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USC v OSU Mark II
I stole this from CBS Sportsline's MB...I've read this guy before and he is good...it is exceedingly long but perhaps the most exacting breakdown of a single game I've ever seen. Enjoy and feel free to comment...but try and keep it aboveboard, please...
The hype surrounding the game of September is starting to take on new heights. I've heard it all...OSU will win in a close one, USC will destroy them again, it will be a low scoring game, the Trojans will put 70 on the score board, home field advantage, etc., etc., etc. So, what will it be? How will this game finish out? Well, let me throw some comparisons out on the table. A table that's already plum full of this and that regarding this huge matchup. I'll tell you how I think it's going to end up.
First off, let me say that Pete Carroll is arguably the best coach in all of sports. I have huge respect for this guy. He knows exactly how to get his team up for a big game, and I love the mentality he brings to that program. His only fault...sometimes he allows his players to relax a bit for a game his squad should dominate in. And they end up losing a heartbreaker, which in-turn ruins their season. The Trojans should have a least two more national titles on their books than they already have this decade...the year they lost to Oregon State and UCLA, and last year when they lost again to Oregon State. Those Oregon teams have given USC fits this decade. The Trojans are a combined 9-6 this decade against Oregon and Oregon St combined. I sure hope Tressel gave those coaches a call recently, to find out what their secret is. What gets me is how USC can lose two conference games in a season and still be named PAC10 champs. Anyway, those two USC teams that lost those three conference games were IMO the best teams in the nation the past two seasons. I don't care what anyone says. USC would have beaten OSU, LSU, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas and any other team in the final top 10 in 2007, and would have beaten Florida last year. Granted we'll never know for sure, but I would bet some big bucks they would've won any of those matchups. Had there been a playoff the past two seasons, USC would have won it all.
Alright, now I know the Buckeyes have struggled in big games the past few seasons. I can tell you, the 2009 team is just as sick and tired of hearing about it as we fans are. However, this team is getting hyped up in the same manner as the previous three. I was really hoping that wouldn't happen this season, but thanks to the media, the hype is back. The Buckeyes are preseason ranked by the coaches at #6. In 2008, the coaches ranked the Buckeyes 3rd in the preseason, 10th in '07, and #1 in 2006. The national champion in each of those seasons were pre-ranked #8 in '06, #2 in '07 and #5 last season. Shows how much they know. They did get it right in 2005 pre-ranking USC and Texas #1 and #2 respectively (BCS title game purposes only), however Texas ended up #1 after they edged USC in the title game. So how does all of this affect the Buckeyes? Well, it seems the Buckeyes are still highly regarded even after losing so much talent in key positions from the '08 team. Heck, the Big 10 thinks they'll beat PSU for the Big 10 title. They even dubbed Pryor preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Do all of these people know something we don't? Or should I say, know something the OSU haters don't? Although I'm not liking all the hype the Buckeyes are getting, I too highly regard this team. I think they know what they're talking about, and also know why they are regarding this team as "near top 5" material. They will be a top 5 team if they beat USC. But, can this team compete with the #4 ranked team in the coach's preseason poll? Let's dig in and try to find out.
Pete Carroll is regarded as the best recruiter in college football. After all, he has signed more 5-star prospects than any other program this decade. But as far as this game goes, 2004 recruiting and earlier doesn't count (with the exception of two '09 starters who signed in 2004 and received a 6th year of eligibility). Both teams have a handful of 5-year guys, however OSU hasn't retained any 2004 signees. As far as recruiting goes, Tressel can hold his own, and he's signed some pretty darn good athletes in his time at OSU.
In this particular analysis of the 2009 matchup, I will use the law of average to break these teams down based on each team's current starting lineups. I used their media guides to make sure there was no error.
First, let's look at both program's overall recruiting since 2005. Who out-recruited who? Well, when you look at average class rankings between 2005-2009, USC averages #4 and OSU averages #9. Carroll signed 21 5-star players to Tressel's 9. With the exception of the 2009 class (who haven't played a down yet), USC has a record of 46-6 vs opponents average winning percentage of .576. OSU has a record of 43-8 vs opponents average winning percentage of .597. So for now, it's safe to say these two programs have lived up to the average recruiting class ranking (According to Rivals by the way).
Based on each team's starting line-ups for 2009 (media guides), and Rivals ranking of those players when they signed, here's the breakdown:
Let's focus on the starting players from both sides recruited since 2005 (2004 for those two 6-year guys at USC). Of the 21 5-star players signed with USC, 8 will be starting this game (5 on offense and 3 on defense). For OSU, 4 of the 9 will start (all 4 on offense). Oh, and by the way, those two guys who got that 6th year of eligibility...both were 5-stars in 2004. So, USC actually has 8 of 23 5-stars starting this game. I've heard people say USC has 5-stars backing up 5-stars. Well, it's true. They're depth is quite deep. But what about all the 3 and 4-star prospects signed by these programs since 2005? Both have their fair share of these guys too. Instead of breaking it down by each position, I'll make an average of the Rivals prospect rating for both teams starting lineup. I'll compare the offense to the other teams defense and vice-versa for the other side.
* USC averages 4.3 stars per player on their offense. OSU averages 3.5 stars on their defense.
* USC has 5 seniors, 5 juniors and 1 sophomore on offense. OSU has 5 seniors and 6 juniors on defense.
* USC averages 2.2 varsity letters per player on offense, OSU averages 2.3 per player on defense.
* OSU averages 4.2 stars per player on offense. USC averages 4.2 stars on defense.
* OSU has 3 seniors, 2 juniors, 5 sophomores and 1 freshman on offense. USC has 4 seniors, 4 juniors and 3 sophomores on defense.
* OSU averages 1.3 varsity letters per player on offense, USC averages 2.4 per player on defense.
Some might find this hard to believe, but OSU will feature more team speed than will USC. Don't get me wrong, USC has tons of speed but this year's edition of the Buckeyes will be arguably the fastest team ever fielded at OSU and will feature more speed top-to-bottom. The Buckeyes have several offensive players who recently ran sub 4.4 forty yard sprints (including Pryor) and one player nearly went under 4.3. The defense is the fastest ever headlined by a book-end 4.45 guy in Thad Gibson. OSUs outside LB corps will disrupt many as both ran sub 4.5 forties. The defensive backfield also averages sub 4.5 speed.
So, what do we make of all of this? USC will surely bring a more talented team top-to-bottom to the Shoe. But what really matters is the individual matchups between the starting players. I believe games are won and lost in the trenches. So, the front lines are critical. Here's how I see those matchups, and which team has the edge.
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