Ohio State-USC is big, but Fresno State-Wisconsin is football life altering

It’s all you could ask of a Saturday night in September in California — two ranked teams playing in front of a packed house, on national television, with huge bowl implications and possibly a national title at stake.

No. 5 Ohio State at No. 1 USC won’t be bad, either.

Wisconsin at Fresno State is going to get stomped on in terms of build-up, sweeping panoramic backdrops, TV analysts and breathless sideline reporter reports.

I’ve just seen Beanie Wells’ right foot and can confirm it’s still attached to his leg!

ABC1 has one game and ESPN2 has the other.

One is glitter; the other ground chuck.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about this: Which game, in terms of the big picture, is really more football life-altering?

People say college football is great because every week is like a playoff and that one loss — especially late in the season — knocks you out of the national title.

People say a lot of things.

It depends who you are.

If Saturday’s game is close, the USC vs. Ohio State outcome changes nothing. The teams could still meet in the national title game, or in the Rose Bowl.

USC could lose Saturday and not fall out of the top five, while Ohio State’s credibility is so sketchy after Ohio that a close loss to USC might enhance the Buckeyes’ reputation.

Win or lose, USC and Ohio State will campaign into November.

Don’t believe it?

Last year, Ohio State lost at home on Nov. 10 to Illinois, dropped from No. 1 to No. 7 in the Bowl Championship Series rankings, only to climb back to No. 1 in less than a month.

USC, a 41-point favorite over Stanford, suffered one of the worst upset defeats in the history of college football. Yet, the Trojans would have advanced to the national title game had they defeated Oregon in Eugene.

Louisiana State won the national title — after losing its last regular-season game to Arkansas.

In 2001, Nebraska free-loaded into the BCS title game after losing its last regular-season game, 62-36, while in 2003 Oklahoma finished No. 1 in the BCS after getting run off the field by Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game . . . on Dec. 6.

No. 10 Wisconsin and No. 21 Fresno State, by contrast, are working a BCS high-wire without a net.

A loss to Fresno State, a “non-BCS” school, probably knocks Wisconsin out of national title contention.

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