NCF Nation: Fiesta 0905

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
 Colt McCoy threw for 414 yards and the winning touchdown with 16 seconds to play Monday night against Ohio State.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Roy Miller sounded like an Ohio State infomercial.

Minutes after No. 3 Texas posted a dramatic Fiesta Bowl win, Miller began talking up the team his Longhorns had just beaten.

"Great team, great players, Terrelle Pryor, [Chris "Beanie" Wells] is healthy," said Miller, the Longhorns senior nose tackle who was named Defensive Player of the Game. "You've got award winners on that side. You've got future Heisman candidates, you've got a running back that'll probably be the top pick in the draft, an offensive line as big as any, a defense that's played as well as any defense.

"When you look at those things and you look that this team had an opportunity to scout us for a month and a half, I really feel like we deserve that top spot."

It will be a tough sell, but the Longhorns began campaigning for the No. 1 ranking immediately after their 24-21 win. Head coach Mack Brown on the victory podium said he planned to vote Texas at No. 1 regardless of what happens in the BCS title game Thursday night.

But there's a force working against Texas, the same force that worked in favor of Oklahoma and Florida.

The Longhorns won by only three points Monday. They showed tremendous fortitude, made key plays and rallied past an Ohio State team that finally began to play to its potential. Yet a 3-point win against the runner-up from the beleaguered Big Ten Conference won't convince many that Texas should be at the top. Neither will an offense that produced well below its season averages.

"Style points, I don't care about scoring 80 points and them scoring seven," Longhorns defensive end Brian Orakpo said. "If it's a battle between two great teams, it makes football even more fun to play. It's very unfortunate because nowadays it's all style points and who can keep their starters in the longest and keep running up the score.

"Style points shouldn't matter."

Orakpo makes an excellent point, but one that likely will fall on deaf ears when the final polls come out. Texas entered the game as a 9-point favorite, and after impressive BCS wins by both USC and Utah, the Longhorns likely needed to trounce Ohio State to open the door for a split national title.

Though Texas certainly has the best case of any team not spending the week in Miami, the Longhorns were seconds away from a loss. USC thumped a Penn State team that beat Ohio State on Oct. 25, and Utah also posted a two-touchdown victory.

"Things weren't easy tonight," Brown said.

"You can throw [margin of victory] out the window," Orakpo said.

Unfortunately for Orakpo, the voters don't.

Texas' best argument for the No. 1 spot in the polls had nothing to do with what happened at University of Phoenix Stadium.

"It's called the Red River Shootout, and 45-35 was that final score," Miller said, referring to Texas' win against Oklahoma on Oct. 11. "We have an opportunity to win the votes over, hopefully, and possibly get a national championship with the votes."

Miller spoke last week about losing confidence in the voters toward the end of the regular season, as Oklahoma moved past Texas, thanks in large part to style points. History is not on the Longhorns' side.

But after Monday's win, Miller is beginning to feel more hopeful.

"I'm optimistic," he said. "I'm hoping that since our team played so strong and showed so much heart, I'm hoping those things can come through transparent, everybody can see 'em. Especially if Oklahoma wins [Thursday night]. We beat Oklahoma. We felt like we should have been in Florida. We felt like we should have had that opportunity.

"If they beat Florida, we feel we should be No. 1."

Miller doesn't plan to sit around and fret over the final polls. But he hopes the voters will do the right thing.

"Anything can happen," he said. "We know it, and we just hope we can win a couple votes. I'm proud of my team. Being a part of this team and knowing the things that we've been through, the teams that we've beat and the situations we've been in, I personally feel this team can play with anybody in the country."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
 Ohio State nearly pulled off the upset behind Todd Boeckman, above, and Terrelle Pryor.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Perhaps more than any other player, Todd Boeckman has served as a symbol for Ohio State's senior class.

He celebrated Big Ten titles and struggled in big games. He earned local and national recognition and endured the pain of subpar performances. He handled both the highs and the lows with class.

Despite losing the starting quarterback job to true freshman Terrelle Pryor in Week 4, Boeckman still joined fellow captains James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins and Brian Robiskie to meet the media after every game. He remained a leader in the locker room, on the practice field and on the sideline, even if he could no longer be one on Saturdays.

