Extra Points: OSU vs. USC
It's time (again) for the biggest game in the history of Ohio State football. The hype machine is in full force, abusing every superlative in the book in advance of this week's matchup between OSU and USC.
The game might even earn its own nickname. You know some TV executive is weighing whether to call it the "Showdown at the 'Shoe" or "Clash in Columbus."
But considering that the Buckeyes lost 35-3 to the Trojans last year - and many skeptics don't expect Saturday's game to be any more competitive - it's natural to wonder why College GameDay is coming to town.
Well, USC has won the Pac-10 title seven years in a row, and the Buckeyes have been top dog in the Big Ten for four years.
The Trojans have three Heisman Trophy winners this decade. Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith took home that honor in 2006.
And USC won a national championship in 2004, two years after the Buckeyes celebrated a national title.
Sure, the critics may howl, but OSU belongs on the same playing field as Southern Cal.
This game is also a story of contrasts: USC coach Pete Carroll is the Hollywood glitter to Jim Tressel's Midwestern virtue.
Carroll hangs out with Will Ferrell. When Tressel last went to the movies, Ferrell was still funny.
Carroll has 39,251 followers on Twitter and posts song-of-the-week recommendations. (This week, he chose two songs from the Ohio Players. Nice touch.) It's rumored that Tressel asked a graduate assistant to help him log onto the interwebs to download Pat Boone's greatest hits.
And even though they're both top college coaches who send plenty of players to the pros, they succeed in different ways. Tressel designs a good game plan. Carroll makes great adjustments.
You don't have to be a statistician to see evidence of that in this number: Last year, OSU outscored its opponents in the first quarter 97-24, while USC owned the third quarter 94-7.
The other compelling storyline is the Buckeyes' battle for redemption, and not just after last year's debacle on USC's home turf. OSU represents a wounded conference - with Big Ten teams losing six of their seven bowl games last year - not to mention the perception that Ohio State folds in big games.
How much of that reputation could the Buckeyes erase with a big performance on the big stage? Well, the hype machine is here, and it just might get behind the Buckeyes if the Ohio Players really rock it this week.
OSU Fast Fact
Ohio State's record in 1979, when Pete Carroll was the Buckeyes' secondary coach, before losing to USC in the Rose Bowl
Will USC be more Barkley than bite? The Trojans are starting freshman Matt Barkley at quarterback, and the Buckeyes have won the last eight times they've faced a freshman signal caller.
This particular freshman, though, has an abundance of talent, a great supporting cast, and a confidence that rivals that of sophomore Terrelle Pryor.
Don't believe me? Well, when asked what was the hardest part of last weekend's 56-3 win over San Jose State, Barkley answered, "The run up the tunnel at halftime. That was brutal."
The Buckeyes' strength this year is their defensive line. They have to make Barkley feel his growing pains in order for OSU to win.
What: Southern California vs. Ohio State
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12
Where: Ohio Stadium, Campus
Listen to Lori Schmidt on 97.1 The Fan and follow her at twitter.com/LoriSchmidt