NEW ORLEANS - Twin chrome smokestacks glistening in the sun, 11 Buckeye leaves dotting each side, and bands of red, white and black on top of its wide, gray sides, the Ohio State equipment truck did more than stand out as it negotiated the tight brick streets along the Mississippi River waterfront here.
It was clear the No. 1 Buckeyes were in town.
The 18-wheeler was loaded Monday in Columbus, and was here in advance of the players and coaching staff, who made intermittent arrivals yesterday as they returned from the New Year's Day holiday and reported to the site of Monday's BCS National Championship Game against second-ranked LSU.
While the toughest part of the trip for the equipment truck was likely the last few miles through the maze of constricted clearances in this downtown area, Ohio state head coach Jim Tressel initially had trouble getting an exact head count on his team as players flew in from a number of different directions, and faced snags several places.
"There was a group [that got delayed] going through Chicago and they got here, and then another group going through Atlanta, and I think they just arrived," Tressel said yesterday morning after arriving by charter from Columbus with the rest of the Ohio State coaches and their families.
"I haven't heard of anyone who is going to have a problem getting here when we need them to be here," he added, saying everyone was expected to be present for an informal welcoming get-together.
The Buckeyes first practice is this morning at 11 at nearby Tulane University. The equipment they'll require for that session made the over-the-road trip in the tractor-trailer rig.
That unit, dressed with a bright, red block "O" on each side, just behind the sleeper cab, carried everything the Ohio State football family should need - from the 350 pairs of football shoes to the baby strollers for the toddlers in the travel party.
The truck's diverse manifest also showed the following: 125 sets of shoulder pads and helmets, 120 footballs, 500 pairs of gloves, 100 cases of Gatorade, 50 cases of athletic tape, 600 band-aids, laptop computers, a computer server with 500 hours of video storage, projectors, 50 power cables, 900 bowl and season media guides, exercise bikes, coolers and toys.
The load also included the players' textbooks, and computers for the academic staff, since classes start today on the Ohio State campus and the Buckeyes will be doing schoolwork while they prepare to play LSU.
CARR'S RIDE: Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said yesterday that he thoroughly enjoyed watching rival Michigan send its coach Lloyd Carr into retirement with a bowl game win over Florida. In Carr's final game as head coach, the Wolverines were 41-35 winners over the Gators, the team that routed Ohio State in last year's BCS title game. Tressel said it was a good moment for the man, and the Big Ten Conference.
"I felt great about that," Tressel said in remarks to the media after arriving here. "Lloyd Carr is one of the gentlemen in our profession, and to see his team respond and play so well ... Obviously they are members of our conference and we are proud of that. Lloyd Carr has had an extraordinary career, if you look at his resume and what he's accomplished, it's always nice for someone to end it that way."
POINTS SPREAD: Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said the preponderance of scoring in this season's bowl games is not due to extra preparation time or any newest of schemes developed by the game's offensive minds. Instead, he thinks the points come because the tackling skills erode in the weeks before the bowls.
"Maybe I don't have this number, but I'll bet you there's more missed tackles in bowl games than there are during the season," Tressel said. "For me, I don't know of any other answer as to why there are more points scored, because if you tackle them, they don't score. I'm guessing there's more missed tackles."
ALL PLAY: Tressel said he enjoys the pageantry and electricity surrounding the bowls so much, that he makes no distinction between time spent on strictly football, and that devoted to seeing the sights
"The beauty of my job is that work is play," Tressel said, "so I love the heck out of bowl games."29.95369 -90.07771