For those reasons, no player on the field at University of Phoenix Stadium had more support than Boeckman as he reclaimed a critical role in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against Texas. The senior helped Ohio State rally in the fourth quarter and was seconds away from a perfect end to his career when Texas scored the game-winning touchdown to win 24-21.

"To see him go in there, it proves the old adage that good things happen to good people," Ohio State tight end Rory Nicol said. "He stayed the course all year. Yeah, he was pissed off in his mind all year long. Who wouldn't be? He did the right thing, he did what was best for the team. He forgot himself."

But Ohio State didn't forget about Boeckman, even though Pryor made strides as the starter. The Buckeyes shook things up in bowl practice, pairing Boeckman and Pryor on the field together.

The combination worked Monday as Boeckman completed five passes for 110 yards, including a 5-yard scoring fade to Pryor, who recorded his first touchdown reception. Boeckman helped set up Ohio State's go-ahead score with 2:05 left with a 21-yard strike to tight end Jake Ballard on second-and-17.

"I had no idea how much I was going to play," Boeckman said. "They just told me to be ready at all times. I'm always looking forward to getting out there and playing with these guys. I had some fun out there today, but unfortunately, we couldn't get the job done.

"It felt pretty good to get out there and throw the ball around a little bit. I haven't done that in quite a while."

Ohio State's coaches downplayed the two-quarterback scheme leading up to the game, suggesting it would only be used sparingly. But Boeckman took the game's first snap and found Robiskie for a 14-yard gain.

He seemed to spark the offense in the first half, and after the unit went silent in the third quarter, his 48-yard completion to Robiskie on third-and-13 changed the game's complexion.

"Todd is a special guy," head coach Jim Tressel said. "Every one of us wanted to do all we could to make him a part of the plan. He stepped in and did a good job."

The game signaled the start of a major personnel transition for Ohio State, as the 28-member senior class departs following four Big Ten titles but a 1-3 record in bowl games. Running back Chris "Beanie" Wells and wideout Brian Hartline, both juniors, also could also be departing. Both said they had not reached a decision about the NFL draft.

"The seniors have 43 wins throughout their career here," Boeckman said. "That's one of the best records in Ohio State's history. The hard part about that is the last three bowl victories, we didn't get a win. That's probably what people are going to remember the most. That's tough to take."

The near miss resonated with Pryor, who performed admirably under pressure and will face an even greater burden in 2009.

"We made a statement, but losing to a team, it's not good enough," Pryor said. "You've got to win. We hung onto 'em, but it doesn't sound great. It's not right.

"We had an OK season. We needed to finish that game off."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 Kirby Lee/US Presswire
 Quan Cosby pulled in the winning 26-yard touchdown pass with 16 seconds to play.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- They made it back to the team hotel Sunday minutes before curfew and headed straight for the water.

As Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and wide receivers Quan Cosby, Jordan Shipley and Brandon Collins hopped back and forth between the hot and cold tubs, they began talking about the next day's game.

"The night before a game, that's all that's on your mind really," Shipley said. "We feel like it could always come down to a play like that."

Added Cosby: "People say, 'I dreamed about it,' and all that stuff. Everybody dreams about it. We talked about it [Sunday] night as we were sitting in ice, which wasn't very fun."

Cosby had plenty of fun Monday night as he lit up Ohio State's defense for 171 receiving yards on 14 receptions, none more important than the last, a 26-yard touchdown with 16 seconds remaining. The score lifted Texas to a dramatic 24-21 win against Ohio State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and capped a stellar senior season for Cosby, who notched career highs in both receptions and yards in his final collegiate game.

The 5-11, 200-pound senior had three receptions on Texas' game-winning drive, and he found a way to slip behind Ohio State defenders who employed an aggressive scheme but did an excellent job of keeping plays in front of them all night. The Buckeyes had prevented big plays with textbook tackling, but Cosby got free of safety Anderson Russell and leaped into the end zone.

 
 Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
 Cosby torched Ohio State's defense for 171 yards and 14 receptions.

"Quan is as good a football player as I've ever been around," Shipley said. "He always seems to make plays. He just kind of slipped through. He caught a slant and just slipped off the tackle and then it was nothing but green grass from there."

As he trotted off the field following Texas' trophy presentation, Cosby was asked what he saw on the game's decisive play.

"A touchdown," he replied, smiling.

