OSU Players Not Shying From Redemption Talk

While Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel downplayed the idea that facing No. 3 Texas in the Fiesta Bowl offers his team a chance at redemption for recent struggles in the spotlight, two of his senior captains disagreed.

"It would be nice," Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis said Sunday night of picking up a win over the Longhorns after losing the last two Bowl Championship Series title games. "To be honest, we really try not to think about it too much. I think we'll get asked that question over and over and over until we win one of those games, but we've just got to go out there and play ball. It would be nice to win the bowl game. Obviously, you want to go out with the ‘W'."

Laurinaitis likely expects such inquiries because despite compiling 33 victories and three Big Ten championship trophies since the start of the 2006 season, the Buckeyes have taken their lumps on the national stage.

The term "big game" can be applied in more than one manner, but in a couple of measures, the 10th-ranked Buckeyes have fallen short in the past two-plus seasons.

First there were those aforementioned championship game losses, which came by a combined 41 points to Florida after the 2006 campaign and LSU last year, and then were two more losses to top 10 teams this season, a 35-3 shellacking at then-No. 1 USC in September and a 13-6 setback at home against then-No. 3 Penn State in October.

All told since the start of 2006 when some of the current seniors began to take prominent roles on the team, the Buckeyes are 9-0 against teams ranked No. 11-25 and 2-4 against top 10 opponents.

They have lost four in a row in the latter category.

Ironically, one of the two wins was against then-second-ranked Texas in the second week of the 2006 season. Troy Smith threw two touchdown passes in that contest and Ohio State dominated the defending national champions for a 24-7 victory.

This time around, the Longhorns will provide the competition again with the stakes altered. Two seasons ago, both teams were trying to get the first leg up on the national title chase. Those dreams are likely dead now, although Texas might head to the desert still harboring hopes of earning a share of the national championship with a convincing win over Ohio State.

While the BCS title will go to either Oklahoma or Florida and the coaches are contractually obligated to vote the winner of that game No. 1 in their final poll, the Associated Press is independent of any such agreement and could theoretically name the Longhorns champions if they see fit.

Cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State's other senior captain on defense, called that a good thing and said this game represents a defining moment for those in scarlet and gray.

"With a win over a team that's that good, we could argue that we're better than the Penn State game, we're better than the USC game," Jenkins said. "It's a win-win situation for us. If we lose, everybody probably thinks we're going to lose anyway. If we win, it shows we made some strides since our last loss. I'm pretty sure they feel like they should be in the national championship game. I wouldn't argue (against) that. It will be an exciting game for us."

That does not necessarily mean the Buckeyes are feeling extra pressure to succeed, though.

"I don't think so," Laurinaitis said. "I don't feel any. I can't speak for everybody else, but I don't feel anything. It's just another game. It's a huge game against Texas, an unbelievable program. It's going to be a fun matchup. A team that is going to be really fired up to play that game. It will be fun to see how that all will unfold."

Jenkins did not deny a desire to avoid losing three straight bowl games since a January 2006 Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame.

"It's not been talked about much, but guys are thinking that," Jenkins said. "You can tell. Nobody wants to lose three in a row. Everybody has a sense of urgency. Everybody is trying to get better at practice. We just want to come out and play like we're capable of playing.

"I guess this would be a nice way to redeem ourselves. They're a national-championship-quality team, so if we beat a team like that, it puts us right up there in the top five in the nation."

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