LOS ANGELES -- Go ahead, write them off, cuss them, swear you'll never be caught wearing a sweater vest in mixed company again. You aren't alone.
Just imagine what folks who aren't fans of Ohio State are saying right now. What, you expected some kind of big game Buckeyes to show up on Saturday at the Coliseum? Maybe in 2009.
That's when quarterback Terrelle Pryor could be juking the Buckeyes back to national title contention. That's when the world's most talented cheerleader, Beanie Wells, could be returning from a redshirt season to help win games like Ohio State lost (again) on Saturday night.
For now, admit the obvious: No. 1 USC has a familiar look about it after whipping the Slugeyes 35-3. Beating lifeless Virginia is one thing. Beating lifeless, but ranked No. 5, Ohio State is something different. Either the Trojans or Buckeyes have played in the last four BCS title games. Guess who is most likely to return to that game this season?
Be honest. Wells, with six healthy, massaged, pedicured toes on his right foot, wouldn't have mattered. After three weeks of football, the Buckeyes are in the strange position of having to throw themselves on the mercy of the court of public opinion. Please be kind, pollsters. Try to ignore a losing habit that has become so repetitive in national games, that the Buckeyes need to go to rehab.
"It's going to be extremely hard (getting back in the national race)," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "We realize what the nation's perception is."
These Bucks, they're big and fast enough for their little corner of the world called the Big Ten, but once they step out of their Rust Belt comfort zone, they suck ... air. That was the case at the Coliseum which was more Roman considering another Ohio State execution, than roamin' in terms of Jim Tressel's gutted offense without Wells.
|The Buckeyes proved once again that they can't play with the elite teams outside the Big Ten. (Getty Images)|
That was basically the mindset on both sides after the game. There's a reason USC has lost only three home games in Carroll's eight seasons. The defense that held the Beanie-less Ohio State offense to 71 yards rushing actually has seen Wells a bundle of times, in different uniforms. Moala rattled off the great backs USC defenses have faced -- and beaten.
"Across the board going back to '03," Moala said, "(Auburn's) Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown, (Cal's) Marshawn Lynch, (Oklahoma's) Adrian Peterson. We've seen them all."
If you haven't figured it out by now, this season is over in terms of Ohio State competing for the national championship. If you care, and you probably don't, there has to be some serious question about the Bucks winning the Big Ten, too. That would make an odd Rose Bowl, actually: Ohio State playing a few miles up the road from the site of Jim Tressel's worst Buckeyes loss here on Saturday. Talk about the grand dud of them all.
Yes, once again the Buckeyes on the national stage looked like ol' Woody Hayes doing improv. Embarrassing. Summer reruns are about over. This series, though, doesn't seem to want to end.
The game of the year made it past halftime only because there were more commercials to be shown. USC possessed the ball for less than 10 of the half's 30 minutes and were still ahead 21-3. Mark Sanchez tied a career high throwing four touchdown passes in his fifth career start, continuing to channel Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer. Joe McKnight (105 yards, 8.8 yards per carry) looked like Reggie Bush 2.0, his biggest obstacle being a migraine that limited his second-half playing time.