September 08, 2009
Daily headlines, notes and errata in anticipation of the Intersectional Game of the Decade of the Year.
• The Money Never Lies. Some forecasters may be calling for another USC rout -- this does seem to be the default assumption -- but oddsmakers are not among them: The Trojans are opening as roughly 6.5 to 7-point favorites, more than a field goal below last year's ballooning line as it became increasingly clear Beanie Wells' ailing foot wouldn't allow him to suit up.
Keep in mind for a second, though, what goes into determining that spread: USC is down at least four (and maybe more) projected starters, is starting a true freshman quarterback in his first road game opposite a defense facing its first real test since losing eight draft picks, and is still a touchdown favorite over a completely healthy bunch of Buckeyes. That is some respect. And disrespect.
• Mutual Admiration Society. The big difference in this year's game and last year's date in the Coliseum is the evolution of Terrelle Pryor, unsure freshman back-up, to Terrelle Pryor, Terrelle Pryor, a difference that has Pete Carroll waxing rhapsodic on the sophomore and making the nuclear comparison where his defense is concerned:
"He’s a deceptive runner because he’s so tall," Carroll said Sunday of the 6-foot-6 Pryor. "He doesn’t look like he's going that fast because he's a long strider. He's very much like Vince Young in that regard. And guys bounce off him and slip off him all the time." Carroll described Pryor as "un-tackle-able, if that’s a word." ... "Everybody has trouble with them," Carroll said. "I just think it's the hardest thing to defend, a running quarterback."
Carroll would know, of course, having had the still-beating heart of the SC three-peat unceremoniously ripped out by Young in the '06 Rose Bowl. Carroll also emphasized that USC's schemes are "more advanced" since that loss, and that he's learned to "respect the QB position as a threat." That was mostly true last year, when Pryor was thrown to the wolves with basically no chance of challenging the defense downfield, but we'll all see how many tackles that respect is worth when TP is set free Saturday night.
Not to be outdone in humility, Jim Tressel obliged his coachly duties by describing the Trojans as "explosive" and "frightening" -- "[W]hat we'd expect from a Southern California team." Assembled reporters thought, "Duh," but printed it anyway.
• They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, "No no no." Injured USC starters Kris O'Dowd and Averell Spicer were back at practice on Monday after sitting out the opener, though they weren't taking hits in a shorts-only workout. Spicer said his ankle was "98 percent," which sounds promising, but O'Dowd's knee injury -- the same injury that kept him out several games as a true freshman in 2007 -- would be well ahead of the initial prognosis if he's able to play Saturday. Both are listed as "probable," and O'Dowd vows he'll be ready to go in the middle of the offensive line.
Tale of the Tape of the Day. The Senator vs. The Humanitarian.
The numbers never lie: The Trojans appear to have the decisive edge on the sideline.
Plausible Scenario of the Day. Terrelle Pryor leads an early touchdown drive and a field goal drive before the half to keep pace in a hard-hitting defensive game in which neither teams seems willing to open things up. USC can't find any consistency on offense but holds on to a narrow lead until the middle of the fourth quarter, when a Matt Barkley interception sets up the Buckeyes' go-ahead touchdown, which becomes the game-winner when the Trojans' last gasp drive comes up short.