COLUMBUS - Today's Ohio State-Michigan game marks the 75th anniversary of the gold pants - that tiny charm that is a replica of a pair of football pants and is awarded to Ohio State players and coaches after victories over Michigan.
This unique piece of Buckeyes tradition was started in 1934 when first-year OSU coach Francis Schmidt wanted to impress upon his players that Michigan, which had shut out the Buckeyes two years in a row, was not to be feared.
"How about Michigan? They put their pants on one leg at a time, the same as we do," Schmidt said.
Schmidt's Ohio State teams won the next four meetings of the two rivals - all by shutouts.
"I love that tradition, and the story behind the gold pants," Ohio State kicker Ryan Pretorius said. "But you can never have enough of them. Everybody wants more gold."
Pretorius and the rest of the Ohio State seniors will earn a fourth pair of gold pants if they can defeat Michigan this afternoon in Ohio Stadium. The heavily-favored Buckeyes could also be playing for the "real" gold that lies beyond this game.
With a victory, Ohio State earns a chunk of a fourth straight Big Ten championship, sharing that honor with the winner of the Penn State-Michigan State game, which takes place later in the afternoon. The Buckeyes also would position themselves for a potentially huge payday in a Bowl Championship Series game six weeks from now.
The five BCS bowl games (Fiesta, Orange, Rose, Sugar, and the national championship game) pay out a minimum of $17 million to the participating teams. One popular scenario has Penn State winning at home over the Spartans, and thereby taking the Big Ten's automatic BCS bid via a tie-breaker, since the Nittany Lions defeated Ohio State this season.
If that is the case, the Buckeyes would still be a top contender for an at-large bid to the BCS party.
"We're not worrying about all of that, or even thinking about any of it," Ohio State senior Brian Robiskie said. "That all gets worked out once everyone is done playing, and we've still got a big game to play against Michigan. All of our attention is on Michigan."
Should Ohio State win today's game, and Penn State defeat Michigan State, then Oregon State's fate becomes a primary source of interest for the Buckeyes.
At this juncture, the Beavers are poised to take the Pac-10 automatic bid if they can win their final two games, which would push Southern California into an at-large status, and likely drop the Buckeyes to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, which has a payout of less than $5 million.
The money matters, but not as much as it appears, since the Buckeyes have to turn their entire bowl payout over to the Big Ten conference office. The Big Ten has seven bowl partnerships, and once all the payouts are collected, the conference splits the take evenly between all 11 of its members.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel deflects any of the postseason speculation or discussion of the bowl scenarios by restating his belief that the Buckeyes will earn their appropriate bowl assignment with their performances throughout the season.
"We always tell the players that you get what your work deserves," Tressel said.
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