Rose Bowl A Thorny Issue For Buckeyes

For decades, the goal of any Ohio State team was to earn a Big Ten title and a berth in the Rose Bowl. Now, given how much the Buckeyes talked about return to the BCS title game, many might see the Rose Bowl as a consolation prize. Find out everyone's take on what the game would mean to them should the Buckeyes beat Michigan.

There is little doubt that the Rose Bowl is, in fact, still "The Granddaddy of Them All."

The Rose Bowl committee has registered the phrase as a trademark.

Other than that, however, the bowl is often a consolation prize for a team that didn't quite make it to the BCS National Championship Game. Since the onset of the BCS system, only twice – after the 2001 and '05 seasons – has the game decided the national championship, although USC's win over Michigan in the 2004 game earned the Trojans a share of the crown.

Rarely, under the current system, could the game serve as a national title winner. It would take a scenario like the one leading up to the '04 game to do it, considering the new BCS system includes the national title game held at the site of a BCS bowl but not actually in the bowl game itself.

It's not hard to imagine youngsters growing up now thinking about making the big time by playing in the BCS title game, not dancing over the Pasadena turf like Archie Griffin and Charles White did before.

"I bet they don't know for certain what it used to be," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "I'm sure they've had time to watch it over the years and they know it's something we always talk about."

Tressel may have sold his group – which plays what is essentially a play-in game for the Rose Bowl Saturday at Michigan – a little bit short, especially those who grew up tied to the Big Ten. Today's current group – save 28-year-old kicker Ryan Pretorius – would have been anywhere from 9 to 13 years old when the Buckeyes last qualified for the bowl, a thrilling 20-17 triumph over undefeated Arizona State in the 1997 Rose Bowl.

"That's one of the crazy things," said fullback Dionte Johnson, the son of former Buckeye Pepper Johnson, himself a Rose Bowl participant in 1985. "Growing up, my father always preached to me, going to the Rose Bowl, going to the Rose Bowl, to where I though the Rose Bowl was like the Super Bowl of college football."

The Rose Bowl mystique spread throughout Big Ten country, even to Minnesota, which hasn't qualified for the game since 1961.

"When I first came here, my grandpa had joked with me, he was like, ‘The last time I'd been to the Rose Bowl is the last time the Gophers had been to the Rose Bowl, Minnesota, which was way back in the '60s.'" linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "He says, ‘What you have to do for me is get back to the Rose Bowl for me sometime at Ohio State."

However, there's still no denying that a trip to Pasadena would be nothing more than a consolation prize for Ohio State should the Buckeyes earn an outright Big Ten title with a win Saturday. Pasadena would appear to be the most likely landing point for the Buckeyes with a win, unless a dramatic chain of events involving losses for five of the top six teams in the nation unfolded, pushing OSU back into the top two of the BCS.

All season the goal, unquestionably, was to return to the BCS title game, a place where Ohio State suffered a 41-14 loss to Florida last season. That goal moved even further to the forefront once the Buckeyes moved up the polls to reach No. 1.

The reduction of prestige in bowls like the Rose Bowl is a necessary evil of the current system, which aims to match the two best teams in the nation against one another for a national championship game.

"(The Rose Bowl) might not be the BCS Championship Game, and that's kind of the bowl to me," said OSU punter A.J. Trapasso, who added he still has a fondness for the Rose. "That's kind of what they've done to the bowls to me. I don't think it's a terrible idea. I think it's great they're matching up the best possible teams in the best possible situations as far as bowls go."

Even if the Buckeyes do polish off Michigan in Ann Arbor Saturday, the traditional Rose Bowl celebration – the oft-repeated practice of team members posing with roses after qualification – might not take place. It would, at most, be anticlimactic, considering OSU's bowl fate wouldn't be quite sealed after Saturday's game.

But to some, no matter how a bid comes about, the Rose bowl will always hold a special place. Just ask former Buckeye running back Eddie George, who never got to play in the game, and one can tell he surely wished he had.

"(If we qualify) we can see our name in the end zone and be a part of the festivities, all that comes along with the Rose Bowl," George said Monday before turning somewhat wistful. "I always wanted to go to the Rose Bowl, and I never had a chance to play in it. Any time that you can go to a Rose Bowl, the Granddaddy of Them All, and play the sport that you love, it's overwhelming."

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