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Published: Thursday, 12/30/2010

All business: Buckeyes focused on beating Arkansas

NEW ORLEANS -- They were not carrying briefcases, laptops, and PDAs, but when the Ohio State Buckeyes arrived here Wednesday, they hoped it was clear they were not part of the party crowd headed to New Orleans for New Year's Eve revelry.

The Buckeyes traveled in business class, so to speak, coming south to face Arkansas in next week's Sugar Bowl.

"It's a business trip, definitely a business trip," senior defensive back Chimdi Chekwa said about Ohio State's time in New Orleans.

That means the Buckeyes don't expect to be seen bar-hopping through the French Quarter, dining at Pascal's Manale, touring the Ninth Ward, or taking in the jazz at Preservation Hall.

The older Buckeyes, still smarting from their loss to LSU here three years ago in the 2007 season's national championship game, will make the obligatory public appearances that come with bowl trips, but outside of that they plan to approach this game the same way a group of corporate leaders would an intricate merger negotiation.

"We're going to do everything we can to get the win," Chekwa said. "We can have fun afterward."

The Ohio State players were to check in at the team's headquarters, -- the posh 1,300 room Marriott New Orleans French Quarter -- by late Wednesday afternoon. Although their hotel is on Canal Street, which is bustling with tourist shops and just a short walk from Bourbon Street and Harrah's Casino, the Buckeyes expect to spend very little time mingling in the neighborhood.

The Ohio State seniors play a major role in setting team curfews and laying out the guidelines for seeing the sights. Senior offensive lineman Bryant Browning said the casino was definitely off-limits the last time the Buckeyes were in New Orleans and will be again.

"Basically it's having curfews and not having guys out too late whenever you have free time ... you know, keep your mind set on the game," Browning said.

"Really, I don't remember Bourbon Street that much. I went there at least one night, but I don't really remember too much about it. When I went there, there really weren't too many people around, so it wasn't that crazy."

Senior defensive back Jermale Hines said he expects his team will spend its time here preparing to battle the 10-2 Razorbacks and not look at the week-long visit to New Orleans as a repeat of three years ago when the focus was possibly not as sharp as it needed to be.

"We've been there once already and we were on Bourbon Street a lot," Hines said. "It is a business trip. We are going down there to handle business."

Wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said he and his fellow seniors know their role in focus management while the team is here in New Orleans.

"It's on the older guys to make sure that everybody knows that we're there to play the game and not to get distracted with all the other things going on," Sanzenbacher said. "Obviously, it's a town that has a lot of other distractions going on. It's a fun town, but at the end of the day we have to make sure we're focused on what we're there to do."

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



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