PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Ohio State and Oregon had their New Year's Day plans firmed up several days before the BCS got around to making it official.
The Big Ten champion Buckeyes will meet the Pac-10-winning Ducks in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 in a pleasantly traditional finish to two remarkable seasons.
The Rose Bowl's customary intersectional rivalry is intact again this year, but this time it matches two standout programs that haven't received their conferences' traditional postseason grand prize in a surprisingly long time.
Ohio State (10-2) hasn't played in the Rose Bowl since 1997, while Oregon (10-2) hasn't made it since 1995.
"It's going to be a tremendous honor to compete in the Granddaddy of Them All," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "It's always one of the goals at the beginning of every football year to have a chance to play in that one. You can be assured you had a wonderful season. Our staff has been here for nine years, and we haven't had that honor up to this point."
The schools have known they would face each other since Thursday, when the No. 7 Ducks held off Oregon State 37-33 in the Civil War to claim the Pac-10's top postseason spot. The eighth-ranked Buckeyes already wrapped up their fifth straight Big Ten title and a California holiday with a win over Iowa back on Nov. 14.
Tressel has taken the Buckeyes to the heights of college football, but not to Pasadena. Ohio State last made it at the end of the 1996 season, when the Buckeyes beat Arizona State.
Oregon hasn't been down the Pacific coast to a Rose Bowl since the 1994 season despite program architect Mike Bellotti's 14 outstanding years, which began right after that appearance. With a remarkable rebound from a season-opening loss at Boise State, Oregon rookie coach Chip Kelly has done what Bellotti never managed before becoming athletic director this year.
"This football team is going to finish this thing the right way," Kelly said. "We are not going to play in a bowl game, we are going to win a bowl game."
Although the Ducks won conference titles in 2000 and 2001, they ended up in the Holiday and Fiesta bowls, respectively.
Ohio State has lost its last three postseason contests, but after playing in two national title games and two Fiesta Bowls in the past four seasons, the Buckeyes likely will welcome the change of stakes. So will the Ducks, who have won two straight bowl games, but haven't had the national showcase they've long craved, thanks to Southern California's dominance of the Pac-10.
The Ducks went 8-1 in Pac-10 play this fall, losing only to Stanford, while ending USC's seven-year reign atop the league.
"When you come in as a freshman, you want to win a championship," Oregon receiver Ed Dickson said. "When that time comes, you win a Pac-10 championship, you feel like you won a million bucks."
Most believe the Trojans' dethroning after four straight Rose Bowl appearances is a boon for the Pac-10's national reputation. Despite a 9-2 bowl record over the past two seasons, the West Coast league still struggles for national respect - and a win by the Ducks would fully erase the so-called "Pac-1" perception.
Ohio State has won each of the schools' previous seven meetings, including the 1958 Rose Bowl. They haven't faced each other since 1987.
Tressel already had done some scouting of the Ducks, eagerly watching the Civil War three days earlier. He's impressed by quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and Oregon's overall speed, which propelled one of the nation's most explosive offenses.
"I can promise you they're lightning," Tressel said. "If you can win the Pac-10, I think top to bottom, the Pac-10 is one of the most balanced football conferences in America. You've got to defend it all. The quarterback is a guy who can hurt you bad with his feet and his arm."
The game also matches Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor against the Ducks, who recruited the Pennsylvania high school star heavily to play in their spread offense. Pryor claimed interest but didn't make a recruiting visit to Eugene, and his two seasons in Columbus have been inconsistent despite the Buckeyes' impressive record.