Bowl Destination Still Up In Air

As the Ohio State Buckeyes sit back and enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, they can turn on their televisions to keep tabs on possible bowl destinations as well as the weekend's games, specifically one involving Oregon State, could have major impacts on OSU's eventual fate.

Now that Ohio State has finished its regular season with a 10-2 record, Brian Hartline has a simple demand when it comes to the Buckeyes' postseason hopes.

"It better be a BCS game," Hartline said after Ohio State drubbed rival Michigan 42-7 on Saturday in Ohio Stadium. "That's the only requirement."

If that's what the junior believes, then he should have his television tuned to Versus at 7 p.m. on this upcoming Saturday.

That's when Oregon State will face rival Oregon in the "Civil War," and as most Buckeye fans already know, an upset by the Ducks in Reser Stadium would go a long way in helping Ohio State earn a BCS berth.

The reason is sheer numbers. Ten spots in five BCS bowls are available, six of which are spoken for by the champions of the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC and another that will go to Utah by virtue of its top-12 finish in the BCS standings.

That leaves three at-large spots, two of which will probably belong to teams in the Big 12 and SEC. Another most likely will go to USC – if the Trojans defeat Notre Dame and UCLA – should Oregon State beat Oregon and earn the Pac-10 title and trip to the Rose Bowl. But if the Ducks win, Oregon State would be out of the BCS and a spot would be opened for lower-ranked at-large team like No. 10 Ohio State.

Of course, havoc in either the SEC – which has the Nos. 1 and 4 teams in Alabama and Florida – or the Big 12 – which has three teams (Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma) in one division in the top seven of the BCS – would also have an impact on Ohio State's eventual bowl fate.

There are enough variables that guessing where the Buckeyes will finish their season is a tough task. BCS bowls in the Sugar and the Fiesta are still possibilities, as is the Capital One Bowl in Orlando.

Last season, it had become clear what needed to happen by the final weekend. Ohio State needed a win from either Pittsburgh over West Virginia – coached by current Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez – or Oklahoma over Missouri in the Big 12 title game to clinch a second straight berth in the national championship game.

The team gathered in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to watch the game and ended up in celebration when both teams earned their victories to punch the Buckeyes' tickets to New Orleans.

Now, the Buckeyes don't seem like they'll be holding their breaths in anticipation with the current slate of games.

"I'm an old guy, so we'll see how it plays out," senior offensive lineman Steve Rehring said. "I know crazy things happen. Last year, we were seventh in the BCS going into our last weekend and somehow we got in the national championship.

"You can never really guess where you're going. You just wait and see."

The easiest scenario to figure out would be if No. 17 Oregon State defeats the 23rd-ranked Ducks on Saturday, which would likely send the Buckeyes to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla. Ohio State has not been there since three trips in four years following the 1992, '94 and '95 seasons.

The bowl, which has matched top programs from the Big Ten and SEC for years, was then known as the Citrus Bowl, and Ohio State went 0 for 3 vs. Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, respectively, during the mid-‘90s.

The bowl would be happy to have the Buckeyes make a return appearance.

"Everybody in the Big Ten travels well, but Ohio State, it's amazing," said Chuck Ingram, a Capital One Bowl representative who took in the Michigan game Saturday. "We haven't had Ohio State in Orlando in I don't know how long. Ohio State sells out the game."

Buckeye head coach Jim Tressel has made BCS bowls in five of his first seven years, and the Sugar and Fiesta Bowls remain possibilities. The Orange Bowl is in the mix as well, though that will probably be stuck with taking No. 16 Cincinnati to face the ACC champion because it has the final pick in the rotation.

Both the Sugar and Fiesta have hosted Ohio State numerous times of late, as seven of Ohio State's last 10 trips have been to either New Orleans or the Phoenix area. Buckeye fans have traveled well to each locale in the past, leaving members of those bowl committees more than happy to have the team return in this sluggish economy despite its recent trips.

"That's why we're here," said Michael Christovich, a Sugar Bowl committee member. "Last year for the BCS title game, it was wonderful. It was wonderful you all came out. Ohio State travels so well. They're such dedicated fans."

Dave Tilson, the chairman of the Fiesta Bowl board, agreed.

"It's a big-time winning partnership," Tilson said of Ohio State fans and the greater Phoenix area. "We're thinking if we had Ohio State, we'd figure out a way to get 20,000 people down to the bowl game, which is the type of thing that we want to do."


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