A lot of the hype surrounding this game is because of how USC played against UVA in their first game and how Ohio State played against Ohio last weekend. That's not to say that this game wasn't going to be looked at with a fine toothed comb but each teams last games played and the performances given it turned things up a notch.
As I have noted earlier Ohio State is hardly a slouch that have won some big games but they have been blown out as well against Florida and LSU. Ohio State had the talent but they were clearly outmatched.
Speed was the one thing that separated OSU from Florida or LSU.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was so concerned with the Buckeyes' team speed that he hired former world record-setting quarter-miler Butch Reynolds, a former Buckeye, as a speed coach before the 2006 season.
"They say speed kills," Reynolds said at the time.
They're still saying it after the Buckeyes were smoked in the last two BCS National Championship Games. Reynolds is no longer a member of Tressel's staff and the Buckeyes remain TheSlowhio State University.
"More and more in college football, speed is the element that separates the good teams from the great teams," Tressel said.
I said last week that I thought that the key to the game for both teams was how USC handled the pass rush of OSU's defensive line. If Sanchez has the time that is even close to what he had against UVA it will be an interesting day.
Speed is the one thing that has really hurt Ohio State the question is will they be able to defend SC's attack on the ground while effectively defending the receivers. That has to be the biggest question for Ohio State tonight. This is a fast USC team, maybe the fastest team in the Pete Carroll era.
"We've always had fast players on the stop watch," USC strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle said this week, "but I'm not sure if we've had a group that can play this fast."
If what the Trojans players and coaches, and even Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, say is any guide, they haven't.
No recent Trojans team has had this kind of unit speed, from tailback to nose tackle, and a coaching staff that seems willing to turn it loose on almost every play.
The strategy is a simple one...
"Stretch 'em out all over the field defending our speed -- from sideline to sideline and as deep as we can go. We'll see how they do that." - Coach John Morton
I think that the other key match-up will be USC's receivers against the OSU secondary.
USC’s wide receivers made big plays and clutch plays against Virginia’s zone defense; it could be a different story against Ohio State’s secondary, which is deeper, more experienced and more athletic.
The Malcolm Jenkins-led unit - which also gets back veterans Donald Washington and Jamario O’Neal, who were suspended for the first two games - will challenge USC’s wideouts with more bump-and-run man coverage. With reliable Vidal Hazelton hurting (ankle), the onus falls on Damian Williams, Ronald Johnson and Patrick Turner to sustain their momentum from Week 1.
The running backs are going to get their carries and if the O line can contain the OSU pressure and make some holes in the middle its going to mean the linebackers are going to have to move up in the box to contain the run. That puts the OSU secondary pretty much in man coverage and Our receivers should eat that up especially with Washington and O'Neal playing in their first game so you know they will be a little rusty.
Speed is going to be the key in this game.