LOS ANGELES (AP) -The season has only just begun, and No. 1 Southern California appears unbeatable.
Too early, you say? Ask Ohio State.
``We played a great team tonight. They were good across the board,'' Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said after the Trojans overpowered the 13th-ranked Buckeyes 35-3 Saturday night, turning the most anticipated September college football game in years into a mismatch.
Remember, the Buckeyes (2-1) played in the last two national championship games, and returned 18 starters this year.
The Trojans destroyed them.
Granted, Ohio State played without Chris ``Beanie'' Wells, sidelined with an injured right foot. But as talented as the star tailback might be, it's difficult to imagine he alone could have turned this game around.
``No one was bemoaning the fact in the locker room or on the sideline,'' Tressel replied when asked about Wells' absence. ``We needed to be playing as good as we could possibly play with or without Beanie in USC's house.''
ll face the meat of their schedule this year.
Home or away, who's going to beat them? The Pac-10 doesn't appear to be as strong as last year. Arizona State, Arizona, Washington State, Washington, Stanford, California and UCLA all lost nonconference games over the weekend, leaving USC and Oregon as the league's only unbeaten teams.
``This is a great win for us, but it doesn't mean any more than the others,'' said USC coach Pete Carroll, who led the Trojans to national titles in 2003 and '04 and came within one win of a third title in '05. ``Next game is just as big with us.''
The next game, on Sept. 25, is USC's Pac-10 opener at Oregon State.
USC entered the season with two major question marks: How would quarterback Mark Sanchez perform in his first year as the starter? And what about the offensive line, with only one first-stringer returning?
Sanchez has done just fine, passing for 338 yards and three touchdowns in a season-opening 52-7 victory at Virginia, and 172 yards and four TDs against Ohio State. A fourth-year junior, he's certainly familiar with the system.
``This is why I came to USC, why I wanted to be a quarterback here,'' said Sanchez, who resembles strong-armed 2002 Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer.
e one of the nation's best - certainly one of its most experienced.
``The o-line's done a great job,'' Sanchez said. ``The sack was totally my fault.''
Carroll won't say so now, but this could be the best team he's had since becoming the USC coach in 2001, and that's saying something since his last six USC teams have won at least 11 games and played in BCS bowl games.
He's never had more depth.
When Joe McKnight came to USC, he was anointed as the next Reggie Bush. The speedy sophomore looked the part against Ohio State, gaining 105 yards on 12 carries before spending most of the second half on the sideline with a migraine. As one of six highly touted tailbacks on the roster, McKnight was hardly needed.
Two of Sanchez's four touchdown passes went to Damian Williams, a transfer from Arkansas playing at USC for the first time. Williams and Patrick Turner lead a wide receiver corps that has made great strides since last year.
``He's an absolute stud,'' Sanchez said of Williams. ``He was away from football for a year, so he's hungry.''
Quarterback Mitch Mustain, another sophomore who transferred from Arkansas, started eight games as a freshman for the Razorbacks, winning all eight. And he's third-string at USC.
certainly hasn't suffered - Ohio State managed only 30 yards of total offense in the second half and 207 overall.
``I'm not surprised at all,'' said linebacker Rey Maualuga, who returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter that gave USC a 21-3 halftime lead. ``Our defense got up and really helped set up the offense and give them the looks they needed. We came to play.''
That's all Carroll asks.
``I felt we performed to our abilities,'' he said. ``We didn't do anything unique, we just ran the game plan.''

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