COLUMBUS - Another can of gas was tossed on the fire that has consumed a portion of Ohio State's reputation on the national scene when the Buckeyes were taken apart by a top-ranked Southern California team in Los Angeles a year ago.
Twelve months have passed, but there is still some detectable smoldering going on in and around the Woody Hayes Center, the football home for the Buckeyes.
They got scorched, and it still stings.
"We've been taking a lot of hits over the last few years, but we get another chance to prove ourselves Saturday night," Ohio State senior defensive tackle Doug Worthington said yesterday about this week's game in Ohio Stadium with the No. 3-ranked Trojans. "It all comes down to playing within ourselves and not trying to change all of that in one play."
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel has seen his team dominate the Big Ten conference by winning four straight titles but struggle when it steps up against the elite teams in the country, losing five in a row against top five-ranked teams.
Tressel said the Buckeyes, who were on the receiving end of a 35-3 hammering by USC last season, have been carrying the memory around since that difficult night.
"I'm sure the guys that played in the game last year have a little bit different vantage point than the guys that didn't," Tressel said. "I think motivation, at the end of the day, ends up how does it motivate you personally."
Tressel said he is a realist when it comes to the criticism the Buckeyes have absorbed due to their losses to high-profile opponents like Florida, Texas, LSU and USC. He said the chatter comes with the territory.
"It's a fact, so it's fair," Tressel said. "So outside of that and as you look at what you need to do to win this game or any of 'those' games - you have to go to work at what you need to do to get better. And no one spends any more time trying to figure out how to fix their world they live in than we do."
Sophomore running back Dan "Boom" Herron said the best approach in preparation for this or any game is to focus on the particulars and not let too much emotion enter the picture prior to the game. With starter Chris "Beanie" Wells injured, Herron played against USC last year and had 51 yards on 11 carries.
"Of course you think about it, but it's just something you can't dwell on," Herron said. "We know with everything that's out there, this is a huge game for us. We need to win this one, because if we do, it will convince people we can play in big games."
The Trojans come to Columbus ranked No. 3 after destroying San Jose State 56-3 last weekend. The Buckeyes saw their ranking drop two places to No. 8 after they struggled to get past Navy 31-27 in their opener in Ohio Stadium.
Junior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said following Ohio State's practice session yesterday evening that it's best for the Buckeyes to game-plan and develop their schemes for USC and stay out of the hysteria the premier matchup has created.
"In a game like this, you have to get wrapped up in the details and not focus on the hype of it. It's the details that win the game," Sanzenbacher said. "We know it's a huge opportunity."
Defensive lineman Cam Heyward said he noticed an edge to yesterday's practice and a sense of urgency as the Buckeyes went about their work.
"We just have to win this game," Heyward said. "In some of these big games in the past, we didn't play as well as we could have, but we can't focus on that. We're only worried about this week and this game."
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Another can of gas was tossed on the fire that has consumed a portion of Ohio State's reputation on the national scene when the Buckeyes were taken apart by a top-ranked Southern California team in Los Angeles a year ago. Twelve months have passed, but there is still some detectable smoldering going on in and around the Woody Hayes Center, the football home for the Buckeyes.