#5 USC’s new defense.
I don’t know if anyone has noticed this amidst the gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair in the aftermath of the Navy game, but USC only has three returning starters on defense this year.
This isn’t the same defense that throttled the Buckeyes last year.
I am not saying that USC can’t be good, or even great, on defense this year, but there will be a lot of new faces, and they will be playing in a high pressure environment on the road (some for the first time) in the second game of the year, and they will be trying to tackle Terrelle Pryor.
USC recruits better than anyone in the country, so you know that all of the new faces are going to be good, and they do have quite a few players who have started some games, but you can’t teach athletes to handle the immense levels of pressure that they are going to face in this game.
This defense has not proven itself in the type of environment or under the pressure that they are going to see on Saturday night and that is a good thing for Ohio State.
#4 Matt Barkley is a true freshman.
I don’t care how good this kid is, if Ohio State pressures him he will make mistakes.
you break the huddle, run up to the line and get under center, it is 3rd and long, the crowd is so loud you can’t hear yourself think, your ears are ringing and your shoulder is still stiff from the hit you took from Thaddeus Gibson on the last play (a screen pass which Brian Rolle blew up for a two yard loss), you scan the line, is the middle linebacker showing blitz? are the corners in press coverage or zone? oh god, Gibson knows we are passing, here he comes again *oh wait* I am supposed to be reading the coverage right now, shit, are they showing man coverage? wait, they are dropping back, this must be zone, am I supposed to call an audible when that happens? damnit, I wish this crowd would quiet down, jesus, my receivers can’t hear the audible anyway even if I did call one…oh well… HIKE!
Yeah, welcome to The Shoe Matt Barkley, I think you will find it a little tougher than running up a ramp, ass.
#3 The Shoe
The Shoe can be a pretty intimidating place (see my awesome reenactment above and the pretty photo). It is one of the top 5 most intimidating atmospheres in college football and if the crowd is fired up and into the game, the home field advantage that is experienced by Ohio State is going to be huge.
#2 Terrelle Pryor
Last year, Terrelle Pryor was thrown into the fire and he performed remarkably well for a true freshman. What makes Pryor’s performance last year even more remarkable is the fact that he did it in an offense that had practiced for the entire offseason (not to mention the entire 2007 season) handing the ball off to Beanie Wells.
A lot of people have criticized Jim Bollman and Jim Tressel for a lack of creativity on offense. Well, when you have Beanie in the backfield (not to mention Todd Boeckman at QB) who can blame them for pounding the ball between the tackles.
This year, the handcuffs come off. It may seem like a long time ago, but if you will recall the 2006 offense was quite dynamic. Bollman and Tressel can get creative if they have the right personnel. If Terrelle Pryor isn’t the right personnel for some creativity on offense I don’t know what is.
So, with an entire offseason to mold the offense to take advantage of Terrelle Pryor’s skill set (last year it was a work in progress/hybrid between taking advantage of Beanie and Pryor the entire year, which partially explains the lack of production in my opinion) I expect some creativity a la 2006 and a much more dynamic offense this season.
Think about how much defenses struggled to stop Pryor last year in an offense designed for Todd Boeckman and Beanie. Think about an off season of work molding the offense for Pryor. Think about Pryor’s improvement as a passer. Smile.
#1 USC struggles on the road.
You read that right (gasp!), USC struggles at something. In fact, I went back and looked at USC’s road games over the last two years and found some interesting results.
In 2008 USC lost on the road (at night) against a 9-4 Oregon State team in front of 46,000 fans. They also won a close game (17-10) on the road against an 8-5 Arizona team in front of a whopping 56,000 fans.
The rest of their road games last year were against 5-7 Virginia, 2-11 Washington State, 5-7 Stanford, and 4-8 UCLA. If you see any challenges in there let me know.
In 2007 USC lost on the road to a 9-4 Oregon team at Autzen Stadium. While Auzten is known to be one of the louder venues in college football, it still only holds 54,000 fans.
They had trouble with a 4-9 Washington team (you know, that awful team that we took so much heat for having the audacity to schedule) pulling out the close victory 27-24 at Washington in front of a crowd of 72,500.
They also struggled to put away a 7-6 California team on the road in front of 76,000 fans, eventually pulling out the victory 24-17.
The rest of their road games in 2007 were against 5-7 Nebraska, 3-9 Notre Dame (haha), and a 10-3 Arizona State team that they beat 44-24 (wow, that seems like it might be a quality road win!).
So, uhhh, notice a pattern here.
First of all, they haven’t played in front of nearly as many people or experienced nearly the crowd noise that they will on Saturday (see #3).
Second of all, USC has clearly struggled on the road over the past two seasons. Combine that with #5 and # 4 and you will have to excuse me, but can someone please remind me why we are the underdogs again?
I don’t know what is getting into me, but as this game approaches I am starting to feel pretty damn confident.