Week 2 Game Matchup: USC Trojans VS. Ohio State Buckeyes

By Dave Consolazio and Sam Saig, September 8, 2009 3:15 pm

USC Trojans (1-0) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0)
Saturday, September 12, 5:00 PM PST
Las Vegas Favorite: USC -7.0
*AllPac10 Game of the Week*

Sam’s Take (8 – 1):

This highly anticipated rematch should mean a lot to both teams, but after three years of embarrassing non-conference losses, THE Ohio State University desperately needs a win in this game (and so does the Big Ten). There is no question that all 102,000 loyal Buckeye fans will be rocking in the Horseshoe, but will it matter?

USC played as solid a first game as any Trojan fan could ask for, and while QB Matt Barkley didn’t have to do much, he demonstrated the poise and command of a player that is ready for the collegiate spotlight. The running game and offensive line were frighteningly good (plus the line will get back Kristofer O’Dowd for OSU), and the defense didn’t miss a beat even with all of the all-stars now gone. I know, it was San Jose State, but the Trojans did not even break a sweat, and both sides of the ball could have turned it on at anytime had they needed to against the Spartans.

After watching the Navy game, I came away unimpressed with the Buckeyes offensive performance, particularly with the play up front. The o-line does not appear to be very athletic, but more than anything, I was disappointed in the lack of physicality at the point of attack. The OSU running game looked pedestrian and QB Terrelle Pryor was hurried into a few very bad throws. The Trojans d-line appears to have a big edge, and players like DT Jurrell Casey and DE Everson Griffen will be chomping at the bit to get after Pryor.

Defensively, Ohio State had some breakdowns against the Middies, which leads me to believe that RB Stafon Johnson, RB Joe McKnight, WR Damian Williams and WR David Ausberry will have plenty of opportunities to make big plays.

For Jim Tressel’s club to have any chance this Saturday, the offensive front will need to play with more fire than it has shown during the off-season and in the Navy game. On top of that, Pryor must be sensational and it will take his best collegiate game to date for OSU to win. He will also need help from a few other playmakers (Herron, Saine, Posey, Small, Carter etc.). Although the Ohio State D looked shaky at times against Navy, the unit is capable of playing well Saturday, but it will take an outstanding effort from everyone.

For the Trojans, this is just another high-profile road trip that Pete Carroll expects to win, and no team plays better in games like these than USC.

Ohio State should actually feel loose going into this game, because unlike the Florida, LSU, and USC games of the past, expectations are much lower this time around. Can Ohio State win this game? Yes, but I wouldn’t count on it. The Trojans are the better football team on both sides of the ball, and while crowd noise usually intimidates most teams playing in venues like the ‘Shoe, it will likely motivate the Trojans to play even better.

Prediction: USC 35 – Ohio State 20

USC Player to Keep an Eye On: DE Everson Griffen - Of course Barkley will need to manage the offense well, but defensively, I think Griffen will be a key to rattling Pryor. The OSU o-line will need to be aware of his presence at all times.

Ohio State Player to Keep an Eye On: WR DeVier Posey - Pryor will need playmakers in this game, and Posey is a capable one. The run game will also be important, but I believe the physically imposing Posey will be a critical part of the passing attack.

Dave’s Take (8 – 1):

Trying to figure this game out is giving me a lot of trouble. Not because it looks terribly difficult to figure out on the surface, but because of the exact opposite; it looks too easy.

Yes, Matt Barkley is a true freshman quarterback and this is one hell of a way to get acquainted to a hostile road environment. But what other arguments do the Ohio State Buckeyes have going for them, given the first week of this season, and their history in big games over the last few years?

USC’s tandem of running backs, coupled with one of the best offensive lines in the country, will prove to be unstoppable if the Navy game was any indication. There was nothing in the Ohio State game that would lead me to believe that the Buckeyes won’t be losing the battle on the defensive line all game long.

The word that gets thrown around a lot when discussing Matt Barkley is poise. Yes, it will be loud, and I’m sure it will be flustering, too. But with the running game racking up yards all game long, eventually Ohio State will have to stack the box, and I see little reason why the same safe roll outs that worked against San Jose State won’t work again here. Yes, the talent level is much higher for OSU; but in principal, if you cheat run, no reason this team won’t be able to beat you on the pass.

Terrelle Pryor will get his share of yards on the ground, but if USC takes a two score lead and he has to beat them through the air, will he be able to? A pedestrian 14/21 for 174 yards, one TD, and one INT against Navy’s defense doesn’t give me a ton of confidence that he’ll be able to break through USC’s dominant defense.

There just isn’t anything to like about Ohio State here, other than hoping for a complete Matt Barkley meltdown, which I really don’t foresee. But that again is why this game bothers me so much; college football doesn’t often go exactly as scripted, and Ohio State has to win one of these big games eventually, right?

USC looks better on both sides of the ball. USC is 7-0 against Big Ten opponents in the last decade, and haven’t won any of those games by less then double digits. Ohio State simply can not win the big game.

Ohio State really is a damn good football team, but I’m done making excuses for them, and I’m done saying that “this is the one”. It’s about time they prove me and everyone else wrong; but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Prediction: USC 38 – Ohio State 13

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