Who Holds The Emotional Edge?

We've begun analyzing each team's respective strengths and weaknesses (and will continue to do so), such as Ohio State's ground game against the Texas rush defense. But what about the emotional, "jihad" angle that sometimes spells the difference between victory and defeat?

The common wisdom regarding bowl games especially is to place your bet with the team that wants to be there the most. In this region of the country, we'll recall Texas Tech roasting a more talented California team in the 2004 Holiday Bowl or Boise State's startling and monumental upset of Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Even closer to home, we wince replaying Texas vs. Washington State in the Holiday to close out 2003 after the ‘Horns felt shafted by the BCS.

Following that line, maybe the squad with more raw desire has an edge. As the great Darrell Royal once said, "Trends are bunk. Angry teams win games." Between Texas and Ohio State, which has more reason to come out fired up?

Many Ohio State fans will note that Texas, still drowning in a different BCS shunning, is failing to show any attention to their disrespected Buckeyes. We've read that several times on the bulletin boards, for instance.

UT's head coach Mack Brown disagrees, citing how physical and upbeat practices are. He believes this could be the most resilient team he's ever coached, implying the kids won't let the BCS beat it twice. Texas may, in fact, come out with steely-eyed determination in proving the conference's "brain trust" and any other doubters wrong.

From a standpoint of head-to-head, which squad wants to whip the other guy more? They've played only twice in their respective glittering histories, though both of those have been within the past few years. Texas won in 2005, while Ohio State returned the favor in '06, making this the "rubber match" between them. Yet, Texas may be more in line for "revenge," because several of its players, none more key than Colt McCoy, have a score of sorts to settle. Most, if not all, of the participants of '05 game, meanwhile, are long gone.

From the Buckeyes' perspective, how much do recent BCS thrashings play on their minds? Surely, they're looking to redeem themselves for recent big stage busts, in which Ohio State has lost to Florida and LSU, plus USC and Penn State this regular season. Though this isn't a national title tilt, Texas certainly represents a title-worthy opponent. Beat the Longhorns, and the Buckeyes receive some immediate massage for their bruised egos. It also reminds that Jim Tressel can win those big games, which his bowl record prior to '06 and '07 had already shown.

The Buckeyes also are very familiar with the surroundings, making the Fiesta virtually their post-season home. They additionally have the confidence from great successes there (including winning the '02 national title over Miami). Tressel's taken OSU to the Fiesta so frequently that boredom might be a problem except for the fact they've been away the last two Januaries.

As the mind behind Ohio State's offense, how does Jim Tressel himself approach this battle? In big games, he's often accused of playing it "not to lose," but with OSU being a clear underdog and no national title at stake, does he play call more aggressively? He threw the ball a lot against Texas in '06, as Longhorn fans painfully remember - though Texas gave even the most conservative coach an irresistible invitation to do so with its defensive backs playing so far off the receivers.

Ohio State likely carries the confidence of successes the latter part of the season and a desire to recapture the pride by playing better than it has in recent pivotal contests. Yet, here's betting that Texas, though miffed at the BCS BS, still appreciates its big bowl opportunity after two years in lesser bowls. The Longhorns also will be on a mission to prove to the country that they're good enough to be playing for the Sears trophy and create a platform for such a run in ‘09.

Colt McCoy, Quan Cosby, Jordan Shipley, Brian Orakpo, Rod Muckelroy, and Roy Miller were among several ‘Horns suffering defeat against James Laurinaitis and the many other Buckeyes seeing action in 2006. Though favored, some believe the conference title fiasco will have them wallowing in sorrow all the way through the Fiesta Bowl. But this version of Mack Brown's program has risen above virtually any challenges thrown its way, and Ohio State—a worthy opponent—will be no different.

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