Every time you tell someone that believing in hexes is a folly for fools, that there's no such thing as one school having another's number, Florida State misses a last-second field goal attempt that could have beaten Miami.

It doesn't happen every year, but shoot if it didn't happen this year when Wide Left I picked up for Wide Right III in the annals of Florida State football.

Michigan and Ohio State, who played Saturday in this weekend's Big Game, appear locked in a similar voodoo dance.

The Buckeyes play in a stadium known as the Horseshoe and, just to play it safe this week, they should have considered nailing one to the door above their locker room.

Ohio State came in 12-0 for the first time in school history, No. 2 in the Bowl Championship Series standings, and one teensy-weensy victory over Michigan from playing for the national title in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3.

In 1993, Ohio State was 9-0-1 beginning Michigan week and needed a win to go to the Rose Bowl. Michigan won, 