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ANN ARBOR - Most of the Ohio State fans were still celebrating inside Michigan Stadium Saturday afternoon when Buckeyes running back Dan Herron took a long-stemmed, bright red rose and clenched it in his teeth, ala Gomez Addams from The Addams Family.
But Herron was not looking to tango with the mysterious Morticia - he was ready to celebrate the Rose Bowl, next stop for the Buckeyes after the 21-10 victory over Michigan that closed the regular season.
"We had to put all of that on hold for a week while we got ready for Michigan," Herron said about recognizing and rejoicing over the Rose Bowl bid. "But now we can enjoy another win against our rivals, an outright Big Ten championship, and think about an all new bowl experience. We can get excited about the Rose Bowl."
The Buckeyes secured the Rose Bowl trip with an overtime win against Iowa a week before facing
Michigan, and they also owned at least a share of a fifth-straight Big Ten title, but the rivalry game took precedence over everything else.
"It was kind of a weird situation, knowing that we had the Rose Bowl locked up ahead of time," Ohio State junior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said after the victory over the Wolverines.
"But it wasn't really hard to set that aside, because the Michigan game is always so important. It's exciting to know we finished up as Big Ten champs and won't share it with anyone, and now I'm sure every guy in this room is really looking forward to experiencing the Rose Bowl."
The trip to Pasadena and the historic bowl game will be a first for all of the current Buckeyes, and for Jim Tressel - as a head coach. During his eight completed seasons at Ohio State, Tressel has taken his team to a bowl game each year, but never to the Rose Bowl.
Tressel was an assistant coach on Earle Bruce's staff in 1984 when the Buckeyes won the Big Ten and played in the Rose Bowl, losing 20-17 to USC. OSU's last trip to the Rose Bowl came in the 1996 season when the Buckeyes beat Arizona State by that same score.
"It's one of the things that early on when I got this job, I wondered if we'll ever get to the Rose Bowl," Tressel said. "For nine years I've wondered if we'll ever get to the Rose Bowl, but here we go."
Tressel has taken the Buckeyes to the BCS National Championship game three times, to the Fiesta Bowl three times, and to the Outback Bowl and the Alamo Bowl once each.
"Going to the Rose Bowl is a new experience and a huge deal for us, but we knew we had to put it behind us - for a week," senior offensive lineman Jim Cordle said.
"You know, you don't want that to be your legacy at Ohio State - that you clinched the Rose Bowl, and then went out and lost to Michigan. I think we did a good job as a team of keeping the focus where it belonged."
Tressel said that after meeting with his Ohio State team the day after the victory over Iowa, he was certain the Buckeyes would put things in perspective and not let Rose Bowl euphoria get in the way of preparation for Michigan.
"I really felt good on that Sunday, when we talked about the fact that what we needed to do was forget about the Rose Bowl for a week," Tressel said. "I thought our kids did a good job with that.
"Now when they're old like me, and they look back, people will ask them more about how they did against Michigan, than about which bowls did they go to."
OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor said Saturday's victory against the Wolverines sends the Buckeyes into their bowl preparation period in a very positive way.
"A win over Michigan is always good, and I'm just so happy for these seniors," Pryor said. "And I'm excited about going to the Rose Bowl. I can't wait, just like everyone else."
Ohio State will face the winner of the Oregon-Oregon State game in the Rose Bowl on January 1st. Those two rivals decide the Pac-10 bid in their Dec. 3 meeting. Tressel said that, regardless of the opponent, taking Ohio State to the Rose Bowl is an incredible experience for his team.
"They've stayed together. And a chance to go to the Rose Bowl for them - none of our kids has gone to the Rose Bowl," Tressel said. "I haven't been there for 25 years. So it's been a long time, and there's nothing like it. It's a great feeling."
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