Published: Thursday, November 22, 2007
Buckeyes smell roses, but that could change
Ohio State could just find itself in the national championship game again.
There was a distinct rose-colored flavor to Ohio State's celebration in the moments immediately following Saturday's 14-3 win over rival Michigan.
The prevailing assumption was that the Buckeyes (11-1) would be headed for the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, based on their dominant performance against the Wolverines, which produced a second straight outright Big Ten championship.
That dove-tailed with the notion that a loss to Illinois two weeks ago would slam the door on Ohio State's chances of playing in the national championship game, making the Rose Bowl a pretty aromatic consolation prize.
And although the Buckeyes had their teeth clenched around long-stemmed red roses like a bunch of sweaty, over-sized Rudolph Valentinos doing the tango, they might have jumped the gun a bit. Too much football is left on the schedule around the rest of the country.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel seemed content to find a cozy seat on the sideline, make preliminary plans for the trip to California and the Rose Bowl, and let the bowl configuration unfold.
"We're going to Pasadena, unless it shakes out the other way," Tressel said, hedging his bet.
The second-tier bowls were well represented Saturday, with the Michigan Stadium press box crawling with the guys in the bright sport coats, the ones they no doubt bought at Rodney Dangerfield's garage sale. But as the game played out, it became clear they were just looking at Michigan as a possible entry in the Champs Sports Bowl, the Outback Bowl, the Capital One Bowl or the Alamo Bowl.
Ohio State's fate is a lot more clear go to the Rose Bowl, unless that title game comes knocking. Two teams a couple of rungs higher than the Buckeyes a week ago Oregon and Oklahoma are now eliminated after losses. The remaining teams ranked above Ohio State still have games to play, and some face each other, so the dominoes could tumble and the stars realign.
Ohio State junior linebacker James Laurinaitis said he would be at ease in his spectator's role for the next two weeks.
"It was very emotional to win here, and to have the opportunity to possibly go to the Rose Bowl," Laurinaitis said. "We're just going to enjoy this win, and wherever the cards fall, they do. We'll just relax and watch the season play out."
Tressel wanted to stay out of all the speculation, saying Ohio State's players would spend the holiday with family, attend to academics, and then see what kind of weather they'll need to pack for once the regular season is completed on Dec. 1.
"Right now, we're going to worry about Thanksgiving, and final exams," Tressel said. "And when we get done with both of those, we'll have a pretty good idea on Dec. 2 where we're going."
The Buckeyes have not played in the Rose Bowl since the 1996 season, when they beat Arizona State 20-17. Ohio State has played in the Rose Bowl just twice since 1980, with the other appearance being in 1985. Ohio State has been to the Rose Bowl 13 times, and won the bowl game knows as "The Granddaddy of Them All" six times.
Ohio State has been to the national championship game twice (2002 season, 2006 season), winning the 2002 title. Only one team Florida State has been to the championship game three times, but none since the 2000 season.