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Petrino, the Razorbacks’ third-year coach, wants to keep the trend going. But, like Tressel, he’s not chalking up a win for Arkansas (10-2) just because of conference affiliation.

“I don’t think any of that matters for this game,” he said. “What you see in this game is a great football team from Ohio State that’s a tremendous challenge for us. What happened in other games, who we play throughout the year, you kind of put that behind you and just focus on going out and trying to win this game.”

Ohio State has tried to keep looking forward. Yet it’s kind of hard when everybody keeps bringing up the past _ especially that 0-9 postseason record against the SEC.

“The past is what it is. There is nothing you can do about that. This year is a new year,” offensive lineman Bryant Browning said. “This game, I feel that we have a veteran bunch and we are really ready to study hard and work hard so we can go out on the field and give it our best. I was here for a couple of losses to SEC teams. You are not trying to play your last game and lose.”

Besides, the Buckeyes have been fretting about bigger concerns that beating the SEC. Star quarterback Terrelle Pryor and three other offensive starters will get to play in this game, but they’ve already been suspended for the first five games next season, the NCAA-imposed punishment for selling off memorabilia and receiving discounts on tattoos.

Over the weekend, Pryor talked with the media for the first time since his punishment was announced, reiterating his vow to return to the Buckeyes for his senior season _ even if he’ll miss nearly half the games _ but stirring up another tempest when asked about critical comments by ESPN analyst and former Ohio State QB Kirk Herbstreit.

“I don’t worry about what Kirk Herbstreit says, to tell you the truth,” Pryor said. “Did he beat Michigan?”

The Buckeyes were 0-3-1 against their biggest rival during Herbstreit’s career. They’ve won all three meetings with Pryor as their quarterback.

“As we talk with any of our kids in terms of giving their opinions on things, I’ve always felt that sometimes those are best left unsaid,” Tressel said, before acknowledging that “is difficult sometimes for kids because they spend so much of their time hearing people’s opinions of them.”

The 58-year-old Tressel also denied speculation he might retire after the Sugar Bowl, blaming a website for spreading false information.

“Recruits are calling asking if it’s true or not,” he said. “The rumor is a waste of time, but this world is an ever-evolving waste of time. I don’t know when people have time to spend so much time reading all this stuff.”

Then, he jokingly added, “It’s better than the alternative: the day they fire you.”