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Big Ten's honor is also at stake

Coach Jim Tressel knows what a win tonight would mean to his university.

By BRIAN LANDMAN and GREG AUMAN
Published January 8, 2007


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Coach Jim Tressel knows what a win tonight would mean to his university.

A fifth Associated Press national title, the second in five years.

But he's also cognizant of what it would mean for the Big Ten and its reputation.

"One of the fun things about bowl games, whether they are for the national championship or they are just another bowl game, is being a part of how your conference does," he said Sunday morning. "I think that's another thing to get excited about."

The league is just 2-4, but both wins came in Big Ten-SEC matchups: Penn State beat Tennessee in the Outback Bowl, and Wisconsin beat Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl. The SEC is 5-3 overall.

"Our guys take great pride in our conference because they run into those guys all year long and they bang into them and they compete with them," he said. "And they are proud of the people they compete with. And then you get into the postseason and everyone is talking about, 'How did your conference do?' You want to contribute to your conference doing well, and I think that's real."

WIRE TO WIRE? Tressel hasn't seen the need to remind his players that if they win, they will have been No. 1 from the preseason to the end of the season, something that hasn't happened in school history. "Gene Smith, our athletic director, happened to mention that to the team," Tressel said. "He said, 'One thing you always want to do in life is find ways to separate yourself.' "

MOTIVATIONAL PLOYS: Tressel was asked about how effective he thinks it was when, according to a player, he gave out a card with a saying from Confucius. "Obviously that one didn't work because it wasn't Confucius," he said. "It happened to be Nelson Mandela."

NICE TRY: An exchange with quarterback Troy Smith from Friday's media day:

Reporter: "How come everybody is so PC? When is somebody going to come out and say 'We're going to kick a little butt on Monday' "?

Smith: "That's not us. If you're looking for that kind of uproar, you're definitely holding a microphone to the wrong player for the wrong team. That's never been us, that won't be us. "

NO WAIT AT ALL: Ohio State will have gone an unprecedented 51 days since its win against Michigan, but the Buckeyes have downplayed the seven-week layoff. "It hasn't been 51 days off. It's been a lot of Saturdays off that we haven't played games on," Smith said. "We've had practice, practice, practice and practice, and a lot of times, the practices are a lot more brutal than the games. Obviously, school is not in, the 20-hour rule is not in effect and we're there all the time."

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or 813 226-3347. Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3346.