3 Keys to a Trojan Victory

The big game is now just days away. SCPlaybook's Lyle Everett takes an in-depth look at this weekend's matchup and brings you the three keys to a Trojan victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes.

1) Spread the Ohio State defense from sideline to sideline – The perceived knock on Ohio State is they do not match up well against speed. Test this theory early to see if that might be true. Utilize Joe McKnight on bubble screens and C.J. Gable on tailback draws up the middle. Keep the Buckeye defense off balance with play action fakes from Mark Sanchez that aim to keep talented linebackers James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman hesitating by a half step. USC must execute the short passing game with slants and quick-hitting routes early on, which will open up the medium to long range passing game with pump-and-go routes as the night progresses. Malcolm Jenkins, Chimdi Chekwa, and Donald Washington are supreme cover corners who can draw on big game experiences that USC's receivers lack. This makes the battle in the trenches imperative for the Trojans to win. Look for Ohio State to come at SC with blitzes they haven't shown this year. For this reason, USC's offensive line must be on high alert and Sanchez has to continue to check down in his progression and hit his running backs out of the backfield like he did in the first half against Virginia. Look for Tressel to get creative with blitz packages and coverage looks.

2) Shut down the run – Granted, a 240-pound bruiser like Beanie Wells makes this a tough proposition, but the trick to this game will be forcing OSU to beat you with the pass. Todd Boeckman has played average football this season against below average competition. Dare Boeckman to make plays. He has big game experience, but has not done particularly well in those high-adrenaline settings – e.g. Michigan (7-13, 50 yards, 0/1) and LSU (15-25, 208 yards, 2/2, 5 sacks). Get in his face early and apply pressure to see if he has any fight in him. Destroy any confidence he might possess. Make him prove he can throw the ball efficiently. If he demonstrates that he can, adjust accordingly. Pete Carroll's defenses have a way of making adjustments at halftime that win games, but let's not allow it get to that point. Let's see if we can try to obtain a double digit halftime lead. Ohio State is not built to come back from large deficits.

3) Contain Terrelle PryorSpeed at the QB position is definitely an added dimension for Ohio Sate, something they have never counted on before. Kirk Herbstreit, Bobby Hoying, Joe Germaine, Craig Krenzel and Troy Smith were never considered to be homerun threats outside of the pocket. When Terrelle Pryor sees action on Saturday night, it is essential that USC not let him ignite a blaze. The Trojans do not need this game to serve as his coming out party. When he is in the game, USC must contain Pryor from getting outside and filter him back towards the middle of the field, where Ray Maualuga and Brian Cushing can make tackles and create turnovers. This could prove to be easier said than done, as the Trojans have struggled against athletic quarterbacks in the past - Vince Young, Dennis Dixon and Jake Locker come to mind. Pryor is probably nowhere near as good as any of them right now, but USC does not want this to be the game that puts him on the map and propels him into stardom.

To this point, Tressel has done a great job of keeping Pryor off video tape for USC to scout against. Boeckman has not yet played at a high level this season and perhaps that has something to do with him looking over his shoulder. Moreover, classic drop back passers like Boeckman have been proven to be ripe for the taking against SC in the Pete Carroll era. Veteran Buckeye players say Pryor has earned their respect during fall camp. Pryor's agility, speed and athleticism out of the shotgun formation may be a key ingredient for an Ohio State touchdown drive or two. If Pryor does well this game, he may be starting sooner rather than later. Tressel may have something up his sweater vest that involves Terrelle Pryor.

Prediction: USC 26, Ohio State 19

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