LOS ANGELES - The buildup to Saturday night's Ohio State-USC game began several months ago, with college football fans drooling at the thought of a matchup of this magnitude in mid-September.
The reaction at Southern California?
"It's just a different team, same preparation," tailback Allen Bradford said yesterday.
"It really is, honestly, just another game," defensive tackle Fili Moala said.
But Bradford did say he heard USC was going to play Ohio State about a year ago, and it caught his attention.
"It's almost like a national championship game," he said. "It's Ohio State, so you know it's going to be a good game."
That's a reasonable observation, since USC played for the national championship to conclude the 2004 and 2005 seasons, and Ohio State did the same to finish the last two campaigns.
And the records speak for themselves: Coach Pete Carroll has guided the Trojans to a 71-8 record since the beginning of the 2002 season and the Buckeyes are 69-11 under Jim Tressel during that same time span.
"You approach this game like it's any other game, but you're more excited," admitted tailback Joe McKnight.
"This is a long awaited matchup for everybody, particularly the fans," Carroll said at his weekly meeting with reporters. "You guys have been on this topic for a long time. Finally, we can talk about it."
That's been the USC approach under Carroll ever since a
27-16 loss at Notre Dame midway through the 2001 season - his first as the Trojans' coach. He realized afterward he had put too much emphasis on that game during the week before, so he adjusted. His teams are 75-9 since then.
"We're trying to make every game we play the biggest in the world," Carroll said. "We can't approach this any differently than any other game.
"I know there's a big game Saturday. There's a big game today [at practice]."
Former Cincinnati quarterback Ben Mauk, who sued the NCAA after being denied a sixth season of eligibility, lost another appeal when a judge in his hometown ruled against him.
Hardin County Judge William Hart refused to grant a permanent injunction allowing Mauk to rejoin the Bearcats.
Mauk, who says he missed two seasons because of injuries, was turned down by the NCAA five times before he asked the court in Kenton, Ohio, for help.
He testified last week that a foot injury prevented him from playing during his freshman season in 2003 at Wake Forest, where he played before transferring to Cincinnati. He led the Bearcats to 10 wins last season and a No. 17 final ranking.
Mauk didn't prove that he would lose out on a chance at pro football by not playing another year, the judge said.34.05349 -118.2453