Last year I looked at the Ohio State-USC game and pretty much nailed what was going to happen. Oh, big deal you say. But bring yourself back to that time.
Matt Sanchez was still an untested first year starter that people were worried about against OSU's defense, USC's OL had problems, Beanie's status was uncertain, and many were predicting an Ohio State statement upset in a defensive struggle. That was all nonsense and it was easy enough to see through. It was also obvious that Boeckmann and Tressel would conspire to throw it away.
This year, I'm struggling a bit. Here's why:
My gut tells me that Jim Tressel will coach like the meek mangina that he is, Ohio State's collective psyche is as brittle as Lindsey Lohan's sobriety, Terrelle Pryor will make key mistakes on the 3rd and longs that Tressel's game management forces him, and Pete Carroll will get the offense he needs from his OL, thirty seven elite RBs, and the play action game and cruise to a 24-14 win. Everything that I know about people, habits, and behavior tells me this.
But my football mind won't accept this. It just won't. Freshman QBs get rattled. I don't care who it is. Throw an early pick that leads to a TD, fumble a snap, mangle a 3rd down audible, and have 99,000 jorted buffoons mock you while quality D-1 athletes hit you and you have a strong likelihood of struggling.
It's not just about maturity, it's having enough offense at your disposal to do something about the adversity you're experiencing.
My football mind tells me that Ohio State has to do two things that are completely against its character in order to win. They're plainly evident.
Outnumber USC's running game. And do it in the gaps going upfield so that you can pressure the play action passing game when they try to burn you. Don't just play base and walk up a safety. Bring it. Accept a 13 yard run or a downfield completion for the chance to force a 2nd and 14 or a 3rd and 18 and put the game in Barkley's hands in a traditional passing situation. Make him do things to beat you that he hasn't proven that he can do.
Bend but don't break plays into USC's hands. USC wants a productive running game and play action on favorable down and distance: screens to McKnight, FB progressions, TE one man read routes, and roll outs to the wide receivers. Take that away from them - as Cal, Arizona, Oregon St, as, for God's sake, Stanford - have done in years past and you create windows of opportunity for your defense.
Barkley won't have much comfort with USC's audible package and he can either run the play that's called or check off to one option. That's it. If you're Ohio State and you don't play an extra man front, press cover, show every blitz package in the book, show three men early and six men late, and play off of the mayhem and frenzy of the crowd while forcing to make Barkley to make decisions and deep throws, then you're coached by cowards and/or idiots.
Give yourself over to Terrelle Pryor. Good, bad, and ugly. Your first three plays should be out of the empty set. Run zone read, run QB leads from the spread ala Michael Bishop at K-State, run Pistol, run four receivers on go patterns to torment USC's Cover Two, drag one guy short for an easy pitch and catch, and let TP make a decision. Pryor should carry the ball 25 times and throw it 30. Spread USC out, make them tackle a 6-5 235 pound guy in the open field, make them account for the QB in the passing game, and watch a team that feeds off of traditional offenses struggle with your refusal to play it straight. It's the only way.
Can Tressel do it? I dunno. We have one game in Austin and a MNC game against Miami where he put the game in the QB's hands. And it surprised everyone. Will he do it again? My gut says no, but my brain tells me that he has no other choice.
Tell me what you think.