McCoy was named the Offensive Player of the Game, but the award easily could have gone to Cosby, who nearly broke free several times and set a Texas bowl record for receptions. Cosby became the first Texas receiver to eclipse 100 yards in a bowl game since Roy Williams in the 2003 Cotton Bowl against LSU.

"He is the MVP in my mind," McCoy said. "On that last play when [Ohio State] brought everybody, he kind of said over and over, 'If I catch the same look give me a slant behind the linebacker. If he comes, you just make that miss, we will score.'

"We had confidence in each other. We have done that all year long."

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Quan Cosby punctuated his college career with an exclamation point.

Cosby, a 26-year-old who played four years in the Los Angeles Angels minor-league system, has always provided stability and leadership for the Longhorns. And on Monday night, he gave them his very best on-field performance.

Cosby snagged a career-high 14 receptions for 171 yards, including a game-winning 26-yard touchdown reception from Colt McCoy with 16 seconds left to boost the Longhorns to a 24-21 victory over Ohio State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

Throughout the season, Cosby had been the complimentary receiver to Jordan Shipley. But his big game enabled the Longhorns to punctuate a 12-1 record that is the second-winningest season in the school's history.

Colt McCoy proved some mettle in the game-winning drive, directing a 79-yard touchdown drive after getting the ball for the final time with 1:58 left.

The victory came despite a struggling defensive performance down the stretch. The Longhorns denied Ohio State a touchdown for the first three quarters before the Buckeyes charged back from a 17-9 deficit to claim the lead on two scoring drives in the fourth quarter. The Texas defense looked gassed on drives that consumed 80 and 73 yards.

But the Longhorns' late rally enabled them to escape with the victory, stretching their bowl winning streak to five games.

McCoy's heroics might have boosted his Heisman hopes for next season by throwing for a career-high 413 yards.

The Longhorns' second-half comeback marked the 22nd such comeback victory for Texas under Mack Brown, including 12 fourth-quarter comebacks.

After the victory, Brown started spinning his team's national title hopes. The Texas coach said he would vote his team No. 1 because of the grit it showed in the comeback victory.

Something about sleepwalking through the first half likely didn't impress many voters who might have had some doubt -- particularly with the impressive performances earlier in the bowl season by USC and Utah.

The Longhorns struggled early as Ohio State won the battle in the trenches early in the game, piling up an early 135-2 edge in rushing yardage in the first half. But Ohio State needed to produce more points as the Buckeyes had 22 plays in Texas territory but produced only six points. Texas was limited to minus-9 yards rushing as running backs Chris Ogbonnaya and Cody Johnson produced only 10 yards.

But the Longhorns took control in the second half, accounting for two touchdowns on their first three drives of the second half to claim the lead. The biggest reason was a no-huddle offense that flummoxed the Buckeyes' defense.

Texas also did a better job on massive Ohio State tailback Chris Wells, who rushed for a game-high 105 yards but produced only nine of them in the second half. Wells struggled with injuries and missed the fourth quarter.

It forced Ohio State to rely on freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor too much. Pryor snagged a touchdown reception but had trouble passing the ball as he completed only 5 of 13 passes for 67 yards and was sacked twice.

It wasn't the most artistic performance, but was still a victory. And after its early struggles in the bowl season, the Big 12 really can't complain much about any kind of win.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Texas needed one final push against a staunch Ohio State defense that had kept Longhorns receivers in front of it all game.

The Longhorns got it from wideout Quan Cosby, who wriggled free of Ohio State safety Anderson Russell and sprinted to the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown pass with 16 seconds left. Quarterback Colt McCoy led a masterful drive as Texas marched 78 yards in 11 plays without using a timeout. Cosby had a huge performance in his final game in a Longhorns uniform.

Though Texas failed to make the statement it needed for a split national title, the favored Longhorns survived to notch their fifth straight bowl victory and third in a BCS game.

Ohio State mounted an impressive fourth-quarter comeback behind quarterbacks Todd Boeckman and Terrelle Pryor, who hooked up for a touchdown with 7:26 left. The Buckeyes' ground attack secured the lead despite a concussion suffered by Chris Wells, but a defense that had stepped up all game couldn't get the final stop.

