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Published: Monday, 12/8/2008

Buckeyes will face Texas in Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 5

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBUS - Over the past six years, Arizona's Valley of the Sun has been a place of great pleasure and great pain for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

On Jan. 5, Ohio State will be back in the desert southwest trying to add another positive chapter to its legacy. The No. 10-ranked Buckeyes were selected last night by the Bowl Championship Series to meet No. 3 Texas in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl.

In the 2002 season, Ohio State upset top-ranked Miami 31-24 in two overtimes in the Fiesta Bowl to win the national championship game, played in Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.

Two years ago, unbeaten and top-ranked Ohio State got routed 41-14 by Florida in the title game, played in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale at University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals.

Ohio State senior linebacker James Laurinaitis said last night he is excited about the opportunity to play in a fourth straight BCS game and to return to Arizona.

He said the Buckeyes have been haunted by the loss to Florida and the defeat they suffered at the hands of Louisiana State in last year's title game.

"We get asked about that over and over and over, until we win one of those games," Laurinaitis said. "It will be nice to get down there again, and hopefully this time, there will be better

memories."

Ohio State will be making its sixth appearance in the Fiesta Bowl, and playing in the Phoenix area for the fifth time in seven years.

The Buckeyes are making their seventh BCS bowl appearance, tied with Oklahoma and USC for the most. OSU is 4-2 in those bowls,

Senior defensive back Malcolm Jenkins said the Buckeyes are thrilled with their bowl destination, which was not a certainty until last night.

"We love going out to Arizona. We never get tired of it," Jenkins said. "It's always a good trip when we go to Arizona."

The Buckeyes, who finished their season Nov. 22 with a 42-7 win over rival Michigan, will resume practice later this week, following final exams.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said the two tradition-rich programs have enough recent history to make the matchup even more exciting. The Buckeyes (10-2) and Texas (11-1) have met twice in the past four years, each winning on the opposing team's home field.

"They are a great program historically and they may have one of their finest teams they've ever had, this year," Tressel said. "It's a tremendous opportunity for our guys."

The Longhorns finished tied with Oklahoma and Texas Tech for the lead in the loaded Big 12 South but failed to make their conference championship game despite a 10-point win over Oklahoma during the season. The Big 12 tie-breaker, based on BCS rankings, put the Sooners in the league championship game where they crushed Missouri. Oklahoma then vaulted into the BCS national championship game to face Florida.

Tressel said he would have a tough time determining who should be left out in that

picture.

"Based upon what I saw - Oklahoma, Texas, Florida - flip a coin there," he said.

Tressel said he did not think missing out on a chance to play for the national title would serve as any additional motivation for Texas, which lost only to Texas Tech this season.

"They don't need that - they're good enough without it," Tressel said about the Longhorns feeling slighted. "We're going to see an awfully, awfully good football team. When they hit you, they hit you hard."

Jenkins said what he has seen of Texas has him convinced the Longhorns are a team that has the talent to be in the national title game. But he said the Buckeyes, still stinging from those title game losses the past two years, will concentrate exclusively on their preparation.

"It's going to be vital for us. Everybody's going to remember your last game, and for the seniors this is our last game," Jenkins said. "We're going to go out there and play like we know we can, and whatever happens, happens."

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.




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