Today the Ohio State Buckeyes complete their season by playing the Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl. Of course, every college football fan now wants his team to be playing in the National Championship Game, but if you fall short of that lofty goal the Rose Bowl is pretty good consolation. It is in a beautiful and warm location, features the classic Tournament of Roses parade, and has all of the “color and pageantry of intercollegiate sports” that you could want.
For old-line Big Ten fans (such as me) the Rose Bowl will always occupy a special place because, for years, it was the bowl destination of the winner of the Big Ten. It was the oldest and, for Big Ten fans at least, the most prestigious bowl game. My college roommate and I actually went to the Rose Bowl on January 1, 1980, when the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes lost to the USC Trojans in a thrilling game. We both were on the Ohio State Lantern at the time and got the Lantern‘s press box pass and field pass for the game. Graydon sat in the press box, and I took the field pass and watched the game from the sidelines. It is the only time I have watched a major sports event from the field of play, and it was awesome looking up at more than 100,000 cheering fans sitting in that big bowl. Although the outcome of the game was not what I would have wished, it was an experience I will never forget.
I think this game also will be challenging for the Buckeyes. Oregon has an explosive offense that can put a lot of points on the board. Although Ohio State has a fine defense, I don’t think it has played any team (USC included) that has the kind of multi-faceted attack Oregon brings to the table. Ohio State’s offense has progressed by fits and starts this season, and Buckeye fans are hoping that, with Terrelle Pryor, his running backs, and the offense line healthy for the first time in months, the offense will really find its stride in this game. (The fact that two of Ohio State’s receivers are ineligible for the game won’t help in that regard, unfortunately.) Offensively, I think the key will be whether Ohio State can run the ball effectively and score touchdowns when they get to the red zone. Defensively, the test will be to keep Oregon’s quarterback in the pocket and turn him into a drop-back passer. It should be an exciting game to watch, with two teams that play different styles.
Let’s go, Bucks!