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Published: Tuesday, 12/9/2008

Texas might take frustration out on OSU

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Texas coach Mack Brown, led his team to a neutral site victory over now No. 1 Oklahoma. Texas coach Mack Brown, led his team to a neutral site victory over now No. 1 Oklahoma.
CHARLIE RIEDEL / AP Enlarge

Everything seems to point to an angry, bitter Texas team getting off the plane in Phoenix in less than three weeks and possibly taking out its mountain of frustrations on Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

The two national powerhouses were matched up in the Jan. 5 game by the Bowl Championship Series, and while the Buckeyes (10-2) seem elated to be back in the desert Southwest, Texas (11-1) likely thinks its rightful stage is 2,000 miles away, in Miami, where the national championship game will be played.

With losses to No. 5 Southern California and No. 8 Penn State this season, Ohio State could have ended up out of a BCS game. But the No. 10 Buckeyes make their fifth trip to Arizona in seven years, likely based on the strength of their tradition and the economic punch of their substantial fan base.

Texas has had to accept its exclusion from the BCS title game, despite the fact the Longhorns are the only team in the nation to beat No. 1 Oklahoma this season - a convincing enough 45-35 win at a neutral site two months ago.

The Sooners piled up some impressive wins down the stretch, and in the polls leap-frogged the Longhorns, whose only loss was a 39-33 road defeat to Texas Tech. First Oklahoma got the Big 12 South bid to the conference title game and then the Sooners received an invite to the Big One in south Florida.

That left Texas at the curb, psychologically speaking. Longhorns coaches and players have been trying to say all the right things to keep the bowl guys in those Rodney Dangerfield sport coats happy, but there are momentary lapses when it appears that, indeed, hell hath no fury like a BCS contender scorned.

"We've put this recent challenge of not making the Big 12 championship game behind us, and we are disappointed we didn't make it to the national championship game," defensive end Brian Orakpo said. "We know we're still worthy of being considered one of the best teams in the nation and are focused on proving to everyone what a great team we are."

Wide receiver Quan Crosby spread around a few flowery phrases, and then added: "Clearly, we still have a lot to prove, and a lot to play for."

Defensive tackle Roy Miller admitted Texas preferred other travel plans, and now needs to make some kind of statement against the Buckeyes.

"Even though we're disappointed we're not playing in the national championship game, it's a great way to finish our season and show what kind of team we really are," Miller said.

Texas coach Mack Brown minimized the impact of the BCS assignments and said Oklahoma-envy won't become a distraction when the Longhorns prep for the Fiesta Bowl.

"Being that it's Ohio State helps, so I really don't think the BCS will matter," Brown said. "You go back and look and the BCS hasn't satisfied everybody, and we've been on the positive side of it a few times, and we've been on the negative side of it a few times."

Ohio State senior defensive back Malcolm Jenkins said Texas has a legitimate gripe over being left out of the title game.

"They should have been in the national championship as far as just wins and things like that, and they are definitely a caliber of team that can play for a national championship, and they showed that all season," Jenkins said. "I'm not sure if they'll be mad or whatever, but I know they are going to be a good team regardless of where they play."

Buckeyes senior linebacker James Laurinaitis said based on the strength of its wins over Oklahoma and Missouri, Texas could present a solid case for playing in the national title game.

"I think it's a team that's gonna be hungry," Laurinaitis said. "Everybody knows that the two teams that played in the Big 12 championship, they beat. But we have plenty of motivation without thinking about things like that."

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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