3-Man Roundtable: USC Edition

Buckeye CommentarySenior Analyst ISeptember 11, 2009

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterback Terrelle Pryor #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes prepares to pass against the Navy Midshipmen at Ohio Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

We huddled up in advance of the season’s biggest game and talked through some questions surrounding this weekend’s matchup with USC.

Which would be a better sign for Ohio State this Saturday night: Terrelle Pryor rushes for 125 yards or passes for 250 yards?

Massey: In my mind, this is a really close call but I will take the 250 passing yards with a caveat: Pryor can only have one interception.  The tempting part of picking the 125 yards rushing is that it conjured images of Vince Young running wild against the Trojans.  If Pryor throws for big yards but is intercepted on two or three occasions, the Buckeyes will have little chance.  Without those picks, though, the running game would open up considerably as Saine and Herron are more than capable of capitalizing on favorable defensive alignments.

Poe: Pass bro, pass. 250 yards passing means that Terrelle Pryor did what USC didn’t think he could do: throw the football.  Normally an Ohio State QB doesn’t need 400+ yards passing (good, because it won’t happen) to win a game. Todd Boeckman against Penn State only had around 250 yards to his name, but it opened up everything else for a 37-10 blowout (+7 points special teams for PSU).  If Terrelle is going to win the game running, he needs to push twohundro, which is something the phenom has been phenomenal about.

Cassius: In all honesty, I’d rather see him rush for 125.  Its possible this could happen because he would be forced to scramble all night, but I prefer a different theory.  If Tressel can come up with more running packages and plays for Pryor, whether it be draws, sweeps or option plays and get Pryor into the open field and get the USC defense thinking run about 50% of the time he drops back it would force the defense to concentrate on Pryor running and allow Pryor more time in the pocket and allow the receivers better coverages to work against.  IMHO, this would keep the USC offense off the field early and subsequently open up the passing game allowing Pryor to throw for 250.

Which of the following most closely approximates your takeaway from the Navy game: (a) the Buckeyes are totally overmatched against USC this weekend; (b) the OSU offense is fine but the defense needs work; or (c) the Buckeyes relaxed in the second half and you cannot take anything away from that game?

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P: (a) approximates my takeaway. Is it true? We’ll find out this weekend.  Ohio State didn’t do anything extremely well against Navy and it showed.  At no point did I think OSU was endanger (12+ Miller Lites will do that), but only a couple pieces of the puzzle well into place.  Kurt Coleman is a stud and Terrelle Pryor is the best athlete on the team.  OSU needs work all around.  USC laid down 620 yards of offense in Week 1, something OSU can only achieve with a bazillion NFL draft picks against one of the worst Notre Dame secondaries EVA. (c) The Buckeyes did relax, but this is a young team that could slowly turn into the “meh, winning the Big Ten is enough” mantra that the previous class(es) played to.

C: I find it hard to take a lot away from the Navy game.  Its fairly easy to see why Ohio State scored on 60% of their drives as Navy is only a decent defense and Pryor is simply a hell of an athlete; and its also understandable that the defense would give up as many points as they did and as many yards as they did considering that Navy’s offense is one that most defenders had probably never seen before and will probably never see again.  That being said, I think it is only after this weekend that we will know where the offense and defense stand on a larger scale, after facing a conventional (I use that word lightly considering the athletes USC has) offense and defense.  But, if I had to predict what units were going to come up short performance wise this weekend I’d have to go with: 1. Secondary, 2. Linebackers, 3. O-Line.

M: A little from column B and  a little from column C.  While I am not super concerned about any one thing, including the defense, I am concerned with the safeties’ ability to match up with USC’s receivers or, god forbid, Stanley Havili again does give me some serious pause.  I know Hines is likely to see most of the playing time instead of Russell, but he is certainly no upgrade in the coverage department.  (As a friend of mine says, he misses the potential of Eugene Clifford more every game.)  I have other concerns with the offensive line but they did score on 6 of 10 possessions against Navy, who is a good (not great) team.  I did not see any signs of the Ohio State apocalypse last weekend but I have will have plenty of worries around 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night.

Without a hint of bias (if that is possible), what do you expect from Matt Barkley?

C: I think that Barkley’s overall performance will hinge on his first couple of drives and in what circumstances they take place.  If USC gets the ball first, is able to march down the field and put points on the board (FG or TD, doesn’t matter) then that will surely do wonders for his confidence and will probably snowball into a solid outing, probably nothing Colt McCoy-esque, but solid (14/25, 220 yds, TD, INT).  On the other hand, if his first drives comes when the Trojans are down 3 or 7 and there’s some pressure on him to lead the team to a score, or he comes out and throws a pick I think his night could turn into a very freshman like performance (10/21, 150 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT).

P: He’ll think to himself that he was clearly wrong about 105,000 people not being a factor.  He’s never had 5,000 grandmas hate him before.  Children with sweet angel eyes will say, “F*ck you Matt Barkley”.  And he’ll perform okay.  It depends on what Ohio State can do and will do.  If they give him the Chris Leak Preferred Opponents Pass and let him throw easy passes, he will.  If Thad Gibson blows him up a few times like Colt McCoy in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, he’ll play like a freshman.  I expect he’ll be really good handing off to USC’s rushing attack.

M: Honestly, I expect a decent night from him (read: 15-24 for 215 yards), not because he is the second-coming but because they will not put him in positions to fail.  There will be lots of screens and dump passes that will gain yards but the surgically precise USC air attack should not be there.  Plus, the Buckeyes will concentrate on stopping the run, and they should.  If McKnight, Johnson, and Tyler are held in (relative) check (around 175 yards), I think Ohio State will be in a good place.

Care to hazard a guess at the score?

M: I hate making predictions.  Whatever the outcome, I guarantee this game will be competitive with 5:00 to go.

P: I’ve predicted doom and gloom on ElevenWarriors.com. 31-17 USC.  This prediction is void if Ohio State comes out with new schemes on offense and defense, but I expect it to be more of the same.

C: I’m tempted to say no.  The last time I tried to call a score was the ‘06 Michigan game, and that didn’t go over so well.  But for posterity purposes I’ll say 27-21 Buckeyes.

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