ANN ARBOR, Mich. - With Saturday`s 14-3 victory over Michigan, Ohio State has wrapped up a BCS bowl bid.
Now the Buckeyes have to wait and see if they`ll be playing in the Rose Bowl, where the Big Ten champion gets an automatic spot, or if they`ll be playing in the BCS national championship game.
Ohio State is currently No. 7 in the BCS standings, but No. 2 Oregon lost to Arizona on Thursday night and three of the schools ahead of the Buckeyes are from the Big 12 - meaning that two of them lose before the end of the season.
That leaves just one Big 12 school, No. 1 LSU and No. 6 West Virginia standing in front of Ohio State. If two of those schools lose before the end of the season, the Buckeyes should be able to capture a spot in the national championship game.
"No matter what happens, we`re going to be happy about getting to a great bowl," Buckeyes linebacker Marcus Freeman said. "We`re college football fans and we`re going to be watching those games. We`re going to be rooting on Cincinnati (vs. West Virginia) tonight, and we`re going to hope LSU loses, but we can`t control that. All we know is that we`re going to have to start preparing, getting healthy and getting ready to play in our bowl game."
Perhaps the greatest testament to how the Buckeye players were feeling after Saturday`s game was tackle Alex Boone`s parting shot as he left the interview room.
"We just beat Michigan," Boone said. "It don`t matter where we end up. I`ll go to Alaska and play up there. We`ll play in the Snow Bowl. We just beat Michigan, I feel great, I`m happy right now, I love all of you ... and I`ve gotta go."
HEAT OF A RIVALRY
Much has been made of the rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan - HBO just started airing an hour-long documentary on the subject - and it probably wasn`t much of a surprise that there was a flare-up before the game`s coin toss even took place.
Ohio State players gathered together at midfield and began to bounce up and down, several of them jumping atop the block M on the 50-yard line. The Wolverines players immediately rushed to midfield and a scene out of "West Side Story" took place.
The two teams, separated by their respective coaches, pointed and jawed at each other for several minutes, before eventually dispersing and beginning their pregame warmups.
"That`s just boys being boys, c`mon guys," Boone said with a smile. "Sometimes our egos take over, it`s OK.
"No, it was just a little scuffling. Its`s football, it`s going to happen."
THE BIG HOUSE-SHOE
While the crowd of 111, 941 - the second largest in Michigan Stadium history - was predominantly wearing maize and blue, there was a strong contingent of Ohio State fans swarming around the southern end of the state over the weekend.
Fans wearing Ohio State garb could be seen all around downtown Detroit on Friday night, and they were well-represented in the tailgating areas of the stadium parking lots.
Large patches of scarlet (and gray) could be seen in the crowd, but the Michigan faithful was able to drown them out for the bulk of the game. But with the final seconds winding down and the Buckeyes putting the game away, Buckeye Nation made itself heard with a louder-than-you`d-ever-expect O-H-I-O chant that rolled around the four sides of the stadium.
"That was amazing," Boone said. "Obviously to come into this stadium and hear an O-H-I-O chant, that will get you going. My heart was thumping like crazy.
"I love our fans."
NOT ON DE-FENSE
There was no denying the role the Buckeyes defense played in Saturday`s victory over Michigan. Ohio State held superstar running back Mike Hart to just 44 yards rushing, veteran quarterback Chad Henne to 68 yards passing and the Wolverines offense to 91 total yards.
The catalyst of the defensive effort was junior defensive end Vernon Gholston, who finished with five tackles, a tackle for loss and three sacks - his 11th, 12th and 13th of the season and tying him for the single-season school record for sacks.
Gholston hails from Detroit, which is less than an hour from the Michigan campus.
"Vernon Gholston is a special guy and this is an important game for him coming back home here to play, and I`m sure Henne will see him in his sleep," Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said. "He`s a great football player and our whole defense put a lot of pressure on Michigan, and that`s the difference in the game."
The performance shouldn`t have come as a surprise to anyone, as Gholston has been solid all season and he apparently puts the work in off the field.
"He`s a great guy and a great player," Buckeyes linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "He`s obvioulsly talented, but it`s his work ethic that`s incredible. He hits the weight room after we`ve had a three-hour practice and spends hours in the tape room. That`s the reason he`s a tremendous player."
Gholston didn`t want to talk about his individual performance, but talked about the joy he got out of winning another Big Ten title.
"It`s big," he said. "With a team like Michigan, winning four years in a row is big. Not too many teams have done it. Stuff like this doesn`t happen too often."
WHAT'S UP, WOLVERINES?
* Michigan set an NCAA total attendance record this season with 882,065 fans watching its eight home games - a 110,258 average.
* Saturday`s game was the Wolverines` 208th consecutive crowd of 100,000-plus fans.
* With his 10th carry of the game, Hart reached 1,000 consecutive touches without a fumble.
* Senior linebacker Shawn Crable set the school single-season record with 27 tackles for loss.
* Senior free safety Brandent Englemon returned a Todd Boeckman interception - the game`s only turnover - 33 yards during the second quarter for his career long.
* The 91 yards in total offense was the first time Michigan had been held under 100 yards since it managed just 97 against Purdue in 1962.
* Chris "Beanie" Wells is just 115 yards away from having the greatest sophomore season in Ohio State history. Wells` 222 yards Saturday give him 1,463 for the year, placing him second behind Archie Griffin`s 1,577 during his sophomore season in 1973.
* Wells` 62-yard run in the third quarter was a career long, topping the 58-yard touchdown run he had against Michigan in last season`s matchup. It was also the longest rush of the season for the Buckeyes.
* The Buckeyes were 1-for-1 in red-zone chances during Saturday`s victory. For the season, Ohio State is 38-for-42 in the red zone.
* The three points the Buckeyes defense allowed Saturday was the lowest point total allowed against Michigan since Ohio State`s 28-0 shutout in 1962.
* Gholston`s 13 sacks have totaled 96 yards in losses, second behind the 101 yards in losses Mike Vrabel had on his 13 sacks in 1995.
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or email@example.com.