No. 1 USC Football Hosts No. 5 Ohio State
Sept. 7, 2008
Two of college football's traditional powers--No. 1 USC and No. 5 Ohio State--meet in a highly-anticipated early-season showdown in Los Angeles. Although the teams have faced off 21 times (with a third of those meetings in the Rose Bowl), it's their first match-up since 1990. USC is rested, coming off a bye following its dominating opening win at Virginia. The Buckeyes have opened with a pair of home wins over in-state rivals Youngstown State and Ohio. USC has fared well against the Big Ten recently, winning the last 7 such games (by an average 28-point margin). Both programs can lay claim to dominance at the start of the 21st century. The last 4 BCS Championship Games have featured the Trojans or the Buckeyes. USC--winner of its last 14 September games, last 11 non-conference home games and last 10 home openers--is riding 6 consecutive seasons of AP Top 4 finishes, BCS bowl trips, Pac-10 titles and 11 wins. USC's Pete Carroll-who once coached in Columbus--and Ohio State's Jim Tressel rank among college football's winningest active coaches (Carroll is tops at 84.6%, while Tressel is tied for eighth at 74.0%). USC sports a veteran defense led by Butkus Award candidates Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing at linebacker and Thorpe Award candidates Taylor Mays (a 2007 All-American first teamer) and Kevin Ellison at safety, plus highly-regarded DT Fili Moala. QB Mark Sanchez got his 2008 season off to a huge start, earning National Player of the Week honors for his 338-yard, 3-TD showing at Virginia. Five Trojan tailbacks scored in that Virginia contest, including regulars Joe McKnight, Stafon Johnson, C.J. Gable and Allen Bradford (they each have different, but complementary, running styles). Troy's receiving corps--featuring the likes of WRs Patrick Turner, Vidal Hazelton, Damian Williams and Ronald Johnson--appears much improved from a year ago. Veteran OG-C Jeff Byers, an Academic All-American candidate in his second year in the M.B.A. program, anchors the offensive line, which didn't allow a sack in the opener. Like USC, Ohio State is a team with talented, star-power players. TB Chris 'Beanie' Wells, who ran for 1,609 yards and 15 TDs last season, is among the nation's top running backs. Efficient QB Todd Boeckman directs the Buckeye offense (true frosh QB Terrelle Pryor also gets some time), with speedy WR Brian Robiskie on the end of many of the aerials. The Buckeye defense features 2007 Butkus Award-winning LB James Laurinaitis, a 2-time All-American first team selection, and senior CB Malcolm Jenkins, a 2-time All-Big Ten first teamer. The expanded Coliseum will be at capacity (all 93,607 seats have been sold) and the nation will be looking in on the ABC-TV telecast. ESPN's College GameDay pre-game show will beam live from the Coliseum on Saturday morning. The schools also will meet in women's volleyball the night before in the Galen Center.