Urban Meyer's new team will face his old one when the Buckeyes battle the Gators Jan. 2 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., home of the NFL's Jaguars. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
"We're ecstatic and excited and I know I can't wait to tell our young men and the rest of our staff," said OSU head coach Luke Fickell when accepting the bowl bid in a teleconference.
Ohio State struggled on and off the field in 2011. The Buckeyes went 6-6 after an offseason in which head coach Jim Tressel resigned following a tattoos/cash for memorabilia scandal that saw several offensive starters suspended and pushed starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor into the NFL's supplemental draft.
Fickell said there was no discussion about declining a bowl bid.
"These guys deserve it," he said. "All the stuff they've been through, the ups and the downs, the struggles, they deserve this. I don't think for our program I don't think you can take a step back and do that. "This is a way for us to get better, we have a lot of young guys. This is a very young football team and to have these 15, 16 practices is a big part of growing up and moving forward."
Despite finishing with a 6-6 record, Ohio State will be playing Jan. 1 or later for the seventh straight season. It will be the second time in program history Ohio State has played in the Gator Bowl. The Buckeyes lost 17-15 to Clemson in the 1978 game, a contest most notable for the punch legendary OSU coach Woody Hayes stuck Clemson nose guard Charlie Bauman with in the final minutes. Hayes was fired after the incident.
The Gators will be making their ninth appearance in the bowl that bears their name. The latest trip came in 1992 when Florida earned a 27-10 victory against N.C. State.
Like the Buckeyes, Florida struggled to a 6-6 season in the regular season this season. The Gators started the season 4-0 but limped down the stretch, beating only Vanderbilt and Furman in October and November. First-year head coach Will Muschamp's team ranked eighth in the SEC in total offense (334.2 yards per game) and was led by fifth-year senior quarterback John Brantley, who completed 132 of 224 passes this season for 1,912 yards. He threw 10 touchdown passes but also tossed six interceptions, including three in the regular-season finale against Florida State.
Florida's defense was better than its offense. The Gators ranked fifth in the SEC in total defense with 299.6 yards allowed per game. Junior linebacker Jonathan Bostic led UF with 86 tackles, including six for loss and three sacks.
Ohio State has not faced Florida since the 2007 BCS National Championship Game. The favored Buckeyes were handily defeated 42-14 against the second-ranked Gators.
Fickell said playing in Florida against the Gators will be good for recruiting, as the Sunshine State is the second-largest Buckeye recruiting base. Thus, several Ohio State players will be playing in their home state.
"I am happy the way the bowl game worked out," Brewster said in an OSU release. "If we couldn't be in a BCS game, I like the fact that we are playing against a program like Florida that has a rich tradition like Ohio State. And I like it that I'll be playing my last game in my home state in front of friends and family."
Tickets for the 2012 Gator Bowl will go on sale online on Monday at 10 a.m. The cost per ticket is $60.