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Sunday, December 6, 2009
Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Oregon (10-2) vs. Ohio State (10-2)
Jan. 1, 4:30 p.m. (ABC)

Ohio State has been the team of the decade in the Big Ten, dominating the conference and experiencing both highs and lows in postseason play. But throughout Jim Tressel's incredible run, the Buckeyes have never been to Pasadena. They make their first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1997 and hope to snap a three-game BCS bowl slide that has damaged their national reputation.

The Buckeyes once again played their best football in November, beating two top 15 opponents and arch-rival Michigan to lock up their fifth consecutive Big Ten championship. The defense has carried this team throughout the fall, posting three shutouts, nearly two more, and tying for third nationally in takeaways (33).

Still, Ohio State hasn't faced an offense that remotely resembles Oregon's in terms of firepower. The spread system has given the Buckeyes problems, and Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is a dangerous man at the controls. Ohio State must be extremely sound in its tackling, much like it was for most of the Fiesta Bowl against Texas, and keep Masoli and running backs LaMichael James and LeGarrette Blount from getting into the open field.

The Buckeyes likely can't match Oregon score-for-score, and Tressel's offense has endured obstacles this season. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor limited mistakes and spurred a potent rushing attack while operating in a scaled-down system down the stretch, but he'll likely be called upon to do more against Oregon.

The teams share two common opponents: Purdue and USC. Oregon dominated USC but struggled to beat Purdue, while Ohio State lost to both.

Will the Buckeyes' BCS fortunes change in a new setting? We'll find out Jan. 1.