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Rose Bowl Rivals Offer Stark Contrast

PASADENA, Calif. - Look who's coming to the same Rose Bowl Friday. The odd couple, sharing virtually nothing.

Well, they do share at least one thing. We'll get to that in a minute.

On one sideline, featuring the venerable scarlet and gray, will be Ohio State.

Think middle age bankers at a party, sitting quietly in the corner.

On the other sideline, wearing heaven knows what - green or yellow or some concoction suitable for directing traffic at night when they're done playing - will be Oregon.

Think the young guys at a party with lampshades on their heads.

In one huddle will be Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Tall, athletic, obviously the sort who was recruited by lots of schools. Including Oregon.

In the other huddle will be Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. He's listed at 5-11, 220 pounds, and once upon a time, that'd sound like a fine nose tackle.

Talking into one headset will be Ohio State's Jim Tressel. Son of a coach. He's already in his seventh BCS-level bowl game.

Talking into another headset will be Oregon's Chip Kelly. Son of a trial lawyer. Rookie head coach in his first bowl moment.

"Didn't sleep much last night, won't sleep much tonight," he said Thursday. "But I don't sleep much anyway."

Ohio State once considered Pasadena its winter home, coming often, winning occasionally. "They've heard about the Rose Bowl their entire lives," Tressel said of his troops.

Meanwhile, what do Harvard, Columbia and the Great Lakes naval station have in common?

They've all won the Rose Bowl since the last time Oregon did. That was 1917. Two years before, instead of a football game, the Tournament of Roses held chariot races.

Only four teams in the nation have allowed fewer points this season than Ohio State.

Only six teams in the nation have scored more points this season than Oregon.

In other words, Yin is playing Yang in the Rose Bowl.

"Those guys are new era and we are tradition," Ohio State defensive tackle Doug Worthington was saying the other day at a press conference. "It definitely is from two different sides of life."

But gather round, Buckeyes and Ducks, because on Jan. 1 you will be alike in one way. You will share the same sacred duty.

Please save your conferences another pie in the face.

Ah, the poor Big Ten. No conference reveres a bowl game more than this league does the Rose. But is there anything sadder than unrequited love?

Big Ten football became a national punching back in the 1970s and '80s by losing 16 of 18 Rose bowls. That included UCLA's 45-9 pummeling of Illinois in 1984, and in the last dreary minutes, I looked up from my seat in the press box to find Big Ten Commissioner Wayne Duke peering over the edge of the box, gazing down at the stands below.

"Don't mind me," Duke said, "I'm just thinking about jumping."

The league is back to its old sinful Pasadena ways, dropping six in a row, five of them by double digits.

Trim and proper Buckeyes, it's up to you to avoid further embarrassment. Ah, the poor Pac-10. Notice the early returns from this bowl season? The league has been shredded into more pieces than Christmas wrapping.

BYU 44, Oregon State 20.

Utah 37, California 27.

Nebraska 33, Arizona 0.

Wild and crazy Ducks, it's up to you to spare further humiliation. Or does USC always have to do the job?

Mention Ohio State, and the subject - even among the players - is three straight bowl or BCS title losses.

"We have not talked about it collectively," Tressel said, "but the fact someone might bring it up individually, it must be important to them."

Mention Oregon and the subject is the ugly opening 19-8 mess at Boise State. On that night, the only way the Ducks figured to be in the Rose Bowl Friday was through Ticketmaster.

"We had a really young football team thrown in the deep end and we had to either swim or sink," Kelly said. "And they've been swimming ever since."

So Oregon free styled here. Ohio State plowed. Different teams, same mission.

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