COLUMBUS - In the hours after last Saturday's loss to top-ranked Southern California, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was not focusing all of his energy on assessing what went wrong or repairing his team's damaged psyche.
Tressel already was hunkering down and preparing for the oncoming assault. His team would next face a school not every college football fan had heard about, and one that most would not be able to pinpoint on a map, but Tressel insisted today's matchup with Troy has had booby trap written all over it.
"What's most important is now, and how will we come in [to this game]," Tressel said. "I think everyone in America, as they looked at our schedule, said the most dangerous game on Ohio State's schedule is Troy - because it's after Southern Cal.
"If they [OSU] happen to win at Southern Cal, they're going to be riding high, and if they lose at Southern Cal, they're going to be disappointed, and it's not a Big Ten game and all those things that are important to Ohio State. So, how will we handle this football game?"
Troy University is in the southeast portion of Alabama, near Montgomery, and a member of the Sun Belt Conference. The Trojans are in their eighth season as a member of the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I. Tressel thinks Troy comes to Ohio Stadium looking to make a name for itself, not just collect an appearance check.
"Their whole personality is made up on the fact that 10 years ago they wanted to be Division I and they said their road to Division I is to go to every great stadium in America and introduce themselves," Tressel said. "They've been to Nebraska, LSU, Missouri, Florida State, Mississippi State, South Carolina, on and on and on.
"That's the way they're building their program, and they've been wanting to schedule us for a couple years. They can't wait to stake claim to visiting a Big Ten stadium and letting people know who they are."
Tressel said Troy, which beat Middle Tennessee 31-17 on the road to open the season, then just hammered Alcorn State 65-0 last weekend, is built on speed. The Trojans rank 11th in the country in total offense, with 518 yards per game. Defensively, Troy leads the nation in tackles for loss with 11 in two games, and coach Larry Blakeney said earlier this week the Trojans won't back down from the Buckeyes.
"They are wondering if we are totally out of our league,"
Blakeney said, "and we may be, but we are going to go up there and shoot at them for 60 minutes."
"They're an athletic team," Ohio State defensive back Kurt Coleman said. "We know they're tough and that has helped us focus on this weekend. They're a team that will travel anywhere to play any team."
Troy will face an Ohio State team that will be without star running back Chris "Beanie" Wells for the third straight game. Tressel said Wells, who injured his right foot in the season-opening rout of Youngstown State, has not progressed enough to play this week. The Buckeyes open their pursuit of a fourth straight Big Ten championship next week at home against Minnesota.
"I think he's making progress. But I can't promise exactly when he'll be back," Tressel said. "I can't promise next week. We're only going to have him in there when he's functional and ready to do it. Interest in doing it and functioning like he should be are two different things. We need him functioning at the Beanie level."
Tressel also indicated that Troy will see an Ohio State offense with two contrasting quarterbacks at the controls - senior Todd Boeckman and freshman Terrelle Pryor. Both played against USC last weekend, and Tressel expects them to get something close to equal playing time today. That arrangement suits senior offensive lineman Ben Person just fine.
"We knew it was going to be a possibility," Person said. "If that is what's best for the team, then I think we should do it. We like changing it up because it seems to open the offense up more and keep the defense on its heels."
There will be other changes for the Buckeyes, as senior offensive guard Steve Rehring is out, reportedly with a foot sprain. Rehring's absence creates a shuffle along the line with freshman J.B. Shugarts going in at tackle, and Bryant Browning going from tackle to guard.
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