OSU, Texas Thinking Positively About Matchup

The theme song to this year's Fiesta Bowl could be "Don't Worry, Be Happy." Even though its last trip of many to the desert was a disappointment, Ohio State is happy to go to Glendale yet again in an effort to save a season many call a disappointment. On the other side of the coin, a Texas team that many feel could be playing for the title also says it's fine with the bowl selection.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel and Texas head man Mack Brown were at home on the range Sunday night, as seldom was heard a discouraging word on a teleconference discussing their teams' upcoming matchup in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 5.

"We're excited to have the chance to be with (the Longhorns) and compete against them for a week," Tressel said. "They have a great football team, and it's awesome to be with you."

"We're sure excited for the University of Texas to get into the Fiesta Bowl," Brown said. "Our players and our coaches are excited to come out and enjoy the Fiesta Bowl."

That Tressel was happy to be returning to the desert for the fifth time in seven years isn't all that surprising given that Ohio State's BCS berth was not assured until the final weekend of the season thanks to the Buckeyes' losses to USC and Penn State.

That Brown was as magnanimous as he was might have been a bit of a surprise. The Longhorns, who have one loss, enter the Fiesta Bowl ranked third in the BCS standings and many feel that they should have been given the nod to play for the title given their win over Big 12 rival Oklahoma, who will play in the BCS National Championship Game.

Brown had been critical of the BCS at times in the past few weeks but clearly had made peace with his team's fate by the time the bowl pairings were announced.

In fact, his only real complaint about how the pairings worked out was that fellow Big 12 school Texas Tech, which finished 11-1 and is ranked seventh in the final BCS standings, would not be able to take part in the lucrative matchups because Oklahoma and Texas teams with the same record received bids and no conference can receive more than two.

"It's very, very unfortunate for a team, maybe a great team, to be second or third in the league when you have three great teams and they do not have a chance to get into the BCS," Brown said. "I think of the top eight teams this year, all will be in the BCS except for Texas Tech. Within our league, I really hate it for that."

But the fact is that the matchup between the Buckeyes and Longhorns is entirely a BCS creation, something that would have been impossible before the coalition began in 1998. Along with the choices comes the usual politics and power that mark most BCS choices.

The Longhorns have been chosen for the Fiesta Bowl for the second time in school history despite having beaten Oklahoma, giving more fuel to the fire for those who would like to see a playoff in college football.

"I can't answer that," ACC commissioner and BCS coordinator John Swofford said when asked if the situation with Texas caused discomfort among the BCS administrators. "That will simply have to be determined as we move forward. We have an interesting situation, an intriguing situation this year in terms of the regular season and the Big 12 South and the terrific competition that that division of a conference had. It's highly unusual."

Ohio State, meanwhile, receives a bid to the Fiesta – instead of the Capital One Bowl, which the Big Ten runner-up used to travel to – because of the recent expansion of the BCS. The Buckeyes received the bid over other BCS at-large entries Boise State and TCU.

But on this night Brown was not in the mood to discuss the BCS in any negative light as far as how it reflected on his team.

"It's been an exciting time for us, and it's time for us to put the past week behind us, all the BCS stuff, and look forward to a great game," Brown said.

When asked if he expects his team to be flat given its snub from the title game, Brown wasn't concerned. He pointed to the 2003 season, when Texas was bumped from the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State because of Kansas State's surprise Big 12 title win, as one time when his team was flat for the postseason. The Longhorns went instead to the Holiday Bowl and lost to Washington State, 28-20.

This time, the prestige of the bowl and opponent should guard against a similar outcome, he said.

"Anybody who has a chance to play in the Fiesta Bowl in the BCS against Ohio State is not going to be flat," Brown said, "because what an exciting time for those kids."

Tressel would not bite, either, when asked about any dissatisfaction about the BCS, choosing instead to talk about how pleased he was to not only be in the Fiesta Bowl but to face a traditional power like Texas.

"It's not a perfect system. I don't have the answer to what a perfect system is, but we're awful proud to be doing what we're doing on Jan. 5, that's for sure," Tressel said "We have a chance to go against the best."


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