Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

USC-Ohio State: Carroll's Greed Doesn't Make for Good TV

Seeing as this is Trojans-Buckeyes week, I feel obliged to offer my take on this clash of the titans. Truth is there's little that I can write here that won't be written or said multiple times over in the next couple days. Yet, what self-respecting college football blogger could ignore an opportunity to add to the infinite opinionation surrounding this mammoth matchup.

If you're looking for a reason to think this one won't live up to the hype, Homerism can think of plenty. Exhibit A: Vegas' collective wisdom has installed USC as an 11 point favorite. If you buy that the bookies are the best at this kind of forecasting, that changes the complexion of this game from "must see" to "foregone conclusion."

Then, there's the two programs' recent history in so called big games. After earning a well-deserved reputation as a masterful strategist early in his tenure in Columbus, head Buckeye Jim Tressel has been knocked down a few pegs after blowout losses to SEC foes in the last two BCS championships games. 

On the other hand, Pete Carroll's squads seem more prone to slip up against the lesser foes in the Pac-10, while pillaging everything in sight outside the conference. In fact, the Trojans have out-and-out slaughtered every major non-conference opponent since falling to Vince Young and Texas' defense in the 2006 Rose Bowl. It was a pretty common occurrence before that game, too.

Then there's Beanie Wells' uncertain status. And Ohio St.'s struggles last week against Ohio. And the Trojans' dominance under Carroll on their home turf. And the Song Girls. Yada yada.

The fact of the matter is that this is the kind of game the Trojans have lived for under Carroll. Carroll's Gordon Gekko-esque approach to hoarding talent and trophies and other coaches' skins makes USC a prohibitive favorite in games like this until proven otherwise. Oh yeah, did I mention they were off last week? All signs point to USC rolling here.
So this is the part where I'm supposed to tell you the Buckeyes have a shot, right? If I was going to do that, it would go something like this:
Ohio St. is an ultra-experienced squad with talent all over the field. Having played in two straight championship games, the Buckeyes have loads of experience on the big stage. All the hoopla surrounding what ESPN has dubbed the "Clash at the Coliseum" shouldn't leave this squad star struck.

Games like this often come down to matchups, and one seems to stand out in the Buckeyes' favor. OSU boasts a talented front seven on defense, including decorated middle linebacker James Laurinaitis.

Across the way, USC will be relying on an untested offensive line, with just one starter returning from last year. Quarterback Mark Sanchez bragged he had enough time to "grill steaks" in the pocket in the Trojans' first game against of the season against Virginia. Even if no one laid a finger on Sanchez the entire game, that doesn't say much; the pass rush for the 'hoos isn't in the same galaxy as OSU.

If the defensive line can pressure Sanchez and the Trojans into turnovers, OSU might be able to capitalize on short fields and cheap touchdowns to put points on the board. Whether or not Beanie Wells is at full strength, the Buckeyes have a strong stable of running backs and a solid triggerman in senior quarterback Todd Boeckman with the capability to mount sustained drives that can ball-control USC to death in true sweater-vest style.
Sounds like good enough reason to think this will at least be a competitive game late into the fourth quarter. Can anyone spot the flaw in that argument?
Boeckman piloted OSU to the championship game last year, but Homerism doesn't buy that he's the kind of quarterback who can lead a team to victory over the LSUs and USCs of the world. The senior quarterback did finish among the nation's leaders in pass efficiency last year. In truth, however, Boeckman benefitted from an unchallenging schedule that didn't pick up until the latter part of the season. In the Buckeyes' final three games (Illinois, Michigan, LSU), Boeckman had an ugly TD-to-interception ratio of 2:6. One of those TD passes came late against LSU after the Tigers already had the game well in hand.
The 2008 version of the USC defense bears a striking resemblance to LSU last season. The Trojans have an aggressive defensive line with size and speed coming off the edge. Athletic linebackers Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing can stuff the run, rush the passer and cover when asked. The secondary is full of playmakers such as Kevin Ellison and Taylor Mays waiting to bait quarterbacks into mistakes.
Homerism hates to be a downer, but this game has all the makings of last year's BCS Championship blowout--fun for USC fans and that's about it. Don't be surprised if the Trojans go up big and pour it on after halftime. OSU might get a late TD to make the score look somewhat respectable.
Big whoop.