The Buckeyes weren't embarrassed like the last two seasons and had control for most of the game, but they ended up dropping their third consecutive postseason contest. The Big Ten did absolutely nothing to improve its national reputation with a 1-6 bowl record, arguably the worst postseason performance in league history. The league has lost six consecutive BCS bowls.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Texas finally established the run, and the Longhorns have taken total control of this game.

After finishing the first half with minus-9 net rushing yards, Texas ignited its ground game on two touchdown drives. Fozzy Whittaker, who had no carries in the first half, had four touches in the quarter, and star quarterback Colt McCoy started using his legs to make plays. Chris Ogbonnaya also is finding some gaps in the Buckeyes' defense.

Ohio State's defense looks exhausted despite an admirable performance. Texas used a fast pace to march 85 yards to the end zone, as McCoy and his wideouts continue to build a nice rhythm. The Longhorns had 14 first downs in the quarter, while the Buckeyes couldn't move the chains once.

The missed opportunities in the first half are coming back to haunt Ohio State, which can't get anything going. Some odd play-calling and an inability to get Terrelle Pryor running room are dooming the Buckeyes, who ran only 10 plays in the quarter. Chris "Beanie" Wells has been silent since halftime.

After a sluggish first half, Texas opened the second half the way it needed to, with an 80-yard scoring drive. It took a fake punt, another fourth down conversion and two third-and-long conversions, but the Longhorns broke through.

Ohio State continued to help out with three more penalties. Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa was flagged for an obvious pass interference foul, and defensive end Thad Gibson got hit with his second personal foul for a blow to McCoy's head.

Good news on Ohio State special teams stud Shaun Lane, who had to be carted off in the second quarter after sustaining an injury on kickoff coverage. Lane was taken to a local hospital but has movement in all of his limbs.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Ohio State survived the dreaded second quarter without major damage, but the Buckeyes should be ahead by more than three points.

Jim Tressel's team has executed its game plan against a favored Texas squad boasting the nation's fourth-highest scoring offense (43.9 points per game). Ohio State has dominated possession time (17:19 vs. 12:14), established a run game with Chris "Beanie" Wells (96 rushing yards) and Terrelle Pryor (42 rushing yards) and put consistent pressure on Colt McCoy.

But will it be enough?

Despite a heroic performance by the defense, Ohio State managed only two field goals. Five penalties and lack of execution -- dropped passes, Pryor running out of bounds too soon -- have prevented the Buckeyes from reaching the end zone. An offense that at times relied solely on big plays can't seem to hit the home run against Texas. Ohio State has run 22 plays in Longhorns territory and scored only six points. Not good enough.

But Pryor has been able to find room around the edges, and Ohio State should emphasize outside runs in the second half.

Texas simply needs to run the ball. The Longhorns finished the first half with minus-9 rushing yards and only 10 net yards by running backs Chris Ogbonnaya and Cody Johnson. McCoy has been efficient (20 of 27 passing) but threw an interception near the goal line with three seconds left, preventing a game-tying field-goal attempt.

Both defensive lines are getting pressure, but Ohio State's front has been more impressive. Thad Gibson and Doug Worthington both have sacks, and McCoy is constantly under duress. But Quad Cosby and the Texas wideouts are making plays, and it's only a matter of time before the Longhorns find the end zone.

On the health front, Ohio State lost special teams standout Shaun Lane to an apparent shoulder injury on kickoff coverage with 5:34 left. There's no update on Lane yet, but it's safe to say he won't be back tonight after being carted off.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Once again, Ohio State has an early lead in a big game.

Can the Buckeyes hold it?

The second quarter has doomed Ohio State in recent showcase games and will be crucial against Texas, which is showing some life on offense. Colt McCoy and the Longhorns have accelerated their pace on offense and marched inside Buckeyes' territory after two punts.

Ohio State has controlled the tempo so far, though the Buckeyes don't have much to show for it.

They didn't waste any time unveiling their much-discussed two quarterback plan.

Senior Todd Boeckman took the game's first snap with Terrelle Pryor lined up wide and found Brian Robiskie for a 17-yard gain. Boeckman left the field but re-entered three plays later and threw a beautiful deep fade that Robiskie dropped. The veteran seems on his game and could be a weapon later in the game.

Ohio State has moved the ball decently, but pass-protection problems are already surfacing. Texas All-American rush end Brian Orakpo is schooling Buckeyes left tackle Alex Boone, and Pryor took a sack that nearly took the team out field-goal range.

