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Monday, Feb. 26
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

USC vs. OSU: Why you play the game

This weekend is why you go through two-a-days.

It’s why 20 hours a week (or possibly more in Ann Arbor) are dedicated to the gridiron.

It’s why countless amounts of sweat are put forth in the weight room during the winter.

In general, it’s why you lace up your cleats.

Saturday, No. 4  USC travels to Columbus, Ohio to take on No. 6  Ohio State.

The Buckeyes, led by sophomore quarterback sensation Terrelle Pryor, are looking for redemption dating back to January, when the Buckeyes lost yet another Bowl Championship Series game – the third in a row for coach Jim Tressel.

This redemption also dates from last year’s curb-stomping in Los Angeles, where Ohio State fell to the Trojans 35-3 in a regular-season game.

However, what may be most at stake for the Buckeyes is an end to the negative talk that has surrounded the program for almost three years.

Ever since the 2006 BCS National Championship Game which pitted the Buckeyes against Florida, Ohio State has heard nothing except for why they don’t belong with the nation’s elite.

The 41-14 defeat at the hands of Urban Meyer, Chris Leak & Co. was followed by a 38-24 loss to LSU in the following year’s BCS title game.

With last year’s embarrassment in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the Buckeyes’ inability to seal the deal against Texas in the final minutes of last year’s Fiesta Bowl, the talk hasn’t stopped.

And for good reason.

Anyone can argue that despite Ohio State outright winning or sharing the Big Ten title each year since 2005, there has been something missing in January. Maybe the month-long layoff Ohio State has been plagued with, because of the Big Ten’s lack of a conference championship game, is to blame.

Maybe Ohio State being an outright inferior team is where the fault lies.

This Saturday, Pryor and the Buckeyes have a chance to show they’re back at the level that they were when Ohio State won the Fiesta Bowl by defeating defending champion and then-No. 1 Miami in the 2002 season. The game, designated as the national championship, ended in double-overtime and controversy but brought the glass football back to Columbus in Tressel’s second season.

For Tressel and the rest of the Buckeyes, the matchup couldn’t come at a better time. USC cornerback Shareece Wright is out for the year and wideout Ronald Johnson, the third leading receiver from last year, is sidelined.

For the loser, the good news is the loss comes early. The BCS Selection Committee and computers (yes, for some reason still pertinent to college football) often favor teams who get hot near the end of the season.

For the winner, an inexplicable amount of momentum will be built.

Not even Woody Hayes could ask for a better environment than there will be this weekend. It’s ABC’s marquee, prime-time matchup, which means former Buckeye Kirk Herbstreit and the rest of ESPN’s College Gameday crew will be in the house.

The storied Ohio Stadium is home to some of the most raucous, loud and passionate fans in the country. There’s probably enough history between the two legendary programs to write a book as thick as the College Football Encyclopedia itself.

Even the present decades’ accolades are enough to tell the story of the two programs’ prominence.

Dating back to 2002 and extending to just 2005, three national championship teams and four Heisman Trophy winners call either Columbus or Los Angeles the city of their alma mater.

Don’t forget three additional runner-up years between the two (2005, 2006, 2007) and four Rose Bowl victories since the 2003 season.

Saturday is about more than your average college game day.

It’s about lore. It’s about pageantry. It’s about pride.

It’s a celebration of two of the greatest programs in the land, and a testament to see if Ohio State can rise above the talk and establish itself again as one of college football’s elite.

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