Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- USC has got to be loving this.
Relaxing in Cali after a dominant performance in Week 1, the top-ranked Trojans are watching No. 3 Ohio State stumble in what looked like a tune-up before next Saturday's showdown at the L.A. Coliseum. Ohio's first trip to Ohio Stadium since 1999 has been a great one so far.
It's hardly panic time yet, and the Buckeyes should come back to win this game, especially if their defense continues to force turnovers. But so far, Ohio State is wasting a critical opportunity to evaluate its entire personnel on offense, namely freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
This was a chance to see if reserve running backs Maurice Wells, Dan Herron and Brandon Saine could carry the load in the case Chris "Beanie" Wells doesn't recover well from a right foot/toe injury. This was a chance to assess Pryor against improved competition before the freshman enters an inferno next week at the L.A. Coliseum. This was a chance to show some creativity in play calling.
So far, the Buckeyes are failing in all areas.
Despite two takeaways by the defense and good field position on several instances, the offense has done next to nothing. The offensive line has struggled to protect Boeckman or open holes for Wells and Herron. Ohio State has 50 rushing yards on 15 carries without Chris Wells after running over Youngstown State last week with him. The close score has prevented coach Jim Tressel from using Pryor, who misfired two pass attempts late in the first quarter. And the play calling has been ultra-conservative so far.
Boeckman seems out of sync, as do his top receivers Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline. Robiskie can't break free from Bobcats defensive backs and Hartline has dropped several passes, including one in the end zone. Junior wideout Ray Small (4 receptions, 25 yards) is the only Buckeyes skill player who has graded well.
The defense remains solid; end Lawrence Wilson has been dominant and the two takeaways are an excellent sign. But a mobile quarterback is once again giving Ohio State a bit of trouble. Bobcats backup Boo Jackson got off to a shaky start, throwing an interception on his second pass attempt, but the junior has settled down nicely. He avoided several seemingly sure-fire sacks and either scrambled for good gains or found open receivers. Jackson somehow got free of Wilson on third-and-14 and launched a pass downfield to Taylor Price for a 30-yard gain. The backfield escape set up the Bobcats' go-ahead touchdown. According to ESPN Research, the last time any team from the Buckeye State beat the Buckeyes was Oberlin in 1921. The score was 7-6.
Ohio holds a 127-117 edge in total yards and has converted 5 of 9 third-down attempts. Bobcats starting quarterback Theo Scott will not return after suffering a shoulder injury in the first quarter.