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Mike Lopresti: Gannett National Sports Writer

COLUMN

Originally published: January 2, 2010

Emerging Pryor could lead Buckeyes to next year's title

By MIKE LOPRESTI, Gannett

Editors: Corrects in last graf the location - changes to Glendale, Ariz.

COLUMN

By MIKE LOPRESTI

Gannett

PASADENA, Calif. - Let's pause for a moment so Ohio State and Oregon people can get out of town, and the next bunch can come in. The first wave of Alabama maroon and Texas burnt orange has just been spotted.

The Rose Bowl was only the warm-up act, remember? That's the strange thing about the BCS system in the championship city. First, the traditional bowl, the hoopla, the parade.

Then the participants are shown the door, and the big guys enter for the title game. It must feel like being asked to leave a party just when dinner is being served. Impossible not to glare with envy at the lucky stiffs coming in.

Which brings us to this New Year's resolution of Terrelle Pryor.

"We've just got to keep on winning."

Now that we know Ohio State's plans for 2010 - pushed by the tailwinds from the Rose Bowl spanking of Oregon - this might be a good time to take a long look at the Buckeyes' quarterback and pose a question.

Does he remind anyone of Vince Young?

Young's dual threat firepower began to blossom his sophomore season, fertilized by enough experience and hard knocks.

Just like Pryor.

Young's promotion to a new level - from potential star to fully functioning playmaker - was announced in the Rose Bowl, when he passed and ran an opponent into oblivion.

Just like Pryor.

Young returned his junior season with a gaggle of other starters, guaranteeing his team would be one of the hunted in the polls before the first pep song from the tuba section.

So will Pryor.

Young won the national championship as a Texas junior.

See where we're headed with this?

You can do three good things in a bowl game, besides simply winning it.

• You can say a proper goodbye. See Tim Tebow and Bobby Bowden.

Poor Cincinnati and West Virginia. They thought they were being invited to play in a bowl game, when they were really being asked to serve as shrimp cocktail for two farewell parties.

• You can enjoy the moment by ignoring caution, prudence and conventional wisdom and turn the entire game into something like one long Hail Mary pass. See Auburn and Northwestern in the Outback Bowl.

A standing ovation, by the way, for Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, faking a field goal and going for the win in overtime, even if it did end up an exploding cigar. Bowl games are perfect for all-in bets.

• Or, you can do something that suggests the future could be yours.

Ohio State, for instance.

"It's a springboard," defensive end Cameron Heyward said of the Buckeyes' efforts in Pasadena. More like a preview of coming attractions.

Plan to see nine Ohio State starters likely returning next season on offense!

Don't miss a friendly 2010 schedule with eight home games, including Miami, Penn State and Michigan!

Already mentioned as one of the year's best —Terrelle Pryor III!

Listening to Pryor discuss his development as a passer is like listening to a car mechanic describe what it took to replace an oil pump. It seems to confirm that he now truly understands his job description.

"I think you need to earn the head coach's trust and even your teammates' trust in throwing the ball," Pryor began. "I had 10 turnovers this year but it was somewhat of forcing stuff.

"I was trying to force too many throws, trying to prove to everybody that I'm a quarterback, and I wasn't taking off when I could run. I need to use what I have."

Veterans talk like that. Ohio State will take an accomplished leader into 2010, most of his weapons, and the memory of blowing through Oregon.

Terrelle Pryor, meet Vince Young? We'll know next January in Glendale, Ariz., if the Buckeyes are coming into town while somebody else is going out.

Contact Mike Lopresti at mlopresti@gannett.com

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