Buckeyes Back Where They Think They Should Be

Ohio State has made more BCS trips than any other school, so after a two-year absence, this week's trip to the Orange Bowl is a return to the way things should be, numerous members of the Buckeye team said.

Last year, Corey Linsley rang in the New Year in Ohio – and he wasn't necessarily having a bad time, either.

"I was actually training up in Youngstown and I was having a good time," he said.

But Linsley knew there was somewhere else he'd rather be.

Somewhere warm.

Somewhere big-time football, that traditional American pastime that helps the calendar flip – was being played.

After Ohio State had run the table on the regular season, it stayed home for the holidays thanks to the one-year postseason ban that was the leftover parting gift from the Tatgate scandal.

Of course, that's not the case this season. After a 12-1 record that fell just one game short of a national championship game berth, the sixth-ranked Buckeyes will take on No. 12 Clemson on Friday night in the Orange Bowl.

And along with the trip to Miami – certainly one of the sexier bowl destinations on the docket – the Buckeyes have returned to a prominent spot on the postseason calendar.

"I had forgotten a lot about how going to a big-time bowl game feels – the environment and the atmosphere around it," Linsley said. "Last year I was just happy to be in Youngstown and now I'm like, ‘Wow, we missed out on all this last year.' I think the national title game was at the Orange Bowl so we had the potential to be in that.

"It's kind of like, ‘Oh man, now it's sinking in how bad that was.' "

It was the second straight season the Buckeyes were sort of out of the limelight when bowl season came around. One year earlier, Ohio State was in Jacksonville, Fla., for the Gator Bowl – a New Year's Day game with a solid reputation to be sure but not exactly where the 6-6 Buckeyes wanted to be.

One of the major reasons was that the Gator Bowl ended a stretch of six consecutive trips to BCS bowls as well as a run of eight in nine years. Included in that stretch was three appearances in the national championship game highlighted by the 2002 national championship.

In short, when college football is at its best, the Buckeyes spent nearly a decade in that brightest of spotlights. In fact, this year's BCS appearance is the 10th in the 16 years of the system for OSU, a record in the final year of the setup.

"Ohio State is supposed to be in a BCS bowl game like this," Mewhort said. "It's on us to uphold the tradition and prepare as hard as we can and do the best we can on Friday night to come home with a win."

For fifth-year seniors Mewhort and Linsley, this will be the third BCS game the two have taken part in, having been on the roster when the Buckeyes won both the Rose Bowl after the 2009 season and the Sugar Bowl following the '10 campaign.

But for a number of the team's stars, this will be the first BCS contest in which they will take part. Perhaps the most important players on either side of the ball – starting quarterback Braxton Miller and linebacker Ryan Shazier – are true juniors who have not yet played in a BCS game, something that holds true for star juniors Devin Smith, Jeff Heuerman, Michael Bennett and Doran Grant and even underclassmen like Taylor Decker and Joey Bosa.

"It's exciting," Bennett said. "The Orange Bowl Committee has been just awesome. Everything we do is top of the line. It's been fun so far. It's just going to keep getting better."

That's the hope, anyway, as OSU will try to keep alive its three-game winning streak in BCS contests. While both Mewhort and Linsley admitted it was somewhat nice to rest weary bodies a year ago, there's no doubt that the Buckeyes are where they should be this time around.

"I'd rather be here getting ready for a big game like this," Brown said. "There's nothing better than playing in a big-time game like this."

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