Mythbusting the USC v OSU game...
Myth Busting: Ohio State vs. USC
by Pat Forde
It's a wonderful thing when two lavishly talented programs with abundantly rich traditions from proudly established conferences meet in an endlessly hyped game played before two massively smug fan bases. For one thing, it gives sports writers a chance to air out all the adverbs and adjectives in the playbook.
But it's especially enjoyable in the current gridworld climate, in which juicy intersectional games are rarer than a Nick Saban smile. For too many teams, that 12th game added to the schedule was just one more way to get FIU, Eastern Illinois or Northern Colorado on the schedule.
So bravo to the Buckeyes and Trojans for gettin' it on. Now on to the breakdown. The Dash presents a few myths and realities to ponder before Saturday in the Coliseum (ABC, 8 p.m. ET):
• Myth: The loser still has a great chance to play for the national championship (3).
Look at the top nine teams in the USA Today coaches' poll. You'll see USC at No. 1 and Ohio State at No. 5. The other seven? They're all from the SEC and Big 12, which are considered the nation's two best leagues (by a mile).
If, come December, voters are choosing between a one-loss champion of either the SEC or the Big 12 and the once-beaten Buckeyes or Trojans, you know where the nod will probably go. (Especially if the choice is between an SEC team and its pinata from Columbus.) So the loser of this game will need a bloodbath in those conferences to clear its comeback path to the BCS National Championship Game.
Also: The losers in the last huge intersectional September games couldn't run the table anyway, and ultimately were dispatched to lesser bowls: After being beaten by Ohio State, Texas wound up losing twice more and went to the Alamo Bowl in 2006; and the two-loss Buckeyes went to the Fiesta Bowl the previous year after losing to the Longhorns. The winners of those two games did play for the title.
• Myth: Ohio State can't win the big one (4).
Fact is, Ohio State can't win the big one against an SEC opponent. It's done just fine against all other ranked opponents in recent years. The Buckeyes are 11-2 in their last 13 games against ranked teams, with nine of those victories coming by double digits.
• Myth: The Buckeyes have the edge at quarterback because Todd Boeckman (5) is more experienced than Mark Sanchez (6).
The 24-year-old Boeckman has thrown nearly 200 more career passes than Sanchez, but in this what-have-you-done-for-The-Dash-lately world, he has not performed well against quality competition. Discounting Ohio State's opening victory over FCS Youngstown State, Boeckman's last four quarterback ratings going back to 2007 are brutal: 71 against Ohio, 77.1 against LSU, 30.9 against Michigan and 37.9 against Illinois. His yards per attempt: 4.2 against Ohio, 8 against LSU, 3.8 against Michigan, 6.8 against Illinois. In those four games he's thrown two touchdowns and six interceptions. Ohio State has averaged just 21.3 points in those games -- and lost half of them.
Sanchez will be facing the toughest defense of his callow career and probably won't be up to taking over the game -- but neither will Boeckman. Which could make change-of-pace QB Terrelle Pryor (7) even more important, although Ohio State coach Jim Tressel seemed unwilling to throw Pryor into the fire against Ohio last Saturday. And if Pryor wasn't ready for extensive duty against the Bobcats, is he ready for the Trojans?
• Myth: USC has no big-play wide receivers (.
That has been the knock ever since Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith left L.A. a couple of years ago. While the Trojans have lacked consistency on the outside, they aren't bereft of ability.
Ohio State's receiving trio of Brian Robiskie, Brian Hartline and Ray Small has an impressive aggregate body of work: 200 career catches, 2,800 yards and 28 touchdowns. But the Trojans counter with even more wideouts capable of a game-breaking play. Four USC players have at least one 40-yard reception in their careers: Damian Williams, Ronald Johnson, Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazelton.
The one receiver area where USC appears outmanned is at mouth. Small, who went on a recruiting visit to USC in high school before choosing Ohio State, described the programs thusly to ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg: "Here at Ohio State, they teach you to be a better man. There, it's just all about football."
Hmm. Maurice Clarett (9) must have missed that How to be a Better Man class at Ohio State.
• Myth: The nation's two studliest middle linebackers (10) will be on the field.
No, wait, that's absolute fact. If you've appreciated watching the high-impact career of Ohio State senior James Laurinaitis (111 solo tackles, 148 assists, eight interceptions, three forced fumbles), then surely you've also appreciated watching USC senior Rey Maualuga (115 solo tackles, 81 assists, three interceptions, four forced fumbles).
NFL scouts definitely will be watching those two Saturday night, as well as a pair of star outside backers in USC's Brian Cushing and Ohio State's Marcus Freeman.
Re: Mythbusting the USC v OSU game...
Re: Mythbusting the USC v OSU game...
Very interesting stat:
USC has lost only ONE time at home under Pete Carroll over the years... (Stanford, and that was a "fluke"...)