Last year, Jim Tressel led the No.5 Buckeyes into the Los Angeles Coliseum for what was one of the most anticipated games of the 2008 season, and sure to be a classic matchup between Pac-10 and Big Ten powers. But all the buildup resulted in a 35-3 USC blowout.
"Southern Cal is a very good football team that came out and did what they needed to do," Tressel said of Buckeyes' 2008 loss. "They played very confident, very sound. You know, they're very well schooled, they don't make errors."
Ohio State put together a 17-play 69-yard drive on their second possession of the game that resulted in a 29-yard field goal by Ryan Pretorius, giving the Buckeyes' a 3-0 lead and the confidence that they could move the ball against USC's vaunted defense.
What everyone watching the game didn't realize is that Pretorius' field goal would be the only points that the Buckeyes would score that day.
USC's stifling defense kept Ohio State in check all night by putting pressure on the quarterback and coming up with two big interceptions en route to a 35-3 victory.
Rey Maualuga's 48-yard interception return for a touchdown near the end of the first-half was the play of the game, and gave the Trojans a command 21-3 lead heading into the locker room.
In total, the Trojans' recorded five quarterback sacks and 11 tackles for loss while becoming the first team to hold the Buckeyes' to single digits in points since 2004.
"What I remember is a very, very good football team that we made way too many mistakes to be competitive with," Tressel said.
Fast forward a year and the Trojans and Buckeyes are once again the talk of the college football world.
"I think Columbus enjoys the fact that here we are Saturday night all eyes in the entire country will be focused right here," Tressel said.
And just like last year, Tressel will have the difficult task of trying to game plan against one of the most talented teams in college football.
"If you took the jersey numbers off the guys and just had them out there without numbers, you'd think you were watching last year's film," he said. "Again, they know exactly what they're doing, why they're doing it, the way to do it."
The Buckeyes pose the first major test for USC's freshman quarterback Matt Barkley, but as Tressel is quick to point out, the young passer has a tremendous supporting cast.
"If you threw a freshman quarterback in there and everyone else was a rookie, it would be frightening but the beauty that Pete Carroll has there with Matt Barkley being in the game is that the offensive line is perfectly choreographed and all those folks he's got around him handing it to and throwing it to and protecting it for him and so forth," Tressel said. "That is as good of a situation as you can have."
After watching hours and hours of film, Tressel said the Trojans present plenty of challenges on both sides of the ball.
"They're consistency is something to be admired by coaches. Sometimes that's difficult for people that don't sit and stare at film their whole lives," Tressel said. "But the consistency of which they do their technique, that they handle their assignments, that they do what the team needs, that model of consistency is admired by anyone that studies the game.
"They're very, very explosive, again on both sides of the ball. I've been very impressed with the young quarterback to have the kind of command that he has at this moment in his career is pretty remarkable. It's just a very, very good football team."
Butch Lewis wore a boot on his left ankle after having a teammate roll into his leg on Tuesday.
"He had a fall on his leg yesterday," Carroll said. "I guess he was too sore to go today."
"They came back full tempo and did everything in practice so they are back to full-speed," Carroll said. ‘It was just a one day deal, so we are in good shape there."
- Center Kristofer O'Dowd and Nick Howell also continued to show progress and participated in practice.
"He is working full-time with Matt (Barkley)," Carroll said of O'Dowd. "He's getting tons of reps and he feels great. It looks really good for him to play on a full-time basis in this game."
- Ohio Stadium is one of the best venues in all of college football and this Saturday when the Trojans and Buckeyes face off, the atmosphere in Columbus will be electric.
"I think Columbus enjoys the fact that here we are Saturday night all eyes in the entire country will be focused right here in Columbus," Jim Tressel said. "We are very proud of our facility, very proud of the atmosphere that is in and around the game. So there's no question about it. The people here are excited."
"I think that will be great fun. It will be interesting to see what happens. UCLA has had time to get their offense together, so they should have a good shot at these guys."
When Carroll was asked if he had a rooting interest he smiled slyly and responded, "I love the Pac-10."
USC CB Kevin Thomas returned from illness on Wednesday and will play against OSU.
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