Pryor looks decent so far, though twice he has curiously run out of bounds when he easily could have gained more yards.

Ohio State was outscored 55-7 in the second quarter in its two national championship game losses and a Sept. 13 setback at USC.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- University of Phoenix Stadium is just as cavernous as it looks on TV, and it will serve as an appropriate setting as two college football giants clash tonight in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (FOX, 8 p.m.).

Media members received a police escort from our resort to the stadium, which was pretty cool until we hit traffic in downtown Phoenix and the cops didn't help much. It was pretty funny to see the reactions from fans, who thought the buses carried Ohio State and Texas players rather than out-of-shape reporters. Sorry to disappoint.

I didn't get much of a chance to walk around, but the parking lots around the stadium are already buzzing with fans of both teams. The highlight was seeing a massive one-piece Jim Cordle jersey worn by four young women, presumably Cordle's friends or family members. If Cordle and his fellow linemen look that big on the field tonight, Texas could be in trouble.

No. 3 Texas enters its first Fiesta Bowl at 11-1, looking to restate its case as a national title contender after getting snubbed from the championship game last month. The Longhorns were a play away from reaching Miami and should be keyed up for this one. No. 10 Ohio State also has plenty to prove after flopping in the last two BCS title games. The Buckeyes are no strangers to Arizona, having won the Fiesta Bowl in 2003, 2004 and 2006. Their last trip inside this stadium ended in defeat, however, as they fell to Florida in the 2007 championship game.

On the health front, Texas has no reported injuries. Ohio State likely will be without third-string running back Brandon Saine, and reserve offensive tackle J.B. Shugarts won't play much if at all. Buckeyes starting wide receiver Brian Hartline might miss a series or two after reportedly committing a team rules violation last week.

Tonight's officiating crew is from the Big East Conference.

Here are three keys for each team heading into tonight's matchup.

TEXAS

  • Get Colt McCoy on the move to establish an early offensive rhythm. Ohio State's defensive line has improved in the second half of the season, but the Buckeyes haven't seen a quarterback as dangerous as McCoy. If he performs anything like he did during the regular season, Texas shouldn't have trouble putting up points.
  • Clog the middle and force Terrelle Pryor to win the game. The pre-game talk has centered on Longhorns All-American defensive end Brian Orakpo, but defensive tackle Roy Miller could be a more important player tonight. Ohio State wants to establish the power run game with Chris "Beanie" Wells. It's up to Miller and his linemates to slow him down.
  • Guard against the big play. Ohio State has been too reliant on big plays this season, but Pryor and his receivers are capable of stretching the field at any time. Texas' secondary is vulnerable, but if the Longhorns keep the wide receivers in front of them, they should be OK.

OHIO STATE

  • Establish Wells and the run game right away. Wells needs to have a huge night for Ohio State to keep pace with Texas. Though the junior thrives in big games, Texas defends the run well and Ohio State's offensive line has underperformed for most of the season. If Wells can wear down the Texas defensive front, Pryor will have opportunities to get creative.
  • Don't be afraid to test the Texas secondary. If there's a weakness for the Longhorns, it's the back four, and while the Buckeyes want to run the ball, they can't shy away from passing on first down. There's been some buzz about using Pryor and fellow quarterback Todd Boeckman on the field together. Sounds like a good idea for an offense that gets stale at times.
  • Defensive stars have to make plays. Linebacker James Laurinaitis and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins will graduate as two of the most decorated Ohio State defenders in team history. As they take the field for their final collegiate game, both men must be major factors in trying to disrupt McCoy and the Longhorns offense.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl preview

January, 5, 2009
1/05/09
10:22
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Here's a quick look at tonight's Tostitos Fiesta Bowl matchup between No. 3 Texas (11-1) and No. 10 Ohio State (10-2).

WHO TO WATCH: Ohio State's 28 seniors finish a truly unique career tonight, but the spotlight will be on junior running back Chris "Beanie" Wells, who likely plays his final collegiate game. If Wells finds running room against Texas, Ohio State will control the clock and keep the high-powered Longhorns offense off the field. These are the types of games that bring out the best in Wells, but he'll need his offensive line to play its top game of the season. If tonight's contest looks anything like Ohio State's Oct. 25 loss to Penn State, in which Wells rushed for only 55 yards, the Buckeyes will get blown out.

