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Buckeyes know their roles in repairing Big Ten

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

CHICAGO -- Many like to blame Ohio State for all of the Big Ten's recent shortcomings, which is pretty unfair.

Granted, the Buckeyes have lost three consecutive BCS bowls, including two national championship games, and were blown out last September at USC. Ohio State has been the Big Ten's most dominant and visible team, and the league's most noticeable failure on the big stage.

But other teams haven't helped the league, either. Penn State, Illinois and Michigan have lost the last three Rose Bowls by a combined score of 119-59. Wisconsin hasn't been able to match its success from the 1990s. Iowa fell off after an impressive run from 2002-04. Purdue never got over the hump in big games.

The question of how to fix the Big Ten likely will linger until January, and the league's players and coaches seem more united in trying to turn things around. Several theories have been presented, but things always seem to trickle back to Ohio State.

Whether or not the Buckeyes got the Big Ten in this mess, it's up to them to get the league back on track.

"A lot of people look to us as the flag bearer," Ohio State safety Kurt Coleman said. "There's a great expectations for Ohio State to succeed. Whenever we go to the bowl games, if every [Big Ten] team would have won except us, the perception would have been a lot better than what it is now.

"There is a little more weight carried our way, and we expect that."

Other Big Ten teams can help out the league in September.

Wins by Illinois against Missouri, Minnesota against Cal, Purdue against Oregon and three Big Ten teams against Notre Dame could slightly enhance the league's rep. But Penn State's soft schedule prevents the Nittany Lions from making their mark nationally until November and, most likely, January.

Ohio State, meanwhile, can provide a major boost by beating USC on Sept. 12.

"We have a great deal on our shoulders," Buckeyes tight end Jake Ballard said. "You look at Ohio State and Penn State, two of the top teams the last couple of years, we've been falling short in bowl games. Us, personally, we've lost the last three, and there's not one day we don't think about that.

"It has to start with us."