- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 4, 2011

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - No pressure, Ohio State.

The Big Ten was shut out on New Year's Day.

Unless the Buckeyes win Tuesday night’s Sugar Bowl against Arkansas, it will be a total wipeout at the hands of the hated Southeastern Conference.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel would prefer not to put the entire conference on his team’s back, especially since the No. 6 Buckeyes (11-1) have never won a bowl game against an SEC team in nine previous tries. But it’s hard to get past the Big Ten’s 0-for-5 performance on the first day of 2011 _ including three defeats at the hands of their rival to the south.

“I didn’t really see many of the games,” Tressel said Monday. “Obviously, I saw the results. Does it add something more to our challenge? I don’t think so. Arkansas is enough of a challenge on its own. What someone else did or didn’t do is probably going to have very little effect on how we do against Arkansas.”

Even so, there’s little doubt the Big Ten is feeling a bit of an inferiority complex against the SEC, which already has claimed an unprecedented four straight national titles and has a shot at making it five in a row when Auburn faces Oregon in the BCS championship game next week.

Ohio State will be the final Big Ten team to play this season, relegated to one of the BCS backup games but fully aware there’s always a bit of a subplot when these two conferences get together.

They are the two richest football-playing leagues, rolling in dough from lucrative television deals. For at least the past two decades, they’ve ranked 1-2 in attendance, so there’s clearly no lack of passion on either side. And, of course, the regional debate over who’s the best has raged for much longer than that, a latter-day civil war played out every Saturday from Ann Arbor to Tuscaloosa.

This past Saturday, it was all SEC.

Alabama blew out Big Ten co-champion Michigan State 49-7. Mississippi State routed Michigan 52-14. Penn State was the only team to put up much of a fight, losing to Florida 37-24. For those who can’t get their hands on a calculator, that’s an average margin of 31 points.

“We always say if you ever want to become the best, you play against the best,” Tressel said.

He’s still looking for his first bowl win against the SEC, going 0-3 in his decade as the Buckeyes’ coach _ including back-to-back losses in the national championship game.

“I’m not tired of hearing about it,” Tressel insisted. “It’s a reminder to me of just how good the SEC is in football. We are playing another great one in Arkansas.”

Bobby Petrino, coach of the No. 8 Razorbacks, 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,” Petrino 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.”

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