Buckeyes, Ducks just plain different
LOS ANGELES -- Oregon and Ohio State have arrived in Southern California to play the Rose Bowl, proving that opposites really do attract. The only things that the Ducks and the Buckeyes have in common are the NCAA Football Rules Book and a date to welcome 2010 in the Arroyo Seco.
Other than their first letter, the states don't share much. Oregon is the Pacific coastline and Crater Lake. Ohio is miles of farmland, interrupted by cities.
Oregon golf is Bandon Dunes and its ethereal beauty. Ohio golf is Memorial and Firestone, brawny courses that demand power and precision.
Oregon has one major league franchise, the Trail Blazers. Ohio has six major league franchises -- the Bengals, Blue Jackets, Browns, Cavaliers, Indians and Reds -- spread across four sports. Seven, actually -- the Buckeyes belong not to a city but to the entire state.
Ohio State has a history of championships, five straight in the Big Ten and a crystal football as recently as 2002. Buckeyes fans bemoan the 13 years since their most recent appearance in the Rose Bowl. Ducks fans are thrilled that only 15 years have passed since their most recent Pac-10 title and trip to Pasadena.
When Ohio State fans look back a generation, they see Woody Hayes, two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin and the 10-Year War with Michigan. Oregon fans don't look back a generation.
Hayes, Ohio State's legendary coach, used snarl and bluster to hide the caring man underneath. Oregon's legendary coach, Len Casanova, remains a grandfatherly icon on campus to this day, some seven years after he died at age 97.
Ohio State players have won seven Heisman and four Outland trophies. Oregon's most famous players, quarterback Dan Fouts and running back Ahmad Rashad, are better known as TV analysts.
Ohio State's biggest rival is across the state line. Oregon's is not.
Ohio Stadium is a monolith, an ancient stadium modernized to seat more than 100,000 fans. Autzen Stadium, built small and on the cheap, has morphed into one of the toughest home fields in the game.
Ohio State wears gray pants. Its jerseys are either scarlet or white. When they wore throwback uniforms earlier this season, you needed an anthropologist to detect the difference between old and new.
Oregon's uniforms mix green, yellow, black and white in so many different combinations that a throwback uniform means 2008. The garish/cool/wild/innovative/jarring gear has helped make Oregon synonymous with Nike. Ohio State shares Columbus with The Limited.
Ohio State's Jim Tressel is a dress shirt with a tie neatly knotted beneath a sweater vest. Oregon's Chip Kelly doesn't own a sweater vest, and judging by his sideline wear, he may not own a tie, either. When Kelly wanders onto the field before a game in a T-shirt and shorts, he looks like an equipment manager.
Tressel is formal in appearance and mien. He walks into the room and you know that he's the head coach. No hair strays from its appointed place on Tressel's head, and no word betrays him, either.
He is so proper in how he presents himself and his team that he is known as the Senator. The Prince might be more accurate -- Tressel is football royalty, the son of a legendary small-college coach in Ohio. Tressel groomed himself as a national-championship coach at Youngstown State in Ohio before ascending to the state's highest position in 2001.
Kelly is the son of a seminarian who became an attorney. He toiled as an offensive coordinator at FCS New Hampshire for more than a decade before moving to Oregon in 2007. Two years later he became the head coach.
That's not the traditional path to a FBS head coaching job. Kelly's football isn't traditional, either. Kelly wants his offense to play fast. The Ducks' 40-second clock rarely dips into the single digits. Kelly's goal is to stretch the defense 100 yards long and 53 yards wide.
Tressel's style is as old as the game itself. He depends on field position, defense and the kicking game. His football is so conservative that Gen. Robert Neyland would approve.
Check the scores of their games. Oregon won games by scores of 38-36 and 37-33, and scored at least 37 points nine times. Ohio State shut out three teams and held another two to seven points.
The Oregon offense is filled with players who don't pass the eyeball test. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is built like a I-AA linebacker (5-foot-11, 220 pounds). He only looks the part when he has the ball in his hands.
Masoli's favorite receiver, Jeff Maehl, is too skinny (6-1, 175). His best running back, LaMichael James, is too small (5-9, 180) by most standards. Put him in the Ducks' spread offense, and just try to lay a hand on him.
Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor (6-6, 235) has all the measurables. He can run and he can throw and Kelly tried hard two years ago to lure Pryor from his Pennsylvania high school to Oregon. But two seasons into his Buckeyes' career, Pryor has yet to meet the expectations created by his fevered recruitment.
Heralded as the next Vince Young when he arrived, Pryor has mimicked VY more closely than the Buckeyes fans realize. Young didn't break out as a quarterback until his last two seasons on the Texas campus.
As delighted as Ohio State fans are to return to the Rose Bowl, they demand a victory. The Buckeyes have lost three consecutive bowl games, and their struggles in the BCS are well-known.
Oregon has won two consecutive bowls. It's just one more difference between two very different programs that will share the field on Jan. 1.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com and hosts the ESPNU College Football podcast. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at Ivan.Maisel@ESPN3.com.