MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. -- Greetings from California where it is ... overcast. You can't win 'em all.
On my shuttle to the rental-car lot late last night, there was a lone Ohio State fan. I'm sure there will be plenty more of his brethren come kickoff tomorrow, but it seemed like an apt image to me. There can't be a much more lonely constituency this week than the Buckeye Nation -- because it is quite clear from the e-mails I've read and the radio interviews I've done all week that the entire country is rooting for the Buckeyes to not only lose, but to get humiliated.
I've never seen anything like it.
This certainly isn't the first time I've covered a big game where one of the teams was considered a heavy favorite. Two other Ohio State games come to mind: The Buckeyes' 2002 national title game against Miami (underdog) and the now-infamous '06 game against Florida (favorite). But never have I seen a game where so many people wanted the underdog to get crushed.
It's no secret how we got here. Ohio State and Michigan spend the entire 2006 season getting fawned over by the media only to get humiliated in their bowl games. Fans feel jobbed. The Buckeyes then return to the title game last year after a bizarre, back-ended chain of dominos only to lose to an SEC team again. Fans not only feel jobbed but have now come to fully believe that the Buckeyes -- despite winning 29 of their past 30 regular-season games -- simply aren't that good. Fans then watch we pollsters rank OSU in the top five yet again to start this season and, having now grown downright flabbergasted by the adulation, want USC to throttle the Buckeyes so badly that they'll finally disappear from the landscape once and for all.
The amusing thing is, it wasn't that long ago that USC was the villain. As you can guess, the large majority of the OSU backlash is coming from SEC country. When the Trojans were at the height of their dominance a few years back, all we heard was "USC would never make it through the SEC, blah, blah, blah." Now, those same fans have apparently developed a newfound affinity for the Trojans -- at least for this week.
At least we know the entire country will be tuned in to ABC on Saturday night. It may be one of the first times in history, however, that a significant portion of the viewing audience doesn't want to watch a good game.