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NO. 1 USC VS. NO. 5 OHIO STATE : Today at the Coliseum,
5 p.m., Channel 7

Game On

This collision of top-five teams won't decide national title, but it will help determine who plays for it. One who isn't playing today: Chris Wells.

September 13, 2008

Time to leave the hype behind and see which team can win this week's Game of the Century and move into the driver's seat for a possible trip to the Bowl Championship Series title game. Times staff writer Gary Klein looks at some of the key issues and matchups when the Trojans play the Buckeyes for the first time since 1990:

Well, well, Wells

The Beanie watch is over. Unless Ohio State running back Chris "Beanie" Wells is planning to make like Willis Reed, fans will have to take Buckeyes Coach Jim Tressel, right, at his word that the junior running back won't play because of a foot injury.

Of course, Ohio State still has running backs Maurice Wells (no relation), Dan Herron and Brandon Saine.

Amid all the Beanie bustle, USC running backs C.J. Gable, Joe McKnight, Stafon Johnson and Allen Bradford quietly prepared to show the Trojans' 208-yard rushing effort in the opener was no fluke.

Quarterback keepers

Mark Sanchez passed for 338 yards and three touchdowns in the opener against Virginia with only five days of preparation after a knee injury. He was cool under fire and played with emotion not often seen from a quarterback in the previous seven seasons Pete Carroll, left, has coached USC.

The Buckeyes' defense, featuring linebacker James Laurinaitis and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, intercepted four passes last week against Ohio, and the secondary will be bolstered by the return of Donald Washington after a two-game suspension.

Ohio State presents two possible looks at quarterback. Todd Boeckman is an experienced fifth-year senior, Terrelle Pryor a mobile freshman who could play a large role.

Everything is on the line

Nobody was pining publicly for Sedrick Ellis after Virginia ineffectively tried to run around rather than through USC's defensive line.

But the big and beefy Buckeyes present an entirely different look and philosophy. Left tackle Alex Boone and left guard Steve Rehring are three-year starters. Ohio State will test nose tackles Averell Spicer and Christian Tupou and defensive tackle Fili Moala, who did not record a tackle in the opener.

The Trojans' offensive line did not give up a sack in the opener, but this is the real exam.

Ohio State's front seven on defense is as skilled and experienced as any in college football.

Ain't that a kick

USC's David Buehler made his only field-goal attempt against Virginia and has a big leg that could prove to be the difference if the Buckeyes keep the Trojans out of the end zone or the game is close at the end.

Ohio State's Ryan Pretorius has made six of seven field-goal attempts.


By the numbers

*--* USC CATEGORY OSU 52.0 Scoring 34.5 7.0 Points given up 7.0 350.0 Passing offense 177.0 208.0 Rushing offense 206.5 558.0 Total offense 383.5 155.0 Passing defense 97.0 32.0 Rushing defense 67.0 187.0 Total defense 164.0 *--*


Bye-bye Buckeyes?

Under Carroll, USC has never lost a home game after an open date the previous week.

The Trojans are 12-3 after open dates overall.

The losses:

2001: Oregon 24, USC 22.

2003: California 34, USC 31 (3OT)

2006: Oregon State 33, USC 31


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