Spent a good part of Friday night out scouring Columbus the night before Ohio State hosts USC at Ohio Stadium.
Students aren’t yet back, so it was subdued around town. Next to campus, High Street was populated mostly by locals and USC fans. The Arena District, where the rest of the city does its partying, was also less-than-raucous.
Of course, that suits local city officials in charge of security around the stadium just fine. Main postgame unrest prevention this week has been to empty neighborhood dumpsters that could be arson targets. But with frat guy and dorm rat nowhere to be found, I think campus’ most accesible couches should be fire-proof Saturday night.
Hanging out in Columbus Friday night, as I did so often before big games in the ’90s as a radio host at Buckeye flagship WBNS-AM, I didn’t think anything could surprise me. But I was wrong.
Scalpers were out in force outside Ohio Stadium in the early evening hours, so I sidled up to a few to find out what night-befores were going for.
You heard me correctly, scalpers were selling OSU-USC tickets at face value the night before the game - at Ohio State! I can almost see that in laissez-faire L.A. on the eve of a USC game. But not in the center of the very soul of college football.
That means that tomorrow, as the game nears, the price will continue to go down. By kickoff tickets should be well below face value. In all my years covering college football’s big games, including several at Ohio State and USC, I’ve never seen tickets scalped at anything close to face value. Let alone the night before an important matchup.
So what gives?
My first thought was that with the economic downturn, discretionary income may be in shorter supply in Central Ohio these days.
But after watching/listening to media here in town and talking to local OSU fans the last two days, I think the general pessimism about the Buckeyes’ chances on Saturday has lead to disinterest in attending the game. Ohio State has been beaten so many times in recent years in big games that Buckeye fans are now afraid to drum up the smallest hope their team can even keep it close - let alone win.
Having covered Ohio State myself in the previous decade, this seems unfathomable - but from my personal experience in the past 48 hours, it’s true.
So to all those folks, I’d like to inform you that Matt Barkley has completed zero pocket passes in his one-game collegiate career. And that he thinks he “won’t be fazed” by the 105,000 strong at the ‘Shoe on Saturday night.
I can’t imagine the Ohio State defense won’t be imaginative enough to stop Barkley and force USC into a run-only offense. I’m picking the Buckeyes, 17-13.