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Opportunity awaits Buckeyes at Rose Bowl

For Ohio State, the Rose Bowl isn’t about taking it to Oregon, basking in the Pasadena sun or relaxing with Chris Fowler and Co. on the set of College GameDay.

For three consecutive years, Ohio State has concluded its season in the same fashion, with a loss in a BCS bowl game.

This year, another opportunity on one of college football’s grand stages has provided the Buckeyes with a focus on their internal battle to prove to the nation they belong with the country’s elite, despite representing a conference maligned by poor postseason performance.

Ohio State’s most recent trip to Southern California ended with a 35-3 failure against the USC Trojans in Sept. 2008. Southern Cal put a damper on OSU’s season again in ’09, beating the Bucks in Columbus, 18-15, on Sept. 12. While many fans expected- and anxiously hoped, for the sake of revenge- that USC would represent the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl, Oregon instead claimed the conference title for the first time since 2001.

Still, the brawl between the No. 8 Bucks and No. 7 Ducks will allow the winner to assert itself into the pantheon of college football in 2009. Without a grudge held over their opponent, the Buckeyes can concentrate on repairing their image, aided by a decisive victory over a respected adversary, as Oregon is.

The lack of prominent history between the two schools has caused a lack of enticing storylines to lead up to the game itself.

The teams appear evenly matched, with OSU’s No. 5 ranked rushing defense well-suited to slow down Oregon’s No. 7 ranked rushing offense. On the other side, an inconsistent Buckeye offense and rather generous Ducks defense also appear to match up well.

Jim Tressel’s squad rushed for at least 225 yards in each of its last five contests, all of which were Buckeye victories. And while many assume he will call another offensive scheme close to the vest, there remains the possibility that Tressel opens things up, as he did in last year’s Fiesta Bowl loss to Texas, when quarterback Terrelle Pryor lined up at wide receiver on several occasions.

Tressel’s trust in his sophomore quarterback will determine Ohio State’s aggressiveness on offense. Pryor hasn’t been asked to do much more than hand the ball off to his running backs in recent weeks, which has been a winning formula. It has, however, brought about questions concerning Pryor’s lack of progression. A large part in a Rose Bowl victory would do wonders for his development.

Nevertheless, even if Tressel continues his Buckeye boredom on offense, the ground game should be successful enough to keep the score close, as many expect, with Oregon being designated a slight favorite.

The Buckeyes were bested twice during the regular season, by USC and Purdue, both of which Oregon defeated.

Therefore, expect Lee Corso to don a bothersome beak and quack the ears off of Buckeye alum Kirk Herbstreit on College GameDay in Pasadena.

For Ohio State, the Rose Bowl marks an opportunity to erase three years of agony and defeat, and replace them with a signature win.

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