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Published: Tuesday, 12/21/2010

Buckeyes out to end SEC domination

COLUMBUS -- The Buckeyes don't like the questions, they don't appreciate the snide remarks, and they don't care for all of the insinuations.

When it comes to playing against teams from the Southeastern Conference, they are the Ohio State Rodney Dangerfields. They get absolutely no respect.

The Buckeyes are 0-9 against the SEC in bowl games, so when No. 6 Ohio State was matched up with No. 8 Arkansas in the upcoming Sugar Bowl, everyone felt obligated to roll out the litany of struggles OSU has had when facing SEC teams in the postseason.

When Ohio State has met an SEC team in a bowl, misery has been the Buckeyes' constant companion. They suffer from the Groundhog Day syndrome, with each game being an uncomfortable repetition of the one before. It is a sickening dej vu, and Ohio State wants to find a vaccine or a cure and end the suffering.

"I think we all know it's been stated before. I don't think anyone has to talk about it," Ohio State senior defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said about the winless streak against the SEC in bowls.

"It's an SEC team. They're known as the best conference, and it's a great opportunity to go into a hostile environment and come out the victor. We know no one is giving us a fighting chance, but that's the way we like it."

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who is 0-3 against the SEC in bowls but 5-4 in the postseason overall with the Buckeyes, said after watching film of some of the Razorbacks' games this season, he sees the SEC still playing the game at a very high level.

"There's two teams out there whacking each other, running fast, and playing great football, and I think everyone in America knows that's a great brand of football," Tressel said about the SEC. "But you turn on a great Big Ten game, and they're whacking each other [too]."

Ohio State senior linebacker Brian Rolle, a Florida native who comes from SEC country, said he has listened to the Buckeyes get denigrated and uses it as motivation.

"People downplay us and say we haven't played too good against SEC teams, and that's true. But our heads are on straight," Rolle said. "We're taking it to heart that guys think we can't play. We're going to show them on Jan. 4 that we can."

With still two weeks to go before the Sugar Bowl meeting with Arkansas, OSU senior defensive tackle Dexter Larimore seemed already exasperated by all of the talk about SEC domination.

"It's not really about the past, or the conferences or all of this other stuff that can cloud your mind," Larimore said. "It's more about what are we doing right now. You can talk about the 0-9 record we have in the bowl games [against the SEC], but the biggest thing is this next game."

Tressel said he was concerned that the Buckeyes' record against the SEC was too often the primary topic of discussion, and since Ohio State has never faced Arkansas, Tressel cautioned against his team getting "too caught up in irrelevant things.

"The thing we've got to do, to really focus in on, is what it's going to take to play Arkansas," Tressel said. "But on the other hand, you do like to accomplish things, and a great performance in a bowl game the magnitude of this, against a team who's very, very good and happens to be in a very, very good conference, of course you use that as a tremendous goal."

Senior kicker Devin Barclay, the oldest Buckeye since he came to Ohio State after a career in pro soccer, said the OSU program's record against the SEC is well-known and only a victory will quiet the clamor.

"We've heard it a lot, so we're used to it," Barclay said. "We take things personally, and we don't forget those games. Obviously, we want to make a statement. I don't think anything else comes into it."

Contact Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6510.

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