Columbus, Ohio Three weeks after their unbeaten season, No. 1 ranking and dreams of redemption in the BCS title game seemed to turn to ashes, Ohio State is headed back to the ultimate game in college football.
Thank you, Pittsburgh Panthers.
The Buckeyes, No. 3 in the Bowl Championship Series rankings going into Saturday's final regular-season and conference title games, will make a return trip to the national championship game to meet a yet-to-be determined opponent on Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. in the Sugar Bowl.
"After a college football season filled with intriguing results, we are extremely proud to be the outright champions of the Big Ten," coach Jim Tressel said in a statement late on Saturday night. "We would be honored to represent Ohio State and the Big Ten in the national championship game. We know we will be up against a tremendous challenge whomever the final standings present as our opponent."
Having waited two weeks since beating Michigan in their last game, the Buckeyes will have to wait a little longer to find out who they'll play. The possibilities include Georgia, Kansas, Virginia Tech, LSU and USC - the teams ranked Nos. 4 through 8 in the most recent rankings.
Georgia is next in line but did not win its division of the Southeastern Conference and did not play this weekend in the SEC title game. Is it possible to allow Georgia to play in the national championship game and exclude LSU, the team which won the SEC title game, when both have two losses on the season?
"I'm sure we'll be the underdog against whoever we play," center Jim Cordle said earlier this week. "Hopefully that can help us out. That plus, we've got to defend ourselves from last year, rebound from that and show the nation how good this team is. That's going to drive us this bowl practice season."
Ohio State appears to be a lock for the game. A combination of human and computer polls will decide the final rankings on Sunday afternoon, making the 1-2 matchup official.
West Virginia, No. 2 in the BCS rankings, played at home against Pittsburgh in its regular season finale on Saturday night. Quarterback Pat White was hurt, crippling the Mountaineers' hopes, as they fell 13-9 in a colossal upset.
That was enough to punch the Buckeyes' ticket for the BCS title game.