Buckeyes Content to Be Underdogs

Dec 26, 2002

AP Sports Writer

PHOENIX (AP) – Ohio State arrived for the Fiesta Bowl still glowing from thememory of an impromptu send-off in Columbus and unconcerned about theirunderdog status against No. 1 Miami.

The second-ranked Buckeyes (13-0) are 13-point underdogs against Miami inthe national championship game on Jan. 3. They arrived a day ahead of theHurricanes (12-0), who won last year’s title by routing Nebraska 37-14 in theRose Bowl.

“Any time you experience things, that’s an advantage,” coach Jim Tresselsaid. “But one thing about our guys playing and coaching at Ohio State is thatit’s a media blitz everyday. I remember my first summer on the job – I pickedup a newspaper on July 15, and they had an in-depth discussion of how we weregoing to be on the offensive line. That’s the way it is in Columbus.”

Buckeyes mania manifested itself Thursday morning, when Tressel got a callasking if the team could make a detour through the city’s business district onthe way to the airport.

“It was probably 25 (degrees) or colder, and it was amazing how many peoplecame out of their office buildings and so forth and were lined along thestreets,” Tressel said. “That was exciting. You know, it’s a reminder that wedon’t just represent ourselves.”

The Buckeyes won their last undisputed national title in 1968. Ohio State isthe first Big Ten team to play in a Bowl Championship Series title game sincethe BCS began in 1998.

Miami’s speed was the deciding factor in a 23-12 victory over Ohio State inthe 1999 Kickoff Classic, the last meeting for the high-profile programs.

The Hurricanes have a 34-game winning streak – evidence that they haven’tslowed down, and one reason they are heavy favorites.

“You never hear anything in our locker room as far as where we’re ranked orare in the spread, or whatever, in terms of any game,” Tressel said. “I thinkour guys did a good job of just going to work and trying to get as good as wecould get, and that’s all we could expect of ourselves: Play the best we’recapable of playing, and we’ll see how that bears out.”

All-American strong safety Mike Doss, who had a career-high 98 tackles thisseason after fighting off the temptation to leave school early for the NFLdraft, said the oddsmakers are overlooking the heart of his team.

“We believe in ourselves,” Doss said. “We’ve believed in ourselves allseason. We had a goal in the preseason and worked each week to accomplish thatgoal, and I think our team is going to work hard this week. We know this is thelast game for us. It’s a national championship and on a national stage -probably even a worldwide stage – and we just want to be prepared and go outthere and have a great game.”

Tressel said 75 to 80 players were aboard the team’s flight, while another25 were traveling to Phoenix from various points after spending Christmas Daywith their families.