COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio State Buckeyes are tired of hearing how their predecessors have lost all nine bowl meetings with teams from the Southeastern Conference.
And they’re really angry about coach Jim Tressel’s recent reading material to them.
Tressel produced a fan’s e-mail the other day that said Ohio State couldn’t compete with and didn’t belong on the same field with an SEC team. That’s timely since the Buckeyes take on Arkansas of the SEC in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4.
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“It was something that most guys may have shrugged off, but me, I took it personally,” linebacker Brian Rolle said on Tuesday during Ohio State’s annual bowl media day. “Having been here in ’07 and not faring too well against LSU and watching that game, I just take it to heart. I’m taking that (e-mail) into the game with a chip on my shoulder.”
The pain of the two most recent postseason losses to SEC teams still burns several of the Buckeyes.
The 2006 team was No. 1 from the preseason all the way through the schedule, but then was humiliated by Florida 41-14 in the Bowl Championship Series national title game.
A year later, through an incredible number of upsets to the teams ahead of them, the Buckeyes climbed seven spots in the BCS rankings late in the season to earn a spot opposite two-loss LSU in the BCS title game.
Just like the year before, Ohio State broke out to an early lead only to have the SEC team dominate the rest of the game. The Tigers cruised, 38-24.
“The last couple of outings, we’ve been destroyed by SEC teams so it’s something that’s always in the back of our minds,” said Buckeyes safety Jermale Hines.
He said that 0-9 figure seems to pop up wherever the Buckeyes turn.
“Of course it’s constantly heard, and you can’t really escape it in today’s society with all the media, the SportsCenters and the Twitters and the Facebooks,” he said. “It’s something that’s always with us.”
Tressel is 0-3 against SEC teams in bowl games, including those two lopsided losses and a narrow defeat to South Carolina in the 2002 Outback Bowl at the end of his first season.
He tried to downplay the drought. What’s at hand, he said, is far more important than what’s gone on in the past.
“The thing we’ve got to really focus in on is what it’s going to take to play Arkansas who we didn’t play in any bowl games in our history — and not get too caught up in irrelevant things,” he said. “But on the other hand, you do like to accomplish things. A great performance in a bowl game the magnitude of this against a team who’s very, very good and happens to be in a very, very good conference, of course you use that as a tremendous goal.”
The losses date to Alabama and Bear Bryant beating up on Woody Hayes and the Buckeyes 35-6 in the 1978 Sugar Bowl — at least a decade before most of the current players were born.
Cornerback Devon Torrence said the e-mail was just one fan’s perspective.
“It’s an opinion,” he said, “so it doesn’t even really matter.”
Team MVP Dane Sanzenbacher believes that winning is always paramount, regardless of the opponent — and what conference that opponent is from.
“To be honest, I don’t know if (hearing the e-mail) is something as a group that really changed our minds,” the senior wide receiver said. “Because we already know what the perception is and we know regardless whether it’s an SEC team, a Big Ten team or a Big 12 team, our goal is to win this bowl game. So we can’t really worry about what’s happened before.”
Rolle said hearing those searing words were enough to get him ready for the game now, even though it’s still three weeks away.
“People downplay us (because) we haven’t played too good against SEC teams,” he said. “(The e-mail) motivates me as a captain, as a senior, as a starter here. And I’ll let guys know that this outing is going to be a lot different than the past.”
Until the game, though, there’s little the Buckeyes can do but to listen to how bad they’ve been against the SEC.
“It’s all bulletin-board material,” Sanzenbacher said. “We know when it comes down to it, we’ll get our shot to prove it.”