In the school's sixth BCS bowl game in seven years, the Buckeyes will be facing Texas in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl to be held Jan. 5 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
After entering the year as contenders for the national title but then falling short of that goal, the Buckeyes finished the year 10-2 and will find themselves in a rubber match with the Longhorns.
"Obviously when you start talking about playing against the Longhorns, they're a great program historically," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "They have one of their finest teams they've ever had this year. They may be as good as any football team or better than every football team in the country."
The Longhorns find themselves third in the BCS standings behind No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 2 Florida despite the fact that Texas beat the Sooners in a head-to-head contest this season. Tressel said his ballot has Oklahoma ahead of Texas and Florida.
Although neither team will be playing for a national championship, there are plenty of storylines at play in this contest. OSU and Texas took part in a home-and-home series beginning in 2005, with the road team taking each game and going on to at least play in the national championship game. In the 2006 matchup, OSU sophomore linebacker James Laurinaitis was making his third collegiate start while Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was in just his second.
In addition, the Buckeyes are quite familiar with the region. After playing three BCS games in four years at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, OSU then returned to the region to play in the 2007 BCS national championship game at newly constructed University of Phoenix Stadium in nearby Glendale.
The Longhorns are an offensive juggernaut, averaging 476.4 yards per game to rank ninth-best in the country in total offense. Conversely, the Buckeyes are eighth in the country in total defense, allowing 279.3 yards per contest.
"We're going to have our hands full on both sides of the ball," Tressel said.
This will be the fourth game the Buckeyes have played in the Valley of the Sun, but the hope is that this will be the one that will exorcise some postseason demons that began two seasons ago with a 41-14 loss there to Florida in the 2007 national championship game.
However, Tressel downplayed needing any sort of exorcism for this trip out west.
"We're so far removed from that that there might be someone reflecting back saying the last time we were in a bowl game we didn't win it," he said. "I don't know that that would be a strong enough theme compared to the theme of these guys going out that have done some extraordinary things finishing the best way that we can."
Instead, the focus in Columbus is on the fact that the Buckeyes have positioned themselves to again play on a big stage. The fact that the game is coming against a team like Texas only raises the stakes.
"To be a part of four straight BCS bowl games is something that's extremely cool," Laurinaitis said. "There's a lot of people across the country that argue they should be in the national championship game. I remember when we played each other (in 2006) the passion between the two fanbases was unbelievable."
Those similarities extend to the coaching staffs, where both Tressel and Texas head coach Mack Brown repeatedly praised each other during a teleconference. The head man for the Longhorns said the two have similar qualities.
"This is two old guys that have been around a long time and believe in fundamentals and believe in the kicking game," Brown said. "I believe one of the reasons this is such a great matchup is the respect that we have for each other."