor decisions with the ball. Ohio State needs to take Barkley out of his comfort zone and apply constant pressure to him.

4. Terrelle Pryor

Ohio State is going to need their signal caller, Terrelle Pryor, to play a solid game. The Buckeyes need to get Pryor out of the pocket and into space, where he is the most effective. Having Pryor out of the pocket will create a lot of problems for the Trojan defense. Ohio State really needs to showcase Pryor's athletic ability and put him into a position to make plays and win the game.

USC Keys to Victory

1. Run the Ball

USC is in a unique situation with their stable of running backs. Against SJSU they were able to go six deep and be effective, but against the Buckeyes look for them to rotate three: Joe McKnight, C.J. Gable, and Stafon Johnson.

The Trojans are going to continue to pound the ball this game. With a veteran O-line and a young QB, the running game is going to open up the rest of the offense and protect the freshman.

2. Contain Terrelle Pryor

The Men of Troy need to pressure Pryor and keep him inside of the pocket. USC needs to take Pryor's legs away from him and force him to try to make plays with his arm. Pryor struggles when he is put into a position where he has to become a pure passer.

3. Play Fast and Aggressive

While the USC defense is still young, they can fly around the field. USC will come into the game with the advantage in overall team speed. Look for the Trojans to blitz early and blitz often. The speed and the experience the Trojans have in the secondary will allow the front seven to take more chances and pressure Pryor and the Buckeye offense.

4. Keep It Simple, Stupid

USC is coming into this game with a true freshman quarterback in Matt Barkley. The USC gameplan needs to remain pretty simple: Put the ball into your playmakers' hands and let them do the rest.

USC did a great job against SJSU keeping things simple for Barkley, and it allowed him to gain some confidence while not asking him to do too much. Look for a similar gameplan against the Buckeyes, but also expect the USC coaches to allow Barkley to open it up a little more and get the ball down the field.


Ohio State is going into this game with a lot at stake. The Buckeyes will be looking to regain some pride after the beatdown that was handed to them by the Trojans last year. Ohio State is also coming into this game with the Big Ten conference's credibility on the line. The Buckeyes need a win in this game in the worst way.

USC comes into this game looking to prove that they are still the big dog. This is going to be a statement game for these young Trojans.

After watching both teams this past weekend and looking at the rosters, USC is going to come into this game the favorite. The Horseshoe is as difficult a place to play as any, but it is not going to be enough to rattle the Trojans.

USC is going to run the ball and will run it effectively. This, in turn, will open up the passing game for the young Barkley. The Trojans are going to be able to impose their will onto the Buckeyes, and they are going to take Pryor out of his comfort zone and pressure him.

USC 35, Ohio State 10


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