NEWS

Ohio State hopes for redemption in this year's title game

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

The back door to the national title game opened and Ohio State gladly -- if not proudly -- walked through.

LSU barged through the roof of the Superdome in its home state after a wild, upset-ridden college football season came to an end with the top two teams losing in the final week and college football’s method of determining a champion turned on its ear, again.

The top two teams in the country will meet Jan. 7 in game that isn’t a collision course as much as it is accidental.

Ohio State returned to No. 1 in both the writers’ and coaches’ polls, and fell into the top slot in the BCS rankings after Missouri got thumped -- again -- by Oklahoma, and West Virginia took a black-eyed beating at home against four-touchdown underdog Pittsburgh. As flawed as the BCS system may be, at least seven teams had a chance determine their own destiny at one point.

“The brass ring was there for a lot of different people to grab and they didn’t,” BCS Coordinator and SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said. “It allowed (Ohio State and LSU), early on in the polls seemingly two of the better teams in the country, to find their way back because some teams couldn’t grab the brass ring when they had a chance.”

Then again, isn’t that about par for the course this season? It’s been a college football season that started with Appalachian State beating Michigan and ended with a Mountaineer meltdown.

“It’s fitting,” Ohio State right tackle and co-captain Kirk Barton said. “It was refreshing watching the Pitt game. We got a second chance, which is all you need. That was exciting. Obviously after the disappointment of last year, we know we have to work differently. This is it. This is our shot.”

The Buckeyes get an opportunity to redeem themselves from last season’s disappointing showing in the national title game against Florida.

Heading off any hint of satisfaction, Jim Tressel started with himself. Ohio State is playing for its third national championship in six years and second in a row. Last year, the Buckeyes may have been too fat on their own rankings, press clippings and reputation before getting waxed by Florida in the national title game.

“That won’t get us anything,” Tressel said. “It’s not like we go in with a 2-point lead or anything. ... It says we’ve been fortunate to have good players. I’ve been blessed with a tremendous coaching staff.”

Tressel’s final ballot has OSU No. 1, followed by LSU and each of the major conference champs rounded out his top five.

The mantra all season for the Buckeyes to the country was they’re better than a 41-14 drubbing from the best in the SEC a year ago.

“That’s the only way to seal it is with a championship,” Barton said.

Most of the team gathered Saturday night to watch the games together. Tressel worked in his office and occasionally popped in to watch with players. Barton said Tressel smiled when it became clear OSU had a second chance.

“I was really happy for our kids,” Tressel said. “Our kids were hoping they’d get a chance to play in that game. It’s so special. ... We came into the year as an inexperienced team. I thought we had capable talent. I knew we had good kids. ... We got a little bit better, a little bit better and a little bit better. ... You’re going to see two teams with a lot of character about them.”

Tressel didn’t want to say how he’d use this second chance for motivation.

“One of the things we always wanted to be in 2007 was a better team,” Tressel said. “We don’t want to worry about 2006, or what we were supposed to do or not do. It will be interesting to see how the next several weeks evolve and what phraseology is put on it.”

No matter how the Buckeyes got to the Bayou, they got there. LSU, the biggest fastest team in the SEC, will try to inflict the kind of mental anguish OSU dealt with for three months in the offseason. Barton doesn’t want to leave this program feeling that way again.

“You realize the disappointment and how bad you feel for months on end after you perform the way we did last January,” Barton said. “That feeling is going to be reinforced the whole time we’re here, and it will be remembered until we do something to forget it.”

Reach Repository sports writer Todd Porter at (330) 580-8340 or e-mail todd.porter@cantonrep.com