December 15, 2010
It's that time of year again, Buckeye fans, when Ohio State starts revving up for a big-money bowl game with the weight a very specific monkey on its back. Last year, it was a three-year BCS losing streak, successfully exorcised with a Rose Bowl over Oregon. This year, the Sugar Bowl date with Arkansas on Jan. 4 brings OSU face to face again with their most grating old saw: 0-9 vs. SEC teams in bowl games since 1978.
Usually, the reminder comes from chest-thumping SEC fans, who have the number at the ready. (Though they tend to be less familiar with, say, the conference's awful record against Michigan, or its .500 mark against Big Ten teams in Jan. 1 games since 2000, or its decade-long subjugation at the hands of the Big East, or anything else that disrupts the self-perpetuating narrative of S-E-C! dominance.) This time, though, the latest round of trash talk is coming straight from the sweatervest:
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—The Ohio State Buckeyes are tired of hearing how their predecessors have lost all nine bowl meetings with teams from the Southeastern Conference. And they're really angry about coach Jim Tressel’s recent reading material to them.
Tressel produced a fan's e-mail the other day that said Ohio State couldn't compete with and didn’t belong on the same field with an SEC team. That’s timely since the Buckeyes take on Arkansas of the SEC in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4.
"It was something that most guys may have shrugged off, but me, I took it personally," linebacker Brian Rolle said on Tuesday during Ohio State's annual bowl media day. "Having been here in '07 and not faring too well against LSU and watching that game, I just take it to heart. I'm taking that (e-mail) into the game with a chip on my shoulder."
"The last couple of outings, we've been destroyed by SEC teams so it's something that's always in the back of our minds," said Buckeyes safety Jermale Hines.
Maybe in his mind, and a few others: Hines is one of ten current Buckeye seniors (seven of them starters) who saw the field in any capacity as freshmen in the 2007 BCS Championship loss to LSU. The vast majority of the lineup returning to the Superdome in three weeks – including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, receiver DeVier Posey and All-American center Mike Brewster, stars of OSU's hyped 2008 recruiting class – watched that game as high school seniors. Guard Justin Boren watched it as a redshirt freshman at Michigan, from whence freshman teammate Ryan Mallett had just decided to transfer. Somehow, this group doesn't seem like the type to get the vapors at the prospect of lining up across from the SEC West runners-up.
Vegas doesn't think so, either: The Buckeyes are 3½-point favorites to end the streak. Then again, if you can't trust a randomly distributed, nine-game sample involving mostly forgotten players over a span of 32 years, what can you trust?
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.