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 COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -After getting pummeled by then-No. 1 Southern Cal back on Sept. 13, the beaten and discouraged Ohio State Buckeyes straggled onto a plane for the long trip home.
``Quiet. Very quiet. Very long,'' offensive tackle Alex Boone said, describing the flight.
Five wins later, the 10th-ranked Buckeyes have a chance to make up for that prime-time failing and undo a lot of heartache when play No. 3 Penn State on Saturday night at a rockin', scarlet-draped Ohio Stadium.
The Buckeyes say they're not trying to redeem themselves for being embarrassed in Los Angeles, or for those blowout losses in the last two Bowl Championship Series title games to Florida and LSU. Yet the thought is still in their heads that they cannot afford another huge disappointment when the lights are the brightest.
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Ohio State (7-1, 4-0) has played unevenly, but still has knocked off every team in its path since that long flight home. As the season has worn on, the Buckeyes have come to realize that they still control their own destiny in many ways.
For example, one of their biggest goals was to become the first team to win three consecutive outright Big Ten titles. Regardless of whether they share the conference title or not, they can also become the first Ohio State team to grab at least four straight league championships since the Buckeyes did it six years in a row (1972-77).
``You know, it was tough at first to have all these goals, and visions for your team and to lose a game you fully expected to win,'' linebacker Marcus Freeman said, referring to the USC loss. ``After that game, our morale was down for a while. But we got back together and our seniors and our captains did a good job of getting us back together and getting us prepared. We got it going and we still knew we had a chance to win the Big Ten. Our goals for the season are still in front of us.''
To get from the low point of the lopsided loss to the excitement of Saturday's challenge took a lot of self-evaluation and a complete transformation of the Buckeyes' offense.
ver since the loss to the Trojans has been freshman Terrelle Pryor, who has added a dash of speed to the attack.
Even so, the Buckeyes - due in large part to those three lopsided losses in spotlight games - are listed as a slight underdog against Penn State.
``I definitely feel we're underdogs,'' Wells said. ``We've not been producing up to the expectations of the media or whoever it may be. A lot of people are thinking we're not a great football team.''
But the Buckeyes don't feel they're the same team as they were the last time a lot of people watched them on national TV. And they also feel they've learned from those searing, painful memories of that loss six weeks earlier.
``We're more prepared just because we all vividly remember what happened the last time,'' tight end Rory Nicol said. ``We always say that the Big Ten is a new season, and it is. We've played more games, we've got more experience, we're kind of figuring things out on offense. And you hope you learn from your past mistakes.''

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