Each Friday, Rivals.com's college football experts give fans five things to keep an eye out for over the course of the weekend. We're doing two versions this week – one specifically on Ohio State-USC and one on the other games. Here is the Ohio State-USC version.
OHIO STATE'S OFFENSIVE LINE. The Buckeyes struggled to protect their quarterbacks in BCS Championship Game losses to Florida and LSU. Can the Buckeyes' line protect Todd Boeckman? That will be the key to the game.
OHIO STATE'S ABILITY TO RUN. It's simple: If the Buckeyes can't pound the rock, they have no chance of winning. That's a tall task with Chris Wells sidelined again this week after sitting out last week's victory over Ohio. If that contest showed us one thing, it's that Ohio State's ground game is average without Wells. Dan Herron? Brandon Saine? Maurice Wells? Blah, blah, blah. And Ohio State's offensive line had an uneven performance vs. the Bobcats, too. That's not going to get it done vs. a USC defense that may be the best in the nation. If the Buckeyes' rushing attack founders, it puts the game into the hands of QB Todd Boeckman, which would give Ohio State a wing-and-a-prayer chance of winning.
USC'S WIDE RECEIVERS. USC's top four receivers caught a combined 14 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown against Virginia. Big deal. The numbers were nice, but the competition wasn't exactly stellar. That gets turned up this week when Ohio State CB Mike Jenkins tests at least one of USC's receivers. It's time for Patrick Turner, Vidal Hazelton, Damian Williams, David Ausberry and Ronald Johnson to start to live up to their promise. USC's offense has questions all over the place, but perhaps the biggest is the receiving corps. We'll find out if USC has a national-championship caliber passing game Saturday.
OHIO STATE'S WIDE RECEIVERS. USC is going to stack the box in an all-out effort to stop the run, whether it's Chris Wells, Maurice Wells, Brandon Saine or Dan Herron at running back for Ohio State. If the Buckeyes can't run, that means Todd Boeckman has to win the game with his arm. In that scenario, USC likely will feel good about its defensive backs against Ohio State's receivers. While Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline are solid, dependable receivers, neither is going to scare USC as a deep threat. True freshman WR DeVier Posey needs to make his presence felt for the Buckeyes.
HOW OHIO STATE QB TODD BOECKMAN LOOKS EARLY. Although he played well for most of last season, Boeckman struggled in late-season games against Illinois, Michigan and LSU. He threw a combined six interceptions and two touchdown passes as the Buckeyes went 1-2 in those games. Boeckman also struggled last week as Ohio State staggered to a 26-14 victory over Ohio. Boeckman needs a fast start to gain some confidence against a stout USC defense. If Boeckman struggles in the first quarter, USC could put this one away in a hurry. If he makes a few big plays early, Ohio State should keep this one close all night.