Monday, December 8, 2003
The Buckeyes will play in the Fiesta Bowl again, this time against Kansas State.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- Ohio State will return to the site of its national championship last year when it faces Big 12 champion Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2 in Tempe, Ariz.
The No. 7 Buckeyes (10-2) have never played No. 8 Kansas State (11-3), which beat top-ranked Oklahoma in convincing fashion Saturday to win their conference.
"Kansas State is good, and they're hot. So that's why we have to go to work preparing," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said Sunday. "They got it back together after losing a couple in the middle and clearly were the best team in the Big 12 at the end of the year."
On Sunday, Fiesta Bowl officials exercised a provision in BCS rules that gave them an "economic priority" pick ahead of the Orange Bowl and selected Ohio State over Florida State.
"It was our opportunity to have the next-to-last selection, essentially, and the Orange Bowl was left with the final selection," Fiesta Bowl executive director John Junker said.
The big loser was Texas, which Junker indicated was a probable choice had Kansas State not upset Oklahoma 35-7 Saturday.
The Fiesta Bowl gives an automatic berth to the Big 12 champion unless that team is playing in the national title game. If Oklahoma had won the Big 12 title and gone to the Sugar Bowl, the Fiesta would have had two at-large picks.
Ohio State, which lost its last regular season game on Nov. 22 at Michigan, is 15-19 in bowl games. The Buckeyes finished tied for second in the Big Ten this year with Purdue, a game back of Michigan, which won the conference's automatic spot in the BCS.
The Buckeyes' 35-21 loss in Ann Arbor placed them on the fringes of the BCS system, competing with Texas, Georgia and Tennessee for the final places.
Kansas State, with its first conference championship since 1934, will make its second Fiesta Bowl appearance. The Wildcats defeated Syracuse 35-18 at the Fiesta Bowl following the 1997 season.
On a roll
The Wildcats lost three in a row to Marshall, Texas and Oklahoma State to drop out of the national rankings, but have won seven straight since then.
Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel said Kansas State made a statement with Saturday's win.
"I watched Kansas State beat Oklahoma, and there's no debate about whether they're a good football team," he said.
The Buckeyes are returning to the site of one of the biggest victories in school history. On Jan. 3, 2003, Maurice Clarett scored on a 5-yard run in the second overtime and the Ohio State defense held No. 1 Miami on downs to preserve a 31-24 victory.
When asked if he thought the familiar terrain would benefit his team, Tressel said it could give them a slight boost.
"I think once you're anywhere for a day, you're familiar. You know how to get to the practice field and that kind of thing, so maybe we'll be more efficient the first day."
The Buckeyes have played in three Fiesta Bowls, losing to Penn State 31-19 in the 1980 game, and beating Pittsburgh 28-23 in the 1984 game thanks in large part to Keith Byars' 99-yard fourth-quarter kickoff return for a touchdown.
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