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 COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -Ohio State coach Jim Tressel would never admit it, but the Buckeyes' lackluster victory against Ohio University might make his job a little easier this week.
No doubt he'll have his players' complete attention and they'll be even more eager to wipe away the memories of that ugly performance as they prepare for the nonconference game of the year at No. 1 Southern California on Saturday.
``I don't want to read too much into it because everyone has (bad games), but I have a tough time believing a lot of those other top teams in the country would've played like we played today,'' an angry wide receiver Brian Hartline said after Ohio State's 26-14 victory.
y's game.
If not for five turnovers by the Bobcats - four interceptions and a pivotal fumbled punt - the Buckeyes might be hearing the words ``Appalachian State'' a lot this week.
They were more than happy to look ahead to a trip to Los Angeles to play a USC team that opened with a 52-7 victory at Virginia, then had a week off.
``We still got a 'W' at the end of the day, so now all the focus goes on to USC,'' cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said. ``I'm pretty sure everybody will be focusing and trying to get better this week.''
Quarterback Todd Boeckman passed for just 110 yards and was sacked three times by an Ohio team that was picked to finish sixth in its division of the Mid-American Conference, said the Buckeyes were ready to face the biggest challenge of their season.
``It's going to be huge. It's going to be the Trojans firing at us,'' he said. ``There's going to be a lot of national attention. It's a statement game for us.''
Ever since the game was announced a few years back, it has been on the minds of Ohio State's fans and players. It's not the Rose Bowl, but nonetheless several Columbus travel agencies are arranging flights and tickets to the game.
Tressel's program was ripped for its soft schedule two years ago, particularly after the Buckeyes won an outright Big Ten title and then were dismantled 41-14 by Florida in the Bowl Championship Series title game.
The critics came out in droves when the Buckeyes turned right around last season and won another outright conference crown and then were waxed 38-24 by LSU in a second consecutive title game.
The USC game has been seen as a chance for the Buckeyes to respond to all those who put down the Big Ten and earn some redemption.
``We're very excited to play at USC,'' defensive end Lawrence Wilson said. ``We've talked a lot about this game.''
Now the Buckeyes get a chance to do more than talk, and must prove that the Ohio U. game was an anomaly.
``Well, we have to play better than we did this game, that's for sure,'' Tressel said moments after Saturday's escape. ``I think everyone knows that they (the Trojans) are a great team, but the key to the game for us will be us. We'll see which team is better, but that's why we've got to go to work on us.''

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