Bowl Performance Can Set Tone For Future

The general consensus is that the Ohio State football team will be very good in 2010, but just how good could start to take shape on New Year's Day in Pasadena. Buckeye seniors who have been part of both bowl wins and losses say a triumph can serve as a springboard into the next campaign, and they'd love to leave their heirs a top-five start for next season.

As hard as it is to fathom, only a few select members of the Ohio State football team can remember what it's like to win a bowl game.

Only the fifth-year seniors on the current squad have won a postseason contest, that being the Fiesta Bowl triumph over Notre Dame at the end of the 2005 season.

That win against the Fighting Irish was Ohio State's seventh in a row to conclude the campaign, and it served as a springboard for a Buckeye team that went into the 2006 season ranked No. 1 before winning all of its regular-season games.

With a win against seventh-ranked Oregon in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, it's hard to imagine No. 8 Ohio State being out of the top five in the national rankings when September rolls around. Youngsters who were nothing more than spectators then, the seniors now have a chance to put the Buckeyes on the path for another run at the national title in 2010.

"It definitely does (serve as motivation), even though I'm not going to be here," safety Anderson Russell said. "You can go around and ask any of us, we care the world about this team and what they do next year. And it's going to be sad not to be here anymore, but we definitely want to send them into next year on the right note."

Of course, Ohio State will be led by quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who will come back for his junior season after what up to this point was a solid finish to his second campaign. Players like Brandon Saine, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher all come back, and players who provided 98.3 of the team's rushing yards and 84.9 percent of its receiving yards still retain eligibility.

The defense will lose top interception man and third-leading tackler Kurt Coleman as well as contributing seniors like Russell, Doug Worthington and Austin Spitler. A number of other starting juniors could go pro, but if most come back the Buckeyes will have the makings of another standout defensive unit.

Those returnees were part of the Buckeyes' five-game winning streak to end this regular season, a streak that included victories in three tough November games. Ohio State would like nothing more than to make it six in a row.

"It would do a lot," said junior cornerback Chimdi Chekwa. "If we can win this game, do a good job in this game, we could hit the ground running and it could just continue into next year."

In fact, team members say that a bowl win can do a lot to propel a team into the next season, and some evidence backs that up.

After bowl wins during the Tressel era, the Buckeyes are 16-1 during the following Augusts and Septembers with the only loss coming to No. 2 Texas in 2005 after the Buckeyes won the Alamo Bowl at the conclusion of the '04 season. Included in that span are wins against ranked teams Washington and N.C. State in 2003, Iowa in 2005 and the trio of Texas, Penn State and Iowa in '06.

Though the Buckeyes are a sterling 17-2 in August and September coming off of bowl losses, the record against ranked teams in those years is only 1-2. That could be of vital importance with a showdown against Miami on the docket for Sept. 11, 2010.

"When you win like that and have that winning feeling it is different from that losing feeling and getting back in it and having that type of edge of like, 'okay, we lost,'" Worthington said. "When you win you steamroll into it like, 'We were one of the best teams last season and we have so-and-so back,' and with this team back next year, the guys coming back, is tremendous."

A loss can also result in feelings of unease inside the program. Though many players said last year's game against Texas was easier to get over than national title game losses to Florida and LSU, the general feeling is that the program is in a down mood after a postseason defeat.

"Coming off a loss, there is a lot of stuff that's up in the air," lineman Jim Cordle said. "You have to find out what went wrong. It's a hindrance to progress because you're looking back instead of looking forward."

There are some outliers, of course, most notably Ohio State's 2002 national title season that came after an Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina in 2001. Still, the Buckeyes would rather see this young team head into next season full of confidence than the alternative.

"Obviously, you start out with a high rank and you have a lot of expectations," Cordle said. "People rise or fall to their expectations. That's something we'd like to do for this team. Obviously, they are going to be very good next year. When you come off a win, you have a good feeling."

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