Buckeyes wait for bowl fate

Published 12:09 pm Monday, November 24, 2008

Ohio State is headed for a bowl game. It just may be a while before the Buckeyes find out which one.

They concluded the regular season with Saturday’s 42-7 beatdown of Michigan.

Now comes the waiting.

Email newsletter signup

‘‘We can’t control anything now,’’ linebacker James Laurinaitis said. ‘‘Now we just go home and enjoy Thanksgiving and see what happens.’’

The Buckeyes (10-2) grabbed a piece of the Big Ten title, then sat around hoping that Michigan State could somehow upset Penn State later Saturday. But the Nittany Lions, who beat the Buckeyes a month ago, beat the Spartans and also won the conference tiebreaker which determines which team gets the automatic Bowl Championship Series berth.

That means that the Nittany Lions are headed for the Rose Bowl, barring a number of improbable upsets which would somehow put them in the national championship game.

Ohio State could receive an at-large berth into one of the other three — Sugar, Orange, Fiesta — BCS bowl games. That will be determined by how the remaining games — particularly the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference championship games — play out.

Each ‘‘surprise’’ team that makes the 10-team pool bumps the Buckeyes further down the pecking order.

Utah completed a perfect season by beating BYU on Saturday night, and based on its BCS ranking will take up one of those six spots in the Sugar, Orange and Fiesta.

Basically, Ohio State’s shot at making a BCS game is in someone else’s hands.

If Oregon State, which beat Southern California earlier this season, wins its final regular-season game at home against Oregon next week, the Beavers would go to the Rose Bowl. Should USC beat Notre Dame next weekend, that would send the Trojans into the BCS.

Ohio State would then fall out of the BCS and play in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1, 2009, against a Southeastern Conference team. Most likely, that team would be Georgia, which would be the top available choice out of the SEC since Alabama and Florida, barring a bizarre set of circumstances, will both be in the BCS mix.

Ohio State is winless in nine bowl game against SEC teams, including lopsided losses to Florida and LSU in the last two national championship games.

Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said Saturday he was ‘‘looking forward to a nice Thanksgiving and watch(ing) some ball games.’’

He would never admit it, nor would he allow his players to admit it, but the Buckeyes will be rooting extremely hard against Oregon State and for those Oregon Ducks in the Civil War showdown on Saturday. It is likely Ohio State’s last gasp at making a BCS game.

Interesting trivia: Ohio State might not make one of the elite bowls, but another Ohio team could. The University of Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh on Saturday night and now has the inside track to winning the Big East championship, and along with it the conference’s automatic BCS berth.

Meanwhile, Michigan’s Wolverines don’t have to worry about any of this. They’ll be home for the holidays for the first time in 34 years after suffering through a dismal 3-9 season in Rich Rodriguez’s first season as coach.

‘‘I think any time you don’t have a successful record and lose as many games as we did you’re going to be disappointed,’’ Rodriguez said. ‘‘If you’re not disappointed, you shouldn’t be in the profession. I don’t want to panic. Again, it’s just the first year.’’

Ohio State won for an unprecedented fifth year in a row in the 105th meeting between the old rivals. The Buckeyes captured a piece of a fourth consecutive Big Ten title with their third win in a row after a painful home loss to Penn State.

‘‘After the Penn State game, a couple of guys were down but we gave it all we had,’’ defensive lineman Nader Abdallah said. ‘‘We told the young guys that we had to keep striving hard and finish the season on a high note.’’

Unfortunately, the Buckeyes just don’t know where they’re going or who they’re playing next to finish the season.