Who: Buckeyes (1-0) vs. Southern California (1-0).
Kickoff: 8 p.m. Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
Last week: Ohio State defeated Navy 31-27; USC defeated San Jose State 56-3.
Radio/TV: WNIO-AM (1390); WYTV (33).
By KEN GORDON
Ohio State defensive lineman Doug Worthington found himself playing counselor to some of his younger teammates recently.
After the Buckeyes beat Navy 31-27 last week, several freshmen were perplexed and came to Worthington with questions:
We won, didn’t we? We’ve got an awesome game coming up this week with Southern California, right? So what’s with all the negativity around town?
As a fifth-year senior and grizzled veteran of many similar experiences, Worthington just chuckled and filled them in on what to expect from the Ohio State faithful.
“They didn’t really understand it too much,” Worth-ington said. “A few were talking about USC and [asking], ‘Why they do they think we’re going to lose?’
“I was telling them this is the media’s job; it’s people’s job to make stories. We’ve got to prepare and take one practice at a time and don’t worry about what’s in the headlines.”
With OSU not looking sufficiently impressive against Navy, a three-touchdown underdog, and with USC appearing invincible as usual in a blowout victory, here’s what’s in the imaginary headlines:
Page 1: DOOM.
Page 2: GLOOM.
This may not have been the statewide mood several years ago with a game of this magnitude coming to town. But OSU fans have been beaten down by five straight losses to top-10 teams.
As the national chorus of disrespect and Big Ten/OSU bashing has increased, it’s almost as if the fans’ defense mechanism has kicked in this week: Please, just let it be respectable.
“Of course, in the outside world, everyone thinks that Ohio State can’t win the big game,” said running back Daniel Herron. “They saw what happened last year [a 35-3 loss in Los Angeles]. I think this game, we need to go out and execute. … that will show the people in the outside world that we are capable of winning the big ones.”
In the inside world of the OSU locker room, coach Jim Tressel is taking a different approach.
In the past, he has employed liberal reminders of failures in order to motivate. Before the 2007 national championship game against Louisiana State, he sent every player home for the holiday break with a DVD of clips showing national pundits trashing the Buckeyes.
It didn’t work, of course.
Asked if he had showed the team clips from last year’s USC loss, Tressel had a short answer: “No.”
Instead, he wants his relatively young and inexperienced group to focus on themselves, to look inward and work on improvement, day to day, practice to practice.
“We’ve got to think about the moment,” Tressel said. “And good teams have that ability to stay in the moment and ignore anything positive or negative or anything along the way.
“If you don’t stay in the moment and start wishing this and, ‘Oh my gosh, if that happens …’ you won’t do very well in the moment. To me, that’s dangerous thinking. So that’s critical for us.”
As a third-year player, Herron has been around long enough to know the deal. He’s weary of the story line, but he’s also smart enough not to complain about everyone harping on it.
There’s only one thing Herron knows will put a stop to the incessant negativity.
“Everyone out there knows that this is a game that Ohio State needs to win, or they’ll keep saying, ‘Ohio State can’t win the big one,’ ’’ Herron said.
He smiled ruefully, almost to himself, and leaned forward in his seat.
“This is a game we really want.”