Toledo-Ohio St. Odds

Cleveland, OH - Ohio State came close, but a sixth straight defeat against a Top 5 team last weekend dealt a critical early blow to its national championship hopes.

Its status as the preeminent program in its own state, though, has never been in doubt.

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The 11th-ranked Buckeyes look to bounce back from a heartbreaking loss to Southern California on Saturday afternoon in Cleveland, where high-scoring Toledo would love to hand Ohio State its first loss to an intrastate rival in 88 years.

Oddsmakers from online sports book SPORTSBETTING.com have made Ohio State -20.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 53% of bets for this game have been placed on  Ohio State -20.5 (View College Football bet percentages).

Jim Tressel built a reputation for winning big games during his first six seasons in Columbus, going 4-2 against Top 5 opponents and knocking off top-ranked Miami in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl to give the program its first national championship in 32 years.

The Buckeyes (1-1) haven't had much luck against the nation's elite since, beginning with a 41-14 loss to then-No. 2 Florida in the 2007 BCS championship game. They dropped their next four games against top-five teams heading into Saturday night's home showdown with No. 3 USC.

Despite an early Terrelle Pryor interception that led to a Trojans touchdown, Ohio State dominated for the next three and a half quarters. But clinging to a five-point lead in the fourth, the Buckeyes let USC go 86 yards in 14 plays for the go-ahead score in a devastating 18-15 loss.

"We should have beat 'em. Point blank, we should have beat them,'' said Pryor, who completed 11 of 25 passes for 177 yards. "We should have beat them by two or three touchdowns, easy, man. The ball just fell the wrong way.''

Despite Pryor's struggles and a running game that gained 2.9 yards per carry, the Buckeyes got a mostly outstanding effort from their defense. A week after giving up 342 yards to unranked Navy, Ohio State held the high-powered Trojans to 231 yards until the final drive.

"We can look back and say that we're not so bad,'' linebacker Brian Rolle said. "You hear a lot of talk about ' Ohio State this' and 'They don't stand a chance.' But as you can see on the scoreboard, we weren't too far behind.''

The Buckeyes haven't been behind often when they've faced teams from Ohio, winning 29 straight since a 7-6 loss to Oberlin College in 1921.

Ohio State is 25-1 against teams from the Mid-American Conference, but Tressel's team may have a few reasons to worry. Ohio, another MAC member, led the Buckeyes 7-6 at halftime on Sept. 6, 2008 - their most recent game against another Ohio school - before Ohio State rallied for an unconvincing 26-14 win.

Toledo (1-1) is some 20 miles closer to Cleveland than is Columbus, and is technically the home team for Saturday's game. That, however, won't keep Cleveland Browns Stadium from being a pro-Ohio State crowd in the Buckeyes' first game along the shores of Lake Erie since a 34-3 win over Northwestern in 1991.

Ohio State's concern should be a Rockets' offense that's scored 85 points in its first two games behind Aaron Opelt. The senior quarterback is third in the nation with 742 passing yards and has thrown seven touchdowns passes. Four of those came last Friday against Colorado in a 54-38 win.

"I think right now Aaron is running the offense very well," first-year Toledo coach Tim Beckman said of Opelt, who is the nation's individual leader in total offense (437.0 yards per game). "Aaron had a tremendous preseason and has had a tremendous first three weeks of the regular season. He is a good, good football player. He's bought into the system and is a good leader."

The Rockets are 5-6 in their last 11 games against the Big Ten, and Opelt was 33 for 50 for 257 yards on Oct. 11 in Ann Arbor as Toledo topped Michigan 13-10.

The Rockets' defense held the Wolverines to 290 yards that day, and will likely need a similar performance to compete with Ohio State. Toledo is 110th in the nation in total defense, allowing an average of 493.0 yards, and is tied for 115th in scoring defense at 45.0 points per game.

Ohio State won the only other meeting in the series, 49-0, in Columbus in 1998.

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Posted: 9/16/09 9:34AM ET

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