WHAT TO WATCH: The game will be won at the line of scrimmage, particularly when Ohio State's offense and Texas' defense are on the field. Longhorns All-American defensive end Brian Orakpo goes up against Ohio State standout left tackle Alex Boone in one of the game's key matchups. Sacks have been a problem at times for Ohio State this season, and Texas leads the country in that category (3.67 per game). On the other side, Ohio State's improved defensive line must put pressure on Texas star quarterback Colt McCoy, who completes 77.6 percent of his passes.

WHY TO WATCH: Both teams have something to prove, and that's rare in bowl games. Texas is fueled by getting snubbed from the BCS title game and could help its cause for a split national championship with a convincing win against Ohio State. Should the Longhorns roll and Oklahoma scrapes past Florida, there might be a split. Ohio State tries to restore its damaged national reputation after back-to-back blowout losses in the championship game. The Buckeyes unfairly take most of the blame for the Big Ten's downfall -- Michigan has a lot to do with it, too -- but they can help themselves and the league with an upset victory.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Who to watch: Texas quarterback Colt McCoy returns to action with a few points to prove. Monday's game will be his first since he was nosed out by Sam Bradford for the Heisman Trophy last month. McCoy is one of the nation's most valuable players after finishing third nationally in pass efficiency, fifth in total offense and even leading his team in rushing this season. The game against Ohio State also will provide him a chance for revenge against the Buckeyes, who beat him in only his second start of his career early in the 2006 season. Since then, McCoy has won 30 of his 36 career starts to become the winningest starting quarterback in school history.

What to watch: The battle in the trenches likely will determine this game. If the Longhorns' pass rush is productive, Texas should have a big advantage. If Brian Orakpo, Sergio Kindle and Roy Miller are able to pressure Ohio State freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor, it could be a long night for the Buckeyes. But if the Ohio State offensive line is keeping the pass rush away from their quarterback, Pryor should have the ability to pick apart Texas' streaky secondary.

Why to watch: The Longhorns are approaching this game with a chip on their shoulders after they were nosed out of the Big 12 championship game by Oklahoma, killing their national title hopes. But this game promises to be an intriguing matchup between two traditional powers with contrasting styles. Texas will match its varied offensive attack against Ohio State's more conventional offense keyed by Chris "Beanie" Wells, who is finally healthy after being hobbled for much of the season with injuries. The Longhorns are undefeated in two previous BCS bowl appearances. However, Ohio State has been remarkably successful against Big 12 teams, posting a 28-4 record in the school's football history, including a 5-0 mark in bowl games. Something has to give.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Mack Brown still gets nervous, even if he doesn't show it. 

When Brown met the media this morning, the Texas head coach recalled a conversation he had with coaching legend Darrell K. Royal about managing anxiety before games. 

 
 Joe Robbins/Getty Images
 Mack Brown doesn't see a playoff system coming to college football anytime soon.

"I asked coach Royal once, 'Did you have trouble sleeping the night before a big game?'" Brown said. "And at Texas they are all big. If you lose one, it gets real big. He said that unless you gag before you brush your teeth on Saturday morning, you are not ready to play.

"I gagged this morning. So I think I'm fine."

Brown will coach in a BCS bowl for the first time since guiding Texas to the national championship when his team takes the field Monday against No. 10 Ohio State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Fox, 8 p.m. ET). Despite his nerves in front of the bathroom sink, Brown showed none in front of reporters as he discussed Texas' final preparations for the game. 

Here are some highlights:

