Sunday, December 7, 2008
No. 3 Texas faces off with No. 10 Ohio State in Fiesta Bowl
PHOENIX -- Mack Brown believes his third-ranked Texas Longhorns deserved a shot at the national title.
Now that they'll get a shot at No. 10 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, Brown looked on the bright side.
"It's time for us to put the past week behind us with all the BCS stuff and move forward and look forward to a great game," Brown said on a teleconference.
The question is, will Texas-Ohio State be a great game?
In each of the last two seasons, the Buckeyes have been outclassed in the Bowl Championship Series title game, losing to Southeastern Conference powers Florida and Louisiana State.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel called the Longhorns (11-1) "every bit as good as those teams we played the last two years."
The Longhorns finished in a three-way tie atop the rugged Big 12 South and thought their 10-point victory over Oklahoma should have earned them the nod over the Sooners. But Oklahoma was declared the division winner on a BCS standings tiebreaker, and the Sooners ripped Missouri in the Big 12 title game to earn a trip to Miami for the national title game.
Interestingly, Tressel and Brown both ranked the Longhorns second in their final ballots in the coaches poll. But Tressel had Oklahoma No. 1 and Brown ranked Florida first.
"The BCS doesn't satisfy everybody," Brown said. "We've been on the positive side of it a few times. We've been on the negative side a few times."
Instead of playing for their second national title in four seasons, the Longhorns will have to make do with a Jan. 5 date in Glendale, Ariz., against Ohio State (10-2).
Brown rejected a suggestion that his players might have trouble finding inspiration.
"I do not think the BCS will matter," Brown said. "The ratings do not matter. Anybody who has a chance to play in the Fiesta Bowl, in the BCS, against Ohio State, is not going to be flat."
Texas has played in one Fiesta Bowl, losing to Penn State 38-15 after the 1996 season.
The Buckeyes are making their fourth straight BCS appearance and seventh overall, tied with Oklahoma and USC for the most. The Buckeyes are 4-2 in BCS bowls, but most fans remember their last two appearances -- a 48-14 loss to Florida in Glendale in January 2007 and a 38-24 loss to LSU in New Orleans last January.
Speaking to reporters in Columbus, Ohio, Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis said the Buckeyes have tried to forget those games.
"To be honest, we don't try to think about it too much," he said. "We're going to get asked that question over and over and over until you win one of those games."
The Buckeyes seemed to have no chance at returning to a BCS bowl after a 35-3 whipping at Rose Bowl-bound Southern California on Sept. 13. But after installing freshman Terrelle Pryor at quarterback, Ohio State finished 8-1, with the lone loss coming by a touchdown against Penn State, which is also headed for the Rose Bowl.
Ohio State defeated two ranked teams -- No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 20 Michigan State -- but also padded its record with victories over Youngstown State and Ohio and Troy.
"We're looking forward to being back in the Valley of the Sun," Tressel said.
The Fiesta Bowl didn't hesitate to invite Ohio State and its scarlet-and-gray legions for the sixth time, and the fourth since 2003.
After the Fiesta lost Big 12 champion Oklahoma to the BCS title game, it was a no-brainer to replace the Sooners with Texas. When it came time to name an opponent for the Longhorns, the Fiesta had to decide between tradition and rankings.
It picked tradition, selecting Ohio State over Utah, the undefeated Mountain West Conference champion ranked three slots higher. The Utes, who were guaranteed a BCS berth, will face Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
"We looked at all the possibilities on the board," Fiesta Bowl president and CEO John Junker said. "We respect very much the other programs that qualified. But we felt that once we looked at all the factors that it was a pretty clear-cut decision."
One important factor, Junker said, was the high television ratings for the 2006 regular-season meeting between the Buckeyes and Longhorns, a game won by Ohio State after a loss to Texas the year before. That helped outweigh concerns that the Fiesta has seen too much of the Buckeyes in recent years.
"We thought about that," Junker said. "The key question we had about Ohio State was how do your players and coaches feel? There was a level of enthusiasm there that we felt good about.
"If people want to criticize us for having Ohio State too much, that's certainly their right," Junker said. "But as co-champions of the Big Ten, we think that's something that's notable."