Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- USC took the recommended route to Saturday's showdown at the L.A. Coliseum, thumping Virginia in its season opener before enjoying a bye in last Saturday.
The method has worked smashingly for the Trojans in recent years, and their Week 3 opponents usually pay the price. Just ask Nebraska (49-31 losers last year). Or Arkansas (70-17 losers in 2005).
Ohio State's path stretched a little longer but seemingly contained no cracks in the pavement -- only two overmatched teams to steamroll. But the Ohio Bobcats provided quite the detour, putting the Buckeyes in a 14-6 hole before a fourth-quarter rally.
The Trojans' ability to stay on course makes them the popular pick in Saturday's game, but some Ohio State players hope they can benefit from the road less traveled.
"I was kind of happy on Sunday when I got to watch the film," Buckeyes senior cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said. "I would have much rather come into this game not playing as well the week before, have goals to bet better, [rather than] blowing a team out and being on cloud nine coming into a game, not necessarily knowing what your weaknesses are, not having faced any adversity.
"Now we have stepping stone to figuring out what we need to improve."
Wideout Brian Robiskie agreed.
"In a game like this where we had to fight from behind a lot of the game and we had to change up some things, it definitely helps," Robiskie said. "Just to go back and look at some things that we might not have necessarily known later in the season."
That's one way of putting it. But the Buckeyes raised concerns about their ability to keep pace with USC, particularly on offense.
Senior quarterback Todd Boeckman admits the unit hasn't hit its stride, even after putting up 43 points in the opener against Youngstown State. The offense generated just 28 yards on 15 plays in the first quarter against Ohio, the type of start that can't happen Saturday against Mark Sanchez and the high-powered USC offense. Ohio State finished with only 272 yards.
"We expected we were going to do a lot better," Boeckman said. "Everybody needs to get better. We all need to watch ourselves. That goes for the O-line, the quarterbacks, the running backs, the wide receivers.
"[The Ohio game] was a little bit of everything. We knew it was going to be tough to watch the film, but we had to do it."
The defensive tape was a bit more pleasing to the eyes.
Ohio State recorded four interceptions for the first time since Oct. 20, 2001. Defensive end Lawrence Wilson had his first career pick and starting safety Anderson Russell notched his first interception in two seasons. For a defense that racked up only 11 interceptions last season, the playmaking surge could spill over to Saturday.
But the Buckeyes had an uncharacteristic amount of missed tackles and struggled to get off the field on third down. Ohio averaged five yards per rush in the first three quarters.
"Guys realize they didn't play to the best of their potential," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "It's more of a situation where you watch the film, you learn from it. You switch your focus really fast."