Wednesday, September 09, 2009
College Football Weekend Preview: Ohio State Embarrasses Big Ten Again
The storylines don't change much from year to year. Give both Ohio State and USC plenty of credit, because there is no reason why either of them should be playing this game. The schools are high-profile, they have great football traditions, and they usually field very good teams.
USC plays nine conference games, so they only get three non-league games every year. Since one of those is tied up annually by playing Notre Dame, you know their non-league schedule typically won't suck very much ... no matter who else they play.
For Ohio State, there is much pressure that comes with this weekend's home date with the Trojans. The Buckeyes not only have to deal with the normal 105,000 fans watching their every move, but they are carrying the banner for the nation's second-most beleaguered BCS conference (sorry, ACC).
They know a loss Saturday would virtually ruin their national title hopes, because they simply aren't going to be able to recover from another high-profile loss. The Buckeyes have been here before. Trounced by Florida, edged by Texas, beaten up by LSU, blown to smithereens by USC, and edged by Texas again. They know what it's like to lose these games, and they know they can't afford to lose another one.
USC has the pressures of being USC. They have to deal with idiots like Mike Lupica telling America that the program has underachieved. They have to put up with the Pac Ten taking more shots than has ever been justified, despite the fact they've been plenty successful in recent years. Oh, and they have a freshman quarterback.
The game Saturday should end up being a physical war. USC is going to look to run the ball down tOSU's throat, using a steady diet of Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson to control the ball and keep Matt Barkley from having to win the game on his own. He's shown himself to be a perfectly competent quarterback, but this is going to be different than anything he's ever dealt with before.
USC's athletic defense will pose problems for an Ohio State team that struggled to generate consistent attack against Navy last week. Their defense couldn't stop Navy's misdirection and option plays, and it would stun me if Trojans offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates didn't find a way to exploit that.
The Trojans looked strong in beating an obviously inferior team. The Buckeyes looked disinterested in beating an obviously inferior team.
Ohio State has the talent and upside to make things very interesting Saturday night. The Trojans are a much more consistent group, especially in big games.
The pick: USC
Notre Dame at Michigan: The biggest worry at this point with Michigan is that they haven't picked a No. 1 quarterback. Yes, Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson looked strong against Western Michigan. Yes, Michigan could be well-suited by using both players. However, they need to stick with one as their main guy. The Wolverines are at home, and they need this win more than Notre Dame does. The Irish have plenty of opportunities to get a high-profile win. Michigan doesn't, because they have to deal with their conference schedule. It comes down to defense, and the Wolverines are better on that side of the ball than anything the Irish have seen in a long time.
The pick: Michigan
South Carolina at Georgia: Can the Gamecocks do it again? South Carolina won at North Carolina State last week, and they did it by riding an awesome defensive performance. Georgia's defense was pretty solid last week against Oklahoma State, and they should have fun messing with Stephen Garcia for four quarters. The Bulldogs need a rebound win, and they'll ride their defense to one. This could be ugly, but it's SEC football, so no one will care.
The pick: Georgia
Air Force at Minnesota: It's the grand opening of the Gophers' shiny new TCF Bank Stadium. From all accounts, it's a wonderful facility that will help improve recruiting and fan support on campus for years to come. Unfortunately, there is still considerable work to be done with the product on the field. The Gophers came within an eyelash of losing to Syracuse, a team quarterbacked by a basketball player. Next up is Air Force, a team that will attack the Gophers from multiple angles offensively, and will cause problems for suddenly shaky Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber. Better days are ahead for Minnesota football, but Saturday won't be one of them.
The pick: Air Force
Other picks (home team in CAPS)
GEORGIA TECH over Clemson
North Carolina over CONNECTICUT
PENN STATE over Syracuse
WISCONSIN over Fresno State
Texas Christian over VIRGINIA
Last week: 8-7