Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The college football world has waited with bated breath for this week, as the potential game of the year is set to take place in the City of Angels, when top-ranked USC plays host to fifth-ranked Ohio State.
The pressure of such a game is nothing new for either team, but it is Jim Tressel's Buckeyes that need this win more than Pete Carroll's Trojans. The Buckeyes have played in the last two national title games and come up small in both affairs. First, Ohio State was routed by Florida two years ago (41-14) and made it back to the title game following the 2007 season only to fall hard to LSU (38-24).
A deeper look at both sides of the field shows that Ohio State has the arsenal to win, but having the talent doesn't always result in victory.
The Buckeyes came into this season with definite national title aspirations, but have already revealed chinks in the armor. A rather bland performance against Ohio University last week certainly stands out. The Buckeyes looked listless at times, just going through the motions en route to a 26-14 victory.
However, the biggest concern is a foot injury suffered by Heisman hopeful Chris "Beanie" Wells in the season-opener. Wells did not play against the Bobcats, and while the 237-pound tailback is scheduled to suit up in this game, one has to wonder just how effective he will be and can he carry a heavy workload, one that is probably needed to keep the Trojan offense off the field.
It will be up to Ohio State to match USC's intensity from the get-go.|
Tressel is certainly hoping his star running back can do just that after practicing this week.
"I thought Beanie ran well yesterday (Tuesday). "In fact, I thought he ran better than I thought he might.
"I have a lot of confidence in our doctors and trainers and strength guys and not only was he running well, then they put him on the bike and wore him out. So they're trying to do all the things...and anything we can do, we're doing and I feel good about him."
Don't get me wrong, Wells is not the only weapon that Ohio State has at its disposal. The Buckeyes have the ability to move the ball on anyone, but that job is much easier when the Buckeyes are pounding the ball on the ground.
Quarterback Todd Boeckman will be charged with maintaining offensive balance in this one. He has all the tools to do just that. The 6-4 senior has completed just over 66 percent of his attempts in the first two games, for a shade under 300 yards with two TDs and no interceptions.
OSU also has "Weapon X" in the form of ultra-talented freshman Tyrelle Pryor. There is no doubt in my mind that Tressel will find a way to get the 6-6 youngster on the field, whether it be under center, in the backfield, or on the outside. Pryor is dangerous with the football in his hands and could present the Trojans with real matchup problems.
Throw in talented receivers like Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline and there is certainly reason for optimism among the Buckeye faithful heading into this contest.
Of course, it helps to have a stellar defense with plenty of star power. The Buckeyes bring a formidable stop unit to the Coliseum, led by All-American and Butkus Award winner James Laurinaitis. Fellow LB Marcus Freeman is another stud in the middle of the field, while senior Malcolm Jenkins is probably one of the best cover corners in the country.
OSU will be tasked with slowing down a juggernaut of an offense in USC. The Trojans have a budding star under center in Mark Sanchez, who despite dislocating his knee just a few weeks ago, showed no effects of it in the Trojans' season-opening romp over Virginia. Sanchez has as at least four quality targets downfield, and a young backfield with the ability to make big plays as well.
It will be up to Ohio State to match USC's intensity from the get-go. That is something the team has failed to do in the two previous national title tilts.
A win over USC this weekend certainly won't erase those two devastating losses, but could go a long way towards another appearance in a BCS Championship Game, with the hopes that the third time will indeed be the charm.