LOS ANGELES (AP) -The buildup to Saturday night's Ohio State-USC game began several months ago, with college football fans drooling at the thought of a matchup of this magnitude in mid-September.
The reaction at Southern California?
``It's just a different team, same preparation,'' tailback Allen Bradford said Tuesday.
``It really is, honestly, just another game,'' defensive tackle Fili Moala said.
But Bradford did say he heard USC was going to play Ohio State about a year ago, and it caught his attention.
``It's almost like a national championship game,'' he said. ``It's Ohio State, so you know it's going to be a good game.''
That's a reasonable observation, since USC played in for the national championship to conclude the 2004 and 2005 seasons, and Ohio State did the same to finish the past two campaigns.
uring that same time span.
``You approach this game like it's any other game, but you're more excited,'' admitted tailback Joe McKnight.
``This is a long awaited matchup for everybody, particularly the fans,'' Carroll said at his weekly meeting with reporters. ``You guys have been on this topic for a long time. Finally, we can talk about it. We're going to treat it like a championship game, just as we did with the Virginia game. We're going to put everything into it.''
That's been the USC approach under Carroll ever since a 27-16 loss at Notre Dame midway through the 2001 season - his first as the Trojans' coach. He realized afterward he had put too much emphasis on that game during the week before, so he adjusted accordingly. His teams are 75-9 since that time.
``We're trying to make every game we play the biggest in the world,'' Carroll said. ``We can't approach this any differently than any other game. The whole point of this is for us to play really well. If we do that, we'll have a chance to win.
``I know there's a big game Saturday. There's a big game today (at practice).''
USC and Ohio State will play before a sellout crowd of 93,607 fans at the Los Angeles Coliseum, where the Trojans have won 38 of their last 39 games, the exception being Stanford's shocking 24-23 upset last fall.
USC has also won its last seven games against Big Ten opponents, by an average of 28 points.
The Trojans (1-0) haven't played since an impressive season-opening 52-7 victory Aug. 30 at Virginia. Ohio State (2-0) has beaten in-state rivals Youngstown State 43-0 and Ohio University 26-14. The Buckeyes had to rally from a 14-12 deficit entering the fourth quarter to beat the lightly regarded Bobcats last weekend.
``I don't think that has anything to do with anything,'' Carroll said.
Maybe so, but as Tressel put it on a conference call: ``It was not a stellar performance. We survived, I guess.''
USC rose from No. 3 to No. 1 in The Associated Press poll after beating Virginia and stayed there this week, while Ohio State has fallen from No. 2 to No. 5.
Carroll also said he didn't believe the fact that the Buckeyes were routed in the last two national championship games - 41-14 to Florida and 38-24 to LSU - would have any relevance in this game.
``They played great teams,'' he said. ``I don't think that took away from them being a championship program. Those matchups just went the other way.''
One theory is Big Ten teams like the Buckeyes were at a major disadvantage against teams like Florida, LSU and USC because they don't have the kind of speed those teams possess.
``Not at Ohio State,'' Carroll said. ``Those guys can fly. They're athletic, they're as fast as any team we've played.''
USC defensive lineman Kyle Moore isn't so sure.
w. I just think it's the speed of the game between the Big Ten and the Pac-10,'' he said.
Like many of his teammates, Moore said the Trojans were treating Ohio State like any other opponent. But, he added with a smile: ``We talked about it (over the summer), it came up a couple times. It's been in our conversations.''

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