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Contrast in preparation leads to unpredictable outcome for Buckeyes, Trojans

Let’s flashback to 2008. USC trounces Virginia, 52-7, and Ohio State escapes embarrassment with a fourth quarter rally to top Ohio University, 26-14. The following week, the Trojans pounded the Buckeyes 35-3, further eroding the Big Ten’s waning credibility.

Hop out of your time machine and skim through the results from Week 1 in 2009. Déjà vu. OSU narrowly avoids an upset at home to the Naval Academy, while USC smokes San Jose State, 56-3. Which team feels more confident heading into the rematch at The Shoe?

 

That might not be as important of a question as one would think. If asked which team’s fans feel more certain about Saturday’s meeting, then the answer would clearly point toward Hollywood’s enthusiasts.

When Navy had a chance to tie the game with two minutes left, it wasn’t about potentially losing to the 22-point underdog at home to kick off the season. No, it was more about the clear lack of confidence that the Buckeye faithful now have heading into a must-win match against Southern Cal.

But, while history points to Navy’s near-upset as a precursor to another OSU letdown, I’m here to tell you it means next to nothing. USC might beat Ohio State by 30, but it will have little to do with how both teams fared in their openers.

Pete Carroll’s gameplan against lowly San Jose State was to get true freshman Matt Barkley as comfortable as possible. But how much experience does a quarterback get under his belt in just one game? And in that one game, he played just three quarters, and played them against a team that was shutout at home last year by Louisiana Tech.

 

Barkley finished just 2-4 for 20 yards in the first quarter. The Spartans led, 3-0, after those first 15 minutes.

The rookie finished 15-19 for 233 yards and a touchdown. So, Barkley got acclimated to the college game, but it took a quarter to find a rhythm against a far inferior opponent in front of 84,325 Trojan warriors at The Coliseum.

Barkley won’t have as smooth of a transition in front of 105,000 in scarlet and gray under the bright lights at The Shoe.

It’s up to the Buckeyes’ defense to make his life miserable, though.

Navy had its way with the OSU defense for much of Saturday afternoon. But how much can really be drawn from defending a style of offense the Buckeyes won’t see again for years?

The triple option attack that the Midshipmen employ demands a defensive scheme that OSU won’t use against USC. The Buckeyes lined up in many 5-0 and 3-4 sets, with linebackers and defensive ends gearing up to stop the run, and only the run.

Against a much more balanced Trojan attack, the Bucks can implement whatever defense they’ve been working on throughout the summer. By opening with Navy, Jim Tressel was allowed to hide every one of his defensive ploys up his sleeve. Unfortunately for him, his team obviously was looking ahead to the USC contest as well.

When getting down to the basics, the Buckeyes still played very poorly in the final quarter against Navy. Repeating many of the mistakes they committed against Navy in this weekend’s bonanza will result in an outcome similar to the 35-3 thrashing that still burns in the minds of Buckeye backers.

But no matter the result in Saturday’s rematch, draw fewer conclusions about Week 1 when predicting what will happen in Week 2.

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