Ohio State’s Fiesta Bowl chances improve


By TIM MAY

The Buckeyes’ BCS bowl prospects are better thanks to Oregon State’s loss.

COLUMBUS — While Oklahoma has the computers to thank for its move to the Big 12 championship game, Ohio State fans should be sending ‘attaboy’ notes to Oregon this week.

Nothing is ever final with Bowl Championship Series goings-on until the last regular-season or conference-title games are played, and there is one weekend left before the bowl pairings are announced this Sunday night.

But while Oklahoma moved past Texas and into the Big 12 title game vs. Missouri by virtue of its No. 2 standing in Sunday’s BCS ratings, Ohio State’s chance at an at-large berth in the Jan. 5 Fiesta Bowl grew considerably Saturday night when Oregon pounded Oregon State.

An Oregon State win would have clinched a share of the Pac-10 title and the berth in the Rose Bowl for the Beavers. It also would have kicked Southern California into the BCS at-large pool, likely knocking out Ohio State, co-champ of the Big Ten. Instead, USC just needs a win over rival UCLA this week to grab that Rose berth.

Fiesta officials are said to be interested in pairing the second-best team from the Big 12 — likely Oklahoma or Texas — against Ohio State, though Utah and Boise State also are under consideration.

The Buckeyes won in at-large appearances in Phoenix after the 2003 and 2005 seasons, they won the 2002 national championship there, and they lost the 2006 national title there to Florida in the first championship game that was separate from the bowls but still run by Fiesta officials.

OSU coach Jim Tressel always has raved about those experiences, the final score in the Florida game excepted.

“We know we are going to be matched with a great opponent wherever we go,” Tressel said Monday. “I have heard our older players and fans talk a lot about what a thrill it would be if we earn the right to go back to the Fiesta Bowl.

“Certainly a trip to the Sugar Bowl [of the BCS] or the Capital One [which takes the Big Ten’s next best team after the BCS bowls are filled] would be fantastic, too. We are in a very fortunate position.”

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was feeling the same way. He wasn’t apologizing for the way his Sooners got into the Big 12 title game on Saturday in Kansas City.

The Big 12 South ended in a three-way tie at the top of Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech. The three teams each had one loss in conference and were forced to use BCS standings at a tiebreaker. That came down to an on-paper battle between Oklahoma and Texas.

Oklahoma, No. 2 yesterday behind Alabama in the three-component BCS ratings, gained the edge over Texas based on the computer rankings — the average of the six services used said the Sooners are the nation’s top team.

In the average of the two human polls, the USA Today vote of the coaches and Harris Interactive media vote, Texas was barely ahead of the Sooners.

Alabama’s composite score was .9713, Oklahoma was No. 2 at .9351, Texas was third at .9223 and Florida was fourth at .8851.

Alabama and Florida play Saturday in the Southeastern Conference championship game in Atlanta, with the winner probably moving on to the national title game.

Should Oklahoma beat Missouri, the Sooners should take the other spot in the national title game. Or if Florida beats Alabama, the BCS could conceivably rematch Oklahoma and Texas for the title.

In other words, it’s never over in the world of the BCS until the voters are done voting and the computers are done computing.

Stoops said he understands that.

“Who knows? A lot can happen,” Stoops said. “We are going to concentrate on trying to win this game and playing the best we can.”

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