This Saturday has come down to this—No. 1 vs. No. 5.
The point spread, favoring the Trojans, has climbed from seven to 11, presumably due to Beanie Wells' injured toe and the Bucks' lackluster performance against Ohio.
So what? Beanie is now back. Why hasn't the spread dropped?
Well, if you watched the Buckeyes' last game against the Bobcats, Jim Brown couldn't have found a gap to run through that line. The O-line was not opening up holes, and half the time it looked like their cleats were stuck in the grass.
Can Beanie make a difference? Yes. He is the leader, the chosen one. Without him, they are in a funk—with him, they are invincible. But the O-line needs to help him out.
As of now, Beanie is ready to play, so the soap opera is officially over.
What was the deal with Beanie's toe anyway? Why the hush-hush? Is that Jim Tressel's way of being cute?
The offering of reasons for his proverbial silence are plentiful: He doesn't want to give the other team an advantage, he didn't play Beanie so the Trojans would have game film, or he wants to confuse the Trojans.
Are you serious? This ain't pee-wee league football here. Mind games don't work. Power football works.
The playing games excuse is so un-Tressel-like, isn't it? Don't buy it. It's the Buckeyes fans playing with your head.
Tressel doesn't play games, and it shows with his offense. He believes in power running, wearing down the D-line, and playing for field advantage.
Dull? Yes. But it works. He may not win on style points, but he gets the job done with his vanilla-style offense.
Pete Carroll, on the other hand, depends on his defense to change the momentum of the game, ignite up the crowd, and incite his offensive line to fire off of their blocks.
He will threaten you with the deep ball and use a stable of running backs to run off-tackle or sweeps, take pitch-outs or be the primary check-off to confuse the standard 4-3 D. He's a risk taker.
Tress believes in the power of the punt—Carroll believes in going for it. Tress is deep in thought on the sidelines, while Carroll whoops it up on the sidelines. You couldn't get more polar opposites on the field.
So who will win?
The Buckeyes have a great chance to win the game, but there are some things they need to concentrate on.
First, pressure Sanchez. The USC O-line is still young, and although they gave Sanchez enough time to write out his early Christmas cards while in the pocket, they were playing against a mediocre Cavaliers team, not the Buckeyes.
Sanchez can get delusions of grandeur under pressure, but more importantly, he has been known to make some poor decisions and force the pass into triple coverage. While the Cavs couldn't convert an INT into points, the Buckeyes will.
The second thing they need to do is to have a spy on the RB at all times. It doesn't matter if it's Joe McKnight or C.J. Gable, those deer need to have headlights on them. The RBs will find an open spot and kill you with speed.
The third thing they need to consider is the defense. Take a deep breath, Buckeyes—their D doesn't defend. They attack.
First up is the tandem of Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing. These two LBs create havoc wherever they go. In one series against Virginia, Maualuga caused two offsides penalties because he was showing blitz and the O-line got jumpy scared.
They were afraid to get "Maualugaed."
In the Urban dictionary, Maualugaed is "used to describe when a player is absolutely destroyed by a hit. A reference to USC linebacker Rey Maualuga. Pronounced: mao-uh-loo-guhd."
That's right: a USC Trojan is now an Internet catch phrase.
Rivals.com, in fact, named him the scariest defender. The Illini in the picture would probably agree. Dude, where's your head?
Maualuga hits like Butkus and intimidates like Singletary. He is a frightening man to play against, and he knows it. He will play with your mind by showing blitz, then casually walk away. He is the cat, and your QB is his cornered mouse. It's a given—Todd meet Rey, Rey meet Todd. Up too close and way too personal.
Cush, on the other hand, is an instinctual player. He has uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time. He also hits like a truck. Nicknamed "The Freak", his backside is as wide as a wide-screen TV, and it's solid muscle. When he walks by, it's a ground-shaking experience.
The Buckeyes receivers will probably avoid middle screens (duh!), but if they throw deep, meet Mr. Mays, the safety who is built like a linebacker. Receivers who have been hit by him have been known to get so rattled that they drop balls because they hear footsteps.
It's not that the D is so fast—they are—it's their ferocious style of play. They fly to the ball and hit with the force of a cement truck. Arm tackling is verboten—it's all about the hit. That sickening sound of human flesh getting pummeled to the turf.
Finally, they need to score first. That sounds so petty, but it's important. If the Trojans score first, Carroll will open up the playbook and start playing less conservatively in the opening minutes. Think blood in the water. An early TD by the Trojans will give the D more reason to play stingy.
The Buckeyes need to ground out the running game and keep USC's explosive offense off the field. Chew up the clock, and the score won't get out of hand. But let 'em score first, and the sharks will circle.
Should the Trojans be intimidated? Yes. This is Ohio State, not some ACC middle-of-the-road team. Beware of the underdog—he fights harder when cornered.
Should the Buckeyes be intimidated? Uh, yes. Remember, the team they beat 43-0 in their home opener (Youngstown State) was also beat by South Dakota State 40-7 the next week. That's pretty humbling.
The Trojans need to answer the nation after losing to uber-underdog Stanford last year. The Buckeyes need to answer their critics from the last two BCS Championship games. And football fans have had enough cupcake games the past two weeks to start their own bakery surplus store.
College football needs this matchup. College football wants this matchup. It's a game that shouldn't be missed. It's the Game of the Century.
Until Florida and Georgia play at the WLOCP November 1st.