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Saturday, September 12, 2009
It's game day at Ohio Stadium

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The defining game for Ohio State and the Big Ten Conference is finally here. And USC gets another chance to prove why it's arguably the nation's premier program, especially in big games.

Great atmosphere around the stadium today, though I didn't get much time to enjoy it (terrible traffic pattern). The weather is gorgeous right now, 75 degrees with just a slight breeze out of the northwest. It should be about 70 degrees at kickoff and drop into the high 50s late in the game.

I attended USC's walkthrough at Ohio State on Friday afternoon and it's true: The Trojans are the loosest team in the world. There was a kicking competition, what looked like a football version of ultimate Frisbee and several choreographed dances and chants. This might be a young team, but it won't be a nervous one.

THREE KEYS FOR OHIO STATE

1. Get Terrelle Pryor on the move. Pryor needs to forget about establishing himself as a pocket passer. There isn't a team in the country that can consistently catch him around the edges, and he needs to stretch USC's defense and capitalize on their aggressive style. With few proven offensive weapons around him, Pryor needs to win the game for Ohio State, and he has to use his feet as much as possible.

2. Don't let USC establish an early rhythm with its run game. The Trojans don't want to put too much on freshman quarterback Matt Barkley, and they won't need to if their running backs keep dominating. Ohio State's veteran defense line needs to contain Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson, get USC into obvious passing situations and then bring the heat.

3. Hold onto the football. Turnovers have just killed Big Ten teams against USC, and Ohio State can't afford many or any giveaways in this game. Pryor needs to be precise on his passes, particularly down the field, and running backs Dan Herron and Brandon Saine must protect the football. USC tied for 25th nationally last year in average turnover margin.

THREE KEYS FOR USC

1. Control the line of scrimmage on offense. USC has arguably the best and most athletic offensive line in the country, and the Trojans will go to the run game early on tonight. If McKnight and Johnson can take the pressure off of Barkley, USC should be able to put up points. Ohio State's strength on defense is its front four, so if USC wins those 1-on-1 battles it will win the game.

2. Force Pryor into obvious passing situations. Ohio State has some question marks at wide receiver, and Pryor hasn't fully established himself as a passing threat. If USC can contain Pryor's running ability and force third-and-long situations, it should be in excellent shape tonight.

3. Take some shots against the Buckeyes' secondary. Ohio State safety Anderson Russell really struggled last week and could be replaced by Jermale Hines tonight. The Buckeyes are also a bit unproven at cornerback, so Barkley will have opportunities to stretch the field with Damian Williams, Anthony McCoy and others. Don't expect Barkley to throw a ton, but one or two major shots could really open up the run game.