  • Brown doesn't see a playoff system coming to college football, but he acknowledged that the impressive wins by USC and Utah strengthen the argument for one. A Texas blowout of Ohio State certainly would add to the playoff push, which Brown certainly advocates. With many coaches supporting a playoff, Brown encouraged media members to continue the fight. And while he covets a playoff, Brown doesn't want the bowl system to suffer.
"I played at Vanderbilt for two years, and when I saw Vanderbilt kick a last-second field goal to win their first Bowl game since 1955, there will be no team or coaching staff any happier than that Vanderbilt staff was," Brown said. "We do not need to take that away from college football. It is an exciting time. I see 7-5 teams throwing Gatorade on their coach. At Texas, if we were 7-5, they'd be throwing something on me but it wouldn't be Gatorade."
  • The Big 12 has been average at best during the bowl season, with Texas Tech and Oklahoma State losing, and a heavily favored Missouri team struggling mightily against Northwestern. But Brown thinks a conference and its teams shouldn't be evaluated solely on one game, especially a game that might bring lukewarm enthusiasm. 
"We've had some teams that weren't as excited about their game because they didn't get the draw they wanted and they got disappointed at the end of the year," Brown said. "That's the biggest thing in the bowl games: Who has the edge? Who is motivated? Who wants to be there? ... If you look at the games and see who wants to be there and who is motivated because none of us have played for a month, I think that usually tells you the story more than anything else."
  • Brown recounted the process of telling his players that they didn't reach the Big 12 championship game and likely wouldn't be heading to the national championship in Miami. His first directive was to refrain from commenting publicly about the snub and instead let him do the talking. Rather than allowing the players to learn their fate on TV, Brown and his staff sent text messages minutes before the announcement and then scheduled a team meeting several hours later. In the meeting, Brown explained why Texas was left out (the computer rankings weigh road wins more than neutral-site ones), reiterated that the system is flawed and told players not to start throwing a pity party.
"Some people like it," Brown said. "It is better than what we had 10 years ago. But in this case, it didn't work out for you. But one year it didn't work out for [USC]. One year it didn't work out for Auburn. In 2004 it worked out for you when you went to the Rose Bowl to play Michigan. Don't say 'Oh, poor me' and don't say the system was poor to you just this time. It has been poor to a lot of people. This year it was good to Oklahoma instead of us."
  • Texas has tried to strike a balance between fun and serious preparation this week in Arizona. Players were given an 11 p.m. curfew most nights, and Texas hasn't had any disciplinary infractions. Director of player development Ken Rucker gave the players an added incentive not to mess up.
"[Rucker] said if he smelled any alcohol on them, he would kiss them," Brown said. "That took care of that. As far as I know, nobody has been kissed by coach Rucker before they went to bed. If you see coach Rucker, only [his wife] Nancy wants to kiss coach Rucker. It is not a group of guys."
  • Like Ohio State's 28 seniors, Texas' seniors have made a unique impact on the program and the coaches. Longhorns All-American defensive end Brian Orakpo said Thursday that the team might be closer than the 2005 squad that won a national title. They built that foundation as juniors before the 2007 Holiday Bowl, when they spoke up about helping the coaches maintain the right focus.
"A lot of people say this team will be great next year, and that's not necessarily true because when you lose some ingredients, like Orakpo and his leadership and what he has meant to this program or Roy Miller," Brown said. "My experience has been you don't wave the wand and say we have a lot of good players coming back so it works again. For whatever reason it didn't work as well for 2006 and [2007], and it's has worked this year."
  • Brown, on the prospect of Ohio State using quarterbacks Terrelle Pryor and Todd Boeckman on the field together: "We hope it works as well as ours. I think ours had five plays for minus-12 yards."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The term "loose" doesn't seem to fit a guy whose trademark outfit is a sweater vest, but Ohio State's Jim Tressel might be the more relaxed head coach come Monday night.

His Texas counterpart, Mack Brown, thinks so.

 
 Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
 Jim Tressel says there is something special about this group of Ohio State seniors.

Brown admitted this morning that Texas has more pressure heading into Monday's matchup in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Fox, 8 p.m.). The Longhorns are heavy favorites who can strengthen their argument for a national championship with a win against the Buckeyes, a team most are counting out.

"You'll see a loose Jim Tressel who's going to go for it," Brown said.

Tressel sounded fine with that assessment.

"Oh, I'm loose," Tressel said. "I think about the opportunity, especially for our 28 seniors, you do want to let it all hang out. You're not going to hold anything in reserve."

