Oregon was pronounced dead by the college coroner the Thursday before Labor Day after the Ducks played like pond scum in a horrific season-opening...

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LOS ANGELES — Oregon was pronounced dead by the college coroner the Thursday before Labor Day after the Ducks played like pond scum in a horrific season-opening defeat at Boise State.

Ohio State allegedly packed it in Sept. 12 when it lost at home to USC and forfeited all credibility with the civilized world in “prove-it” games against schools outside the comfy Big Ten confines.

The Rose Bowl was listing toward USC and the winner of Iowa-Penn State and there was nothing anyone was going to do about it.

OK, so how did we get here?

Not only are Oregon and Ohio State meeting in the 96th Rose Bowl on Friday, it’s a game you can sell advertising around.

Oregon and Ohio State each finished with 10 wins, ended up ranked in the top 10, and outright captured, with no need for a procedural tiebreak, the Pacific 10 and the Big Ten conferences.

“It is a pretty crazy story line,” Ohio State receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said this week. “Obviously, they had a tough loss at the beginning of the year and we lost early too. So I really think it shows the perseverance of these teams.”

That sounds about right: The Perseverance Bowl, presented by Citi.

This should be a lesson to all you kids: never, ever, ever give up — or schedule your opener at Boise State.

Wait, it gets worse. Oregon and Ohio State each lost again after Sept. 12, and still made it to this top-shelf bowl. The Ducks gave up 52 points at Stanford, and the Buckeyes lost to Purdue — a team even Notre Dame handled.

Yet, given the rough starts, this Rose Bowl matchup is intriguing.

For starters, it’s a new coat of paint, not the usual USC vs. Michigan/Illinois/ Michigan/Penn State parade and rout.

Ohio State has won at least a share of five consecutive Big Ten titles but managed to dodge Pasadena — which isn’t easy under a Pac-10/Big Ten compact dating to 1946.

Ohio State is thrilled to be participating in a postseason game not sponsored by a corn chip; the Buckeyes have played in five Fiesta Bowl-sponsored events since 2002.

Ohio State has lost three consecutive Bowl Championship Series games and is in California on serious business, strictly to clear its good name.

“We didn’t come here to get away from the snow,” defensive tackle Doug Worthington said. “We came here to put Ohio State back on the map.”

Oregon hasn’t been seen here since 1995, when it lost to Penn State and Joe Paterno was only in his late 60s.

Oregon is the jet-aged green team from rain-soaked Eugene, sponsored by Nike, with more costume changes than backstage at “Miss Universe.”

Ohio State wishes it had Oregon’s glitzy, breathless, jailbreak tempo on offense, averaging 37.7 points; Oregon might kill for a couple of Ohio State’s beefy interior defensive linemen.

Ohio State is trying to get hip with the program. It landed quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the recruit Oregon wanted to run its spread after dashing Dennis Dixon. The problem has been getting Pryor, who stands 6-foot-6 and eats up three yards per stride, to play like the next Vince Young.

When Oregon didn’t get Pryor, it dipped into the junior-college pool for San Francisco Bay Area star Jeremiah Masoli, who may step from the Rose Bowl tunnel as the most feared quarterback on the field.

Masoli and Pryor are the definitions of “dual threat,” with Masoli seeming to have a better grip on the spread’s steering wheel.

It’s hard to believe, though, these are the same teams that stunk up their starts.