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Buckeyes must push on without Beanie

9/12/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Ohio State's defense better be on its game. Same goes for quarterback Todd Boeckman.

A Buckeyes win against top-ranked USC on Saturday night (ABC, 8 p.m.) officially qualifies as an upset after coach Jim Tressel ruled running back Chris "Beanie" Wells out for the game with a right big toe injury. Ohio State must beat a talent-stocked Trojans team that never loses at home without its best player, a Heisman Trophy candidate. Get ready for Daniel Herron and a heavy dose of Terrelle Pryor.

This obviously has major implications for Wells, Tressel and the Buckeyes. A Heisman run seems out of the question for Wells, a big-game back who could have showcased himself against the Trojans. Tressel's decision to keep Wells in the Youngstown State game after halftime will be scrutinized even more, though I still think it wasn't misguided.

And what about this scenario: Ohio State pushes USC to the wire and falls by a point or two without Wells. Then the Buckeyes dominate the rest of the season. The general feeling is Ohio State needs to win Saturday to keep its national title hopes alive, but with a built-in excuse, things could change. It would be an early season loss, after all.

The players and coaches obviously can't think like that. They need to focus on beating USC, which just got a whole lot tougher.