COLUMBUS - Bowl games bring unfamiliar opponents, teams that are not normally on the schedule, or from the same part of the country.
Once the pairings are revealed, research precedes the preparation. You have to know your foe before you can game-plan for them. But as top-ranked Ohio State readies for its Jan. 7 game with No. 2 Louisiana State University, the groundwork will go a little differently.
They have not only been behind enemy lines, they've been in the camp. They've seen the LSU Tigers in their lair. Not just an Ohio State coach or two, but coach Jim Tressel's entire offensive and defensive staffs.
Early this spring, before the Buckeyes started their spring practice here in the chilly Midwest, the Ohio State brain trust flew to Louisiana and was the guest of LSU coach Les Miles as his team went through spring workouts in a warmer clime.
"We just called Les up and said that we fully expected him to be in the championship game," Tressel joked during a teleconference that brought the two together, as Miles had a good laugh in the background.
"And we wanted to come down there and get as much information as we could, in case we had a chance to play," Tressel continued.
"And get all the info," a laughing Miles added.
Both coaches explained that the visit was nothing out of the ordinary. In the spring of 2006, one member of Tressel's staff visited Florida's spring practice, and then the Buckeyes ended up facing the Gators in last season's title game.
"But it's not like we're an espionage group," Tressel said.
Tressel said this past spring's visit to LSU was just coaches working at their profession - until fate and one of the wackiest seasons in college football brought the two teams together again, but this time in the Louisiana Superdome for the biggest trophy of all.
"Our fraternity is a special one, in that we share ideas," Tressel said. "What we are all about is helping young people become the best they can be, on the field and off the field, preparing them for the future, football-wise and otherwise."
Tressel, whose team spent all of last season ranked No. 1, then returned to the top spot for a while this year before losing to Illinois in week 11 and then resurfacing as No. 1 after the final weekend's games, said that his host for that spring confab has extended the courtesy to others, as well.
"Les has always opened up his doors, not only to us but to many, many people because he runs a good program," Tressel said. And our guys had a chance to go down and watch spring practice and talk football. That's just what we do in our profession."
Miles, who had his 11-2 team ranked No. 1 twice this season before a pair of triple-overtime losses, said the session with the Ohio State coaches this spring was beneficial to both sides.
"We so enjoyed the Ohio State coaching staff, and it was a sharing thing, too, so we enjoyed it," Miles said.
"It was not necessarily where they were learning from us as much as we were sharing the ways to get things done. I think it's indicative of a quality program trying to increase its ability to be productive. It happens, really all across America in many programs."
Tressel, whose has his 11-1 team in the national title game for the second year in a row and the third time in the past six years, said his staff returned from the bayou country thoroughly impressed with the Tigers.
"They saw them first-hand," Tressel said, "and they came back and it was like, whoa, they've got some guys."
He added that the expectation is that such confabs are mutually beneficial.
"I hope our guys shared some thoughts and ideas that were helpful," Tressel said.
Tressel was asked if he was surprised that Miles, a former player and assistant coach at Ohio State's bitter rival Michigan, would allow the Buckeyes a behind- the-curtain look at LSU.
"You know, Les was an Ohio man before he was a Michigan man," Tressel said about Miles, a native of Elyria.
Contact Matt Markey at:
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock, whose unit held opponents without a first down on nearly half of their possessions, won the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's top assistant coach.
The Buckeyes allowed just under 11 points per game. Opponents went "three-and-out" on 48.5 percent of their possessions.
Other finalists for the award were Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen, West Virginia offensive coordinator Calvin Magee, Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and Kansas defensive coordinator Bill Young.34.74865 -92.27449