Ohio State Loses Advantage Over USC With UCLA’ s Upset Win


After sitting on pins and needles when Beanie Wells went down last week, Buckeye fans probably had no idea that UCLA’s upset victory over Tennessee had a direct effect on their team. But it did, and it was maybe even bigger than the injury to Wells.

It would seem that after the Buckeyes’ lackluster win over Ohio University that the Buckeyes might have sleepwalked themselves into a slight advantage.

Their sluggish offense through the first three quarters certainly wasn’t anything to strike terror into the hearts of the Trojan defense.

So, how did such an all-around unimpressive effort against a creampuff figure to be an advantage for Ohio State?

As Lou Holtz and other pundits from the four-letter network have assumed, the Trojans will be overconfident.

No doubt, Ohio State’s has lulled USC into a false sense of security. After all, USC is No. 1 in both polls, and surely the Buckeyes will drop a few spots.

Uncertainty of whether Chris Wells will play could make the Trojans even more overconfident. Even if he does play, the Trojans must believe he can’t be 100 percent effective.

Add to all of that the fact that the Trojans will be a heavy favorite at home. No doubt they will have a letdown.

Assured that they’re going to roll, USC will lose focus, make mental errors, have assignment breakdowns and penalties.

They could just hand the game over to Ohio State. At least that’s what the Alphabet network and its four-letter affiliate would like us all to believe.

They have to make sure we are up at the crack of dawn out here on the West Coast to tune into College Game Day and the Big Game that both networks have been touting since Signing Day last February.

But not so fast, my media huckster friends…

Last week, Ohio State lost any psychological advantage they could possibly muster when UCLA came back in the second half to knock off Tennessee in OT, 27-24.

Even though USC was named No. 1 in both polls, they were no longer the media darlings of L.A. football. All week long, it has been a continuous procession of UCLA Bruins before the media.

The usual hype over USC’s 52-7 pasting of Virginia and the rise to No. 1 has been eclipsed by the media’s fascination with a team given up for dead pulling off the upset of Week One.

It marked the triumphant return of Rick Neuheisel to his alma mater and the end to his five-year banishment from the collegiate ranks. His boyish face has been on every sports pages and every TV sportscast from L.A. to San Diego. His humorous charm on radio talk shows has upstaged Pete Carroll, even on the Trojans flagship station.

Even Norm Chow, former USC offensive coordinator, now the offensive coordinator for Rick Neuheisel, has been interviewed on sports talk shows. Chow isn’t known for being the most outgoing guest. But his adjustments did spark UCLA’s second-half comeback, and that deems him as worthy of interviews as Jack, the Giant Killer.

Steve Sarkisian, the USC offensive coordinator and a former quarterback at BYU and a USC coach under Chow, only had one brief radio interview on the Trojan station. Even though he engineered an explosive offense against Virginia, he hasn’t been mentioned at all in the national media the way Chow has.

Then, there’s a quarterback by the name of Mark Sanchez, who came back from a dislocated kneecap in three weeks and threw for 338 yards and four touchdowns with only one tipped interception. He’s been mentioned briefly in the national media for being the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week, and his short sound bites have made a few sportscasts.

But which quarterback has been the darling of the media here in Los Angeles this week? No, not Mark Sanchez. It’s been Kevin Craft, the juco transfer to UCLA, who overcame four first-half interceptions to lead the miracle comeback at the Rose Bowl.

Forget the sound bites. Craft has been doing entire interview segments on all the local sports shows all week.

Now, I’m not saying that Neuheisel and Co. don’t deserve it. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. After all, it was only one game, and no one is certain just how good or bad Tennessee really is.

But, the point is, Buckeye fans, after this past week, hearing all that stuff about their archrivals, the Trojans will have no emotional let down.

For the Trojans, the game with Ohio State is not a springboard to a National Championship. It is not even to maintain their ranking at the top of the polls. It is not to show that the Pac-10 is better than the Big Ten. It is not even to prove that Trojans are better than Ohio State.

For the Trojans, the game with Ohio State is much, much bigger than all that. This game is for one thing and one thing only: to take back the City of Angels.

It won’t matter if UCLA is victorious in Norm Chow’s return to BYU next week. By beating Ohio State, USC can reclaim its No. 1 ranking not so much in the national polls but in the City of Los Angeles and all of Southern California.

But if the Trojans should lose and the Bruins should beat BYU, well…they just can’t let that happen. They will spill blood on the field before they let that happen.

So, if the Buckeyes think they can come into the Coliseum under the cloak of a decided underdog and have a psychological advantage, it’s just not happening. For the Trojans, and especially their seniors, it’s not just a game. It’s an entire city.