Compared to the charismatic Brown, Tressel was fairly reserved during his pre-bowl news conference. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Buckeyes freshman defensive end Nathan Williams will face some playing-time penalties after being charged with shoplifting last month. Williams pleaded not guilty Dec. 16 and faces a pretrial hearing March 16. Tressel also responded to a question about whether starting wide receiver Brian Hartline would face any discipline for a possible team rules violation during the week in Arizona. "We may have some discussions as we go," Tressel said, "but for the moment, Brian Hartline is going to have a great part of this football game."
  • Running back Chris "Beanie" Wells appeared to leave the door open for a return in 2009, but Tressel, who has said Wells is ready for the NFL, maintained that stance. "He is feeling as if he doesn't want to do anything to distract from this moment, because it's a special moment," Tressel said. "I have felt all along that with his talent and the position he plays and those kinds of thing, that [going pro] may end up being the best thing, that he move along. But we haven't had that discussion." Translation: It would be shocking if Wells stayed in school.
  • Third-string running back Brandon Saine hasn't done much in pre-bowl practice because of an injury and likely won't play against Texas. He will dress for the game. Freshman reserve tackle J.B. Shugarts has practiced and will be available Monday before likely undergoing postseason surgery.
  • Like Brown, Tressel emphasized the importance of special teams in Monday's matchup. Ohio State has been excellent on punt and kickoff coverage and ranks 14th nationally in punt returns (12.9 YPR), while Texas ranks third nationally in net punting and has blocked six kicks, four by freshman cornerback Aaron Williams. Return men Ray Small (Ohio State) and Jordan Shipley (Texas) are both capable of going to the house. "When you have depth like they have on defense, you're going to have great speed in your special units," Tressel said.
  • Tressel doesn't seem concerned that Ohio State's recent big-game losses will place an added burden on his team, but he acknowledges he's more excited about this bowl than he has been in a while. The team's 28 seniors have something to do with it. "Why is this one? Why do I feel that way? There has been something awfully special about this group of kids," Tressel said. "Maybe it is because it is today, I don't know. They have been very unselfish. They have prepared extremely hard. They care about one another. They have fun with one another."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Roy Miller tried to take a glass-half-full approach with the polls this season. 

It lasted about two weeks. 

"The voters ain't been too good to us," the Texas senior defensive tackle said. "I don't know what to think."

After being snubbed from the BCS national title game despite beating one of the participants (Oklahoma), the third-ranked Longhorns understandably aren't too fond of the pollsters.

The possibility of a split national championship is being floated this week in the desert, as Texas prepares to face No. 10 Ohio State on Monday night in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (FOX, 8 p.m. ET). Should Texas crush Ohio State and Oklahoma sneak by Florida, the AP voters could always put Texas -- or even USC -- at No. 1 in their final poll. 

"I'm not going to get wrapped up in that," Miller said. "I just want to have a good game. That's all we can do, control what we can, play to a national championship standard. I don't want to get wrapped up in, 'Maybe we may get this many votes.'

"As history has shown, we've been very disappointed after the voters' decisions." 

Texas All-American defensive end Brian Orakpo acknowledged the national title game snub serves as fuel heading into Monday's matchup. But anything beyond that, including a split title, doesn't concern the Longhorns. 

"Obviously before we were very disappointed, not getting in there and dwelling and being sad and all that stuff," Orakpo said. "But we put that aside a long time ago in Austin. We're very well focused. We're happy to be here at the Fiesta Bowl. 

"We'll see come January 6th and the next day. If it goes our way, then hey, we've got an argument. But we've got to take care of business."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- They are polar opposites in public and represent two very different regions of the country, but Texas' Mack Brown and Ohio State's Jim Tressel have forged a common bond the last few seasons. 

Both men oversee big-time programs with big-time fan bases and big-time expectations. Both recruit at an extremely high level. And both coach in the shadow of legends, Texas' Darrell K. Royal and Ohio State's Woody Hayes. 

Despite two impressive head-coaching résumés, both of which include national championships, Brown and Tressel, whose teams meet Monday in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, recognize they'll likely never measure up to icons like Royal and Hayes. 

"These are two men that he and I idolized growing up," Brown said. "It's not like we're sitting around thinking, 'I'm going to be Darrell Royal.' Even [Royal] said one day, 'I hope you break all my records.'

"I said, 'Coach, I'm not going to be alive long enough to break all your records, so don't worry about it.'"

Brown is 114-26 in 11 seasons at Texas, a winning percentage of .814, while Tressel boasts an 83-18 mark at Ohio State (.822). Two outstanding records for sure, but not quite at the level of Royal and Hayes, who combined to win eight national championships. 

"We both believe that the game is bigger than us," Tressel said of himself and Brown. "We both believe that the schools we're at filled the stands long before we came and we'll never be the Woody Hayeses of the place, but we are the people that have the responsibility to try and maintain that type of excellence."

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