Seniors Prepare For Final Home Game

No fewer than 26 Ohio State seniors, including offensive tackle Shane Olivea, will make their final appearance at Ohio Stadium Saturday as the Buckeyes host Purdue (3:30 p.m., ABC regional telecast).

No fewer than 26 Ohio State seniors will take a final bow on Saturday (3:30 p.m., ABC regional telecast) when the fourth-ranked Buckeyes host No. 11 Purdue in a game matching two of the three teams tied for the Big Ten lead.

"Our seniors have done a great job," said OSU coach Jim Tressel. "They have played well and played hard. They have led well. To have a chance to finish their college home career with a game of this magnitude is special. We're looking forward to the challenge.

"They are very talented and they have been anxious to take the action a leader needs to take. They have been eager to be leaders. They have done an excellent job."

The seniors and their families will be recognized prior to the game. They have helped OSU enjoy more wins in a two-year period (23 and counting) than any group of players in school history.

"It really hasn't hit me yet," said punter B.J. Sander. "I think I'm going to be very emotional. I'm looking forward to it. I have a lot of great memories in that stadium. To beat Michigan there last year was awesome. Plus, you think of all the wins we've had in there."

Shane Olivea, a three-year starter at offensive tackle, marveled at how his time at OSU has flown.

"It is starting to hit me," Olivea said. "My mom and dad are going to miss coming out here (from New York). My mom was crying on the phone about it. It is going to be hard to walk away. I know I won't want to take the jersey off for the last time at the ‘Shoe. They'll probably have to pry it off of me.

"It really will be a special day. We all see that and want to take advantage of that. These four years have come and gone so fast. I tell the young guys to appreciate it now because when you get in my spot there is no going back."

Olivea mused about some of his favorite memories at Ohio Stadium.

"I still remember the first time I ran out on the field," he said. "I think I beat the mascot down the field. That and beating Michigan last year to go to the Fiesta Bowl. That was just a sea of people on the field after the game and the craziness. I just feel fortunate to have been a part of it."

Others were preferring to dwell on the task at hand. OSU must defeat Purdue to set up a showdown at No. 5 Michigan next Saturday to decide the Big Ten title and, possibly, put the Buckeyes back in the national title game for the second year in a row.

"It still hasn't hit me that this will be my last home game," said offensive guard Adrien Clarke, a four-year starter and fifth-year player. "I am looking forward to getting out there and getting at Purdue. Right now, our focus is on beating them."

Split end Michael Jenkins, a hero of OSU's 10-6 win at Purdue a year ago, said he was looking forward to the home finale.

"I think it's going to be something different," he said. "It should be really emotional. The guys should be fired up and I'm sure some of the moms will be crying a little bit. It probably won't hit you until after the game or maybe even not until next year when you see the Buckeyes playing on TV without you."

Quarterback Craig Krenzel, a fifth-year senior, was taking a businesslike approach.

"I haven't thought about it that much," Krenzel said. "I'm not an extremely emotional guy. I guess I'm busy focusing on this game and Purdue's defense. It might sink in after the game. Maybe next year when I'm watching the Buckeyes on the TV from the ‘Shoe, it might be the first time it sinks in."

Here is a complete list of seniors to be recognized, according to an updated roster: Bobby Britton, Will Allen, Drew Carter, Mike Young, Michael Jenkins, Scott McMullen, Craig Krenzel, Jim Otis Jr., B.J. Sander, Jamal Luke, Robert Reynolds, Fred Pagac Jr., Ivan Douglas, Tim Anderson, Darrion Scott, Adrien Clarke, Steve Graef, Shane Olivea, Bryce Culver, Alex Stepanovich, Bryce Bishop, Maurice Lee, Kyle Turano, Ben Hartsock, Jason Bond and Will Smith.

Last year's 14-9 win over Michigan was OSU's first win in the home finale since 1998. Illinois defeated OSU in 1999 (46-20) and 2001 (34-22) and Michigan did the honors in 2000 (38-26).

They Can't Be Denied, Can They?

OSU trails USC by roughly 1-½ BCS points for the second spot in the rankings that will determine who plays for the national championship at the Sugar Bowl Jan. 4.

It is possible that if OSU wins out and can improve its position in the AP and coaches polls from fourth up to third, that the Buckeyes could catch USC for that second spot. (Unbeaten Oklahoma is a prohibitive No. 1, barring a loss.)

Olivea wondered aloud how the Buckeyes could be denied a chance to try and defend their national championship.

"I know we're third," Olivea said. "If we win out, how can you keep the defending national champions out of the (championship) game? To me, that would be kind of tough. We're playing Purdue, who's 10th, and Michigan is fifth. If we win out and they win out, how could we not defend our title? But everybody is headed in the right direction and focused on what we need to do."

Olivea is hopeful the OSU offense will put its best foot forward against a stingy Purdue defense, loaded with eight senior starters.

"We have played better every week," he said. "We have yet to play a complete game, but we're stepping in the right direction."

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