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Published: Thursday, 1/3/2008

Ohio State vs. LSU ... and the myth

NEW ORLEANS - The numbers were staggering. So was the result.

A year ago, when Ohio State last visited the BCS national championship game, the No. 1-ranked Buckeyes had all their laurels stuffed wherever it is laurels are stuffed. Florida chopped the Buckeyes into Gator Bait. The score was 41-14, the total yards were 370-82, and the first downs were 21-8.

From this came a myth. Ohio State and its Big Ten brethren are slow. Teams from the SEC are like the smoky trails of a jet against a baby blue sky. They simply streak. They wear capes, not uniforms.

The Buckeyes have been hearing all of that and more as they return to the BCS title stage against LSU, another SEC power.

OSU will lose in the Superdome next Monday because its players are slow, lumbering, plodding pack mules. The thoroughbreds will be wearing purple and gold.

What garbage.

Was Ohio State slow in 2003 when it beat Miami for the national title? Were the Buckeyes slow while posting subsequent BCS non-title wins over Kansas State and Notre Dame? Were the Buckeyes slow when Ted Ginn returned the opening kickoff against Florida 93 yards for a touchdown? Could a slow team send about a gadzillion first-round draft picks to the NFL over the past few years?

Jim Tressel and his troops arrived here in the Big Easy yesterday and you won't believe one of the first questions asked by a local media type who has obviously gargled with the SEC's Kool-Aid.

It went something like this: "Do you have more respect now for the SEC in terms of speed after what Georgia did [Tuesday] night to Hawaii?"

Deep down inside, Tressel probably wanted to reach out and strangle the guy with one of those leis Hawaii's coaches wear around their necks. Hawaii? The most undeserving BCS bowl team ever? Georgia, of the SEC, gets speeding bullet points for beating up on Hawaii?

Of course, Tressel just smiled and said: "You can't get much greater respect than what I've had for the SEC. I've had a chance now for two years in a row to watch almost every [SEC] team play. When you're in a bowl game you have every film and you watch every team in the league [against] the folks you are preparing for. I have great respect for that league. And Georgia, they were something last night. They were flying all over the place.

"We have tremendous respect for the SEC, and all that [its teams] bring. So, sure, [the speed] is talked about a lot. It just so happens that we've gotten a bonus Big Ten-SEC match-up the past couple of years."

And the Buckeyes might well lose that matchup for the second straight year.

But it won't be because the OSU players have their 40 times clocked by sand pebbles sifting through an hourglass.

"[We're] a totally different team from last year," said cornerback Malcolm Jenkins. "But the truth is that even last year speed wasn't the difference. The difference was Florida made more plays."

That's because Florida was more physical. Because its defensive ends created havoc on the edges. Because Ginn was lost to an injury while celebrating that early TD and the Bucks, including Tressel, panicked without him.

"They do so much with great talent," OSU receiver Brian Robiskie said of LSU. "They do have a lot of speed. Everybody says we're the underdogs and maybe we are. But we know our potential. We think we play pretty good football in the Big Ten, too. We have the stage now to prove it."

And to disprove the myth.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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