Players and coaches with the team said the

Associated Press Published:

Players and coaches with the team said the Buckeyes earned the invitation they received Sunday to play Florida State in the Sugar Bowl, despite being outranked by both UCLA and North Carolina.

Ohio State (10-2), ranked ninth in The Associated Press' final regular-season college football poll released Sunday, will meet the No. 4 Seminoles (10-1) in New Orleans on Jan. 1.

The Buckeyes beat out fifth-ranked UCLA and No. 7 North Carolina for the Sugar Bowl berth. It will be the third meeting between Ohio State and the Seminoles and the first since 1982.

The last time Ohio State went to the Sugar Bowl was in 1978, when the team lost 35-6 to Alabama.

Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger said he expects controversy over the selection system to continue.

"This will pour gasoline on those flames," Geiger said. "I think UCLA is disappointed and I think they're disappointed in Chapel Hill (N.C.)."

Ohio State coach John Cooper said the Buckeyes earned a trip to the bowl game.

"We've lost two games (at Penn State and at Michigan) this year and both of those games were very competitive," Cooper said.

He had nothing but praise for Bobby Bowden's team.

"We're playing one of the most consistent football teams in college football," Cooper said. "They're a great defensive team every year, and on offense, I don't think anybody has more skilled athletes than Florida State has had over the years."

Ohio State quarterback Stanley Jackson said he was not surprised the Buckeyes clinched a top bowl spot despite dropping their regular-season finale to the top-ranked Wolverines.

"We lost to the No. 1 team in the country," Jackson said. "It's not like we were blown out. We gave them the best game they've had this season and it came down to the wire."

The Buckeyes' biggest challenge in the Sugar Bowl will be keeping the Seminoles out of their backfield, offensive coordinator Mike Jacobs said.

"I hope they don't look at our sack statistics," he said. "People don't realize they have the same kind of speed, quickness and ability to hit on defense as they do on offense."

Ohio State said it will be a challenge to contain Florida State's high-powered offense.

"They're a team that averaged 39 or 40 points a game this year," said Fred Pagac, the Buckeyes' defensive coordinator. "They're a team that throws the ball extremely well, and they have the ability to run the ball at all times."

The Buckeyes will travel to New Orleans on Dec. 25 for a week of practice before the game. The city has a reputation as a party town, but his players know the rules, Cooper said.

"I've been to Bourbon Street and all that stuff and I would hope our players will be mature enough to realize that there's a fine line between having fun and being ready to play," he said.

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