USC and Ohio State: The best of the best Print
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Wednesday, 10 September 2008 12:36
NCAAF Headline News

 NEW YORK (AP) - If the worst that can be said of a college football program is that it played poorly in the last two national championship games, then that program has few problems.
If 11 victories, a top-five ranking and yet another triumphant BCS appearance is considered a down year, life is good for that program.
This is where Southern California and Ohio State currently reside, at the very top of the college football food chain. When the No. 1 Trojans and No. 5 Buckeyes meet Saturday at the Los Angeles Coliseum, an argument could be made that it's a matchup of the top two programs of this decade.
At the very least, they are members of an exclusive club.
be consistently excellent, takes great leadership and commitment.''
For USC and Ohio State, the commitment has always been there. It took the leadership of Pete Carroll and Jim Tressel to make the Buckeyes and Trojans great again.
``I think both (schools) have gone through periods with many dynasties,'' former Ohio State star Cris Carter said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters. ``You have coaches now that have brought the tradition back to a time where you would want to compare the past to the current.''
In 2001, Carroll, an NFL retread, became coach at USC. The hiring was greeted with skepticism by fans and media who had watched the once-great program go stale.
Well, Carroll has exceeded expectations of even the most optimistic USC supporters.
Under his leadership, the Trojans are 77-14. The last six seasons have been spectacular. Each has ended with a Pac-10 title, a Bowl Championship Series appearance and a top-five ranking.
The Trojans won two national championships (2003 and '04) and only Vince Young's performance of a lifetime kept them from a third straight in '05.
The past two seasons USC finished 11-2 and it was considered something of a disappointment. That's how high the standards are at USC these days.
``They've gone back to that '70s dominance with (coach John) McKay and (coach John) Robinson,'' former USC star Keyshawn Johnson said. ``Before we were asking recruits to come to USC. Now they're asking to come to USC.''
The state of Ohio State is also as strong ever. Tressel became coach of the Buckeyes the same year Carroll took over at USC. There were some skeptics in Columbus, too. Tressel had built Youngstown State into a Division I-AA powerhouse, but was this the man to make up the ground the Buckeyes had lost to Michigan?
Woody Hayes would be proud.
Tressel and the Buckeyes have since left the Wolverines and the rest of the Big Ten in the dust. Ohio State is 75-16 under Tressel, won a national title in 2002 and is trying to become the first team to win three straight outright Big Ten championships.
The only mark on Ohio State's resume under Tressel: Lopsided losses in the last two national title games, which have unfairly overshadowed the Buckeyes' excellence.
Since the turn of the century, only a handful of programs have played at the level of USC and Ohio State. LSU and Oklahoma have the credentials to stack up.
Oklahoma under Bob Stoops, hired two seasons before Tressel and Carroll, has won more games (92) than any team since 2000. The Sooners won a national title in 2000 and played for two others.
son and under coaches Nick Saban and Les Miles they've gone 4-0 in BCS games since 2000.
A notch below those four are Texas under Mack Brown, Georgia under Mark Richt and Virginia Tech under Frank Beamer. With Urban Meyer leading the way, Florida seems to be on its way to a great run. Miami would have been in this discussion three years ago.
So how does a program get to where it can sustain a high level of success?
Find a plan that works and stick to it, said Trev Alberts, who played linebacker for Nebraska from 1989-93 and was part of a program started by Bob Devaney and continued by Tom Osborne that was among college football's best for nearly 40 years.
``Coach Devaney had a belief in the culture of the way things should be done and we stuck with it,'' said Alberts, now an analyst for CBS College Sports. ``At Nebraska it was being physical, having a walk-on program, always doing things the right way.
``Having a vision, sticking to that vision, and never wavering.''
Of course, a big part of the plan better be to get as many great players as possible.
the program is going.''
Leaders? Check. Plan? Check. Players? Check. Ohio State and USC have it all and the records to prove it.

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