JAY LAPRETE / AP Enlarge
LOS ANGELES If this were Columbus, the hype, the hysteria, and the preoccupation with college football s clash of titans would be omnipresent.
From the pubs in German Village, to the shopping centers on Morse Road, and with the foursome playing the back nine at Scioto Country Club Ohio State against Southern California is all they would be talking about.
But here, in a metropolitan area of about 15 million people that stretches some 50 miles by 80 miles, there are few indications this game of the century is even taking place tonight at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
To the shoppers on Rodeo Drive, the surfers off Malibu, the funky collection of humanity on Venice Beach, and the tourists gawking at celebrity handprints in the sidewalk outside Grauman s Chinese Theatre, No. 1 vs. No. 5 does not exist.
Inside the Ohio State faction that arrived here Thursday evening and has already taken a look at a bit of the city and the historic outdoor arena where the Buckeyes will face USC, nothing else matters but the Trojans.
For our first two games this season, we ve tried to focus in on each opponent, but you can t tell me USC wasn t in the back of my mind, Ohio State wide receiver Brian Hartline said before the Buckeyes made the trip west. We trained all last year knowing USC was coming up in Week 3. We ve been waiting a long time, preparing for this game.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was slinging the superlatives as the Buckeyes went through some of their final preparations for Southern California, a team that pounded Virginia 52-7 two weeks ago and then had an extra week to get ready for Ohio State with a bye last Saturday. OSU will be without their top running back Chris Wells, following a week of speculation on whether the Heisman Trophy candidate would play.
They have great skill people, great athletes all across the field, and they use schemes that allow them to take advantage of all those talents, Tressel said. Their passing game begins with protection, and they do a great job of pass protection.
They do a great job with their misdirection game, they do a great job with their screen game. They just do an excellent job with the football.
Senior defensive back Malcolm Jenkins, who was a part of Ohio State s appearances in the last two national championship games, gave USC higher marks than Florida or LSU, the two teams that defeated the Buckeyes in those title games.
As far as having great speed and great athleticism at every position, I think this is probably the most talented team I ve seen, Jenkins said.
Ohio State All-America linebacker James Laurinaitis said the Trojans, who have scored more than 40 points 39 times in the last seven seasons, throw a lot of diversity at the defense.
You have to expect anything and everything from them, Laurinaitis said. They do a lot of different things from the same formations.
They do a good job of motioning and shifting and giving you the same look a few times. They have so many weapons, they can come with anything. They have great backs, great receivers and athletic tight ends. They have a great fullback.
Even though he had expected Ohio State s Wells to play, USC coach Pete Carroll was more general in his praise of the Buckeyes, who brought back 19 starters from last year s team that won a third straight Big Ten Conference championship and went 11-2, finishing the season ranked No. 2 in the nation.
It s an incredible team. They ve got everybody that played for them last year playing again, Carroll said. They ve got a great history. They ve got great leadership. They ve got impact, extraordinary players in all phases of their team.
And Carroll said Ohio State s sloppy performance in a 26-14 win over Ohio University last weekend did not change his opinion of the Buckeyes.
I don t think that has anything to do with anything, Carroll said. These guys have won a ton of games together. They know how to do it. They ve played in all settings. They ve won year in and year out. This particular team of guys, they have rarely not won games.
Tressel said his review of the Trojans in advance of today s game showed him a precision in execution that few teams can exhibit.
The thing that jumps out at me about Southern California is you can tell there s tremendous purpose and intensity in everything they do. You can see why they do what they do, Tressel said.
There s no question about it that everyone on the field is on the same page. I don t care if it s the kickoff return or if it s a blitz, you can see that every single person on that film knows their purpose, and knows that they need to do it at a tremendously high level.
While Tressel and Carroll will move the chess pieces around the field and match wits for three-plus hours tonight, Hartline took the battle down to its simplest terms.
It s five versus one, and that s pretty sweet, he said. The future national champion could come out of this game. You don t get many like that.
Contact Matt Markey firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6510.