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Earlier this season, the numbers "4114" served as the key pad code to enter Ohio State's practice facility. The team whose reputation had been drastically altered by those very numbers hasn't had to look hard to find motivation after the debacle in the Arizona desert last January.
Last year's 41-14 BCS title-game loss to Florida has been the basis for every knock against a fabled program and a conference that has been written off as nothing more than slow and plodding. On Monday night, Ohio State will make a repeat title game appearance, against LSU, and redemption is weighing heavy on these Buckeyes.
"I look at it as if we're an army going to battle for Ohio State pride once again," running back
The message was well received.
"Obviously you watch films like that and you realize just how much everybody hates you," offensive tackle
Knocking off the Tigers would go a long way toward debunking the Big Ten's inferiority, while a loss would only strengthen that theory (and turn that DVD into college football's version of
Here are five reasons why the Buckeyes will be hoisting the crystal football on Monday night:
"We have speed to match up against them," safety
Buckeyes junior defensive end
The increased speed on defense, and throughout the team, came with the help of someone who knows a thing or two about picking up the pace. The Buckeyes worked on their quickness with speed coordinator and Olympic gold medalist
Well, at least part of the season they could. The Tigers' third-ranked defense allowed just two yards per carry in the first 10 games, including 0.9 yards per carry during the opening three weeks. But over the last three games the banged-up unit was yielding 6.2 yards per carry, the brunt of which came from Arkansas, which totaled 385 yards.
In Wells, the Tigers will face a big body along the lines of the Razorbacks RB
In Tressel's seventh year at Ohio State, the Buckeyes are making their fifth BCS appearance (surpassed only by Florida State's
And he's done it with an almost stately demeanor that has earned him the nickname "Senator Tressel." That approach will be key with the Buckeyes playing in a pro royal-purple-and-old-gold crowd; a less-than neutral site that Barton has likened to
"[Tressel] gets you fired up in a different sort of way," Boone said. "He's not off the wall, bonkers, you really don't even know if he's happy, sad, anything."
Back in '03, when Ohio State won its first national championship since 1970, it was a 12-point underdog against No. 1 Miami. Fast-forward four years and the Buckeyes, despite being No. 1, are back in that role as four-point underdogs. The fact that they've done it minus the key ingredients of '06's potent offense has given this team a workmanlike mentality.
"Last year people kept saying, you're going to win, you're going to win," Boone said. "You start to think, We're going to win. Maybe we don't have to practice as hard as we are. This year it's the opposite. [People say,] 'You're too slow, you're not going to make it, you don't hit hard enough.' We've been taking practices up another level and running and hitting as hard as we can, and I think it's going to be different."
Ohio State, which is in the top-six in the country in seven categories, is also No. 1 in total defense (225.3 ypg), pass defense (148.2) and pass-efficiency defense. While Ohio State hasn't faced an offense as potent as LSU's No. 20-ranked attack, which averages 448.2 yards and 38.7 points per game (12th), being an offensive juggernaut hasn't necessarily guaranteed winning a national championship either.
Four of the last five champions have ranked lower than their opponents in total offense, and the Buckeyes enter the Superdome with the nation's 57th-ranked attack (397.1 yards per game). Ohio State is 36th in scoring (32 ppg).
Of course, there is always the fact that the one team to buck (no pun intended) both of those trends was last year's Gators.