What makes Ohio Stateís bowl tradition so special? First of all, itís that unlike Florida, we have a bowl tradition. And for Ohio State, our bowl tradition is only one piece in the much bigger tradition that is Ohio State football.
For Ohio State, the post-season bowl game is merely icing on the cake. For Ohio State, our "bowl tradition" starts in September as the Alumni Band forms our beloved Script Ohio, climaxes in November in "The Greatest Rivalry in College Football," and concludes, more often than not, in a major bowl appearance. In those years when we have a bad season (in other words, we lose to Michigan), the bowl game becomes a mere consolation prize.
The Buckeyes have turned down bowl invitations when the season did not warrant a top bowl bid. If Ohio State is not worthy of a top bowl appearance, we donít want to go. But as we all know, those seasons are few and far between.
When it comes to bowl games (as Florida will soon find out) there are few teams that travel as well as Ohio State. Ohio State fans bring their all to every game and the bowl games are no different. Many bowl stadiums have shuddered in awe as chants of O-H-I-O circle the stands. Every December great waves of scarlet and gray descend on the nationís warmer climes as the Buckeye bowl migration gets underway. Just ask Phoenix. By game time, Buckeye Nation has transformed local gathering spots into Columbus landmarks (think Varsity Club in Scottsdale) and the locals suddenly find themselves singing "Hang On Sloopy" and responding to yells of O-H with the obligatory I-O.
As for bowl history, Ohio State cut its teeth in the "Granddaddy of all Bowl Games," the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes first appeared in the post-season classic in 1920 more than 40 years before Florida even knew what a major bowl game was. And unlike Florida, Ohio Stateís bowl games count for something as the Buckeyes have notched seven national championships compared with Floridaís one and only national title.
Since the 1970s, Ohio State has played in at least eight bowl games per decade while the best decade Florida has ever known was the 1980s when they played in a mere seven post season games. (Granted the 80s were good for Florida, regardless of what the NCAA said about them.) Before 1975, in the Big Ten, if you didnít make it to a Rose Bowl, you didnít go to a bowl game. In 1976, Ohio State played in its 10th Rose Bowl. But hey, Florida has won the SEC championship a whopping seven times since the 1930s.
Finally, Florida will learn of one of our newest and greatest bowl traditions. Soon after the game is over, players and coaches will shun reporters, the cheering will suddenly stop, and a hush will fall over the stadium. You will notice that the Ohio State football players have removed their helmets and have gathered in front of the band. The chords of Carmen Ohio, lead by Coach Tressel will rise through the stands. Time will slow as voices, choked with tears, will join together in the singing of the Alma Mater only to be broken with the final phrase, OoooHiiiiOoooo.
Itís what Buckeyes do after ever football victory.
The Gators' bowl history isn't the richest in tradition, with the team appearing in only 18 bowl games before Steve Spurrier took over the program in 1990.
The 1992 Sugar Bowl kicked off the Gators' current run of 16 straight bowl games, a new tradition built on being at the right place, at the right time.
The team's first national championship was after the 1996 season. After a loss to Florida State in the regular season finale, the Gators needed a tremendous amount of help to play for the title.
Luckily, everything fell into place. Unranked Texas defeated #3 Nebraska in the Big XII Championship Game, knocking the Cornhuskers out of the running. Then, at the Rose Bowl, Ohio State stunned #2 Arizona State, making the #1 Florida State vs. #3 Florida Sugar Bowl the de facto championship game. The Gators' 52-20 rout of the hated Seminoles gave Gainesville its first football championship.
Sound familiar? Ten years later, the Gators needed help from UCLA, voters and computers to earn a trip to Arizona. And look what happened.
Despite the nearly unanimous predictions of an easy Ohio State victory, the Gators will keep alive their tradition of falling backwards into football championships. Not a long-standing tradition, just one that brings home the crystal.