For the first time in aeons, I did not read or watch sports news last night or this morning; the only thing I've looked up were the stats. I've not read or listened to anyone else's accounts of the game because I wanted to make certain I wasn't passing off someone else's ideas as my own. (We take that very seriously in my line of work.)
First let me say this: USC played a great game. The Maualuga interception was a thing of beauty. My explanations are not to undermine or downplay them. But looking at the statistics, USC did not blow OSU out of the water, nor did they wipe the field with them, as (I'm guessing) is the sentiment around the horn right now. USC only gained 150 more yards than OSU, had the same yardage in penalties, had about the same 3rd down completion percentage (50% compared to 40%-- both abysmal in my book), AND had less time of possession. So what made the 32 point difference? The short answer is that OSU repeated errors made in the last NC, almost to the letter. The long answer is:
1) Mistakes, especially penalties: The same thing that happened in New Orleans happened last night, though thankfully there weren't as many 15-yard'ers. The NUMBER of OSU penalties was ridiculous (I include in this figure the number that were declined). USC had their share as well, but they didn't happen at the critical junctures that they did for OSU. In the first half ELEVEN points came off the board as a result of penalties. (I count that we settled for a field goal rather than going for a TD as well as the negated Robiskie snag in the end zone in that.) Without the mistakes, it would have been 21-17 going into the second half (counting Praetorius' missed FG), and that would have made for a very different game.
2) Capitalizing on mistakes: The only turnover OSU took away came with 0:09 left in the half. And then, rather than at least pulling a "Hail Mary," they took a knee. Almost every time USC had an opportunity, they took advantage of it, and that made a big difference.
3) Quarterbacks: Boeckman gets nervous; he makes mistakes. Big, costly ones. (Reference Maualuga.) Of course, it wasn't ALL his fault. He was hurried countless times throughout the course of the game. Pryor was solid on his feet, but didn't impress that much through the air. And neither did well when it came to the long ball...
4) Pressure ON the quarterbacks: USC did it; OSU didn't. Enough said.
5) Field position: Again, due in part to penalties. USC had about a 25 yard advantage in that category. You can't give a team that is THAT good any room; 25 yards is A LOT of room...
6) Momentum: Once USC had it, they never looked back. Once OSU lost it, they never looked up...
It isn't that USC has that much more talent than OSU-- it really doesn't. The game was not the blowout that the score makes it appear. The OSU D held USC to several three-and-outs, even late in the game. The offense was reasonably productive, at least until they hit the red zone. Then they began shooting themselves in the foot (and ankle, and knee, and...)
One of my favorite sayings is "G-d is in the details," which is one of the reasons I love football so much. It's all about the details-- all the little things add up to big ones. And I think my beloved Buckeyes need to be more detail-oriented if they are going to make lemonade out of the lemons that we saw last night.