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USC FYI

Team still views Ohio State as a big threat

September 08, 2008|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

Some of them saw it. Others only heard about it.

When USC players and coaches reconvened Sunday night for the first time in two days, the topic among many was Ohio State's narrow victory over Ohio.

But before the top-ranked Trojans split up into position groups to watch film of the Buckeyes, Coach Pete Carroll addressed his players about the hype that has been simmering for months and will ratchet into overdrive leading up to Saturday's game at the Coliseum.

"I did make them aware that this is a game that's different to a lot of other people," Carroll said when he emerged from the meeting in Heritage Hall. "To us it's the same."

Carroll spent Friday recruiting and watched Ohio State's struggle against Ohio on Saturday. The Buckeyes won, 26-14, at Columbus, but fell from third to fifth in the Associated Press media poll and the coaches' poll.

"I'm not thinking that's real indicative of how they're capable of playing," Carroll said of Ohio State.

"They've been a great program. They just kind of had one of those games that happens sometimes."

Quarterback Mark Sanchez did not watch the game live, preferring to view the tape on Sunday night.

Before he went into the team meeting, Sanchez said Ohio State's struggles could be attributed to "a million things."

"Everybody's going to be wanting to say that they were looking ahead," said Sanchez, a fourth-year junior who was recruited by Ohio State. "I don't think Coach [Jim] Tressel would've let that happen."

"I don't think it has anything to do with that. They just had an off game."

Defensive end Clay Matthews agreed.

"They're a good team that obviously struggled," Matthews said. "They're going to bring a much better effort against us."

Many players said they were unaware of comments made by Ohio State receiver Ray Small after the Buckeyes' victory. Small, a junior from Cleveland, told ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg that he visited Ohio State and USC when he was being recruited in high school.

"As I took my visit to USC, I'm like, 'How are they successful? They're not even serious about the game,' " Small said. "Before the game, they're all going crazy. Me and [Buckeyes defensive end] Rob Rose was on the visit and I'm looking like, 'Wow.' And then the coach said, 'You better get out of here. It's 'bout to get hectic.'

"And then I come [to Ohio State] on the visit and before the game, it's all quiet, everybody getting taped, coaches talking. It's the total opposite."

Citing comments made by former USC quarterback Carson Palmer about the Buckeyes and their fans, Small described the difference between the programs as, "a class thing."

"Here at Ohio State, they teach you to be a better man," Small said. "There, it's just all about football."

Carroll acknowledged that he heard about Small's remarks.

"Whatever anybody ever says is always just an example to us of how things sound," Carroll said.

When apprised of Small's comments, Matthews raised his eyebrows in surprise.

"Coach Carroll does a great job of getting people excited about football," he said. "We've all bought into it, and it's been pretty successful."

Sanchez seemed relieved to finally begin preparations for the eagerly awaited game.

"I'm glad we're finally into the week," Sanchez said. "There's a sense of urgency and a reward at the end. It's going to be fun."

gary.klein@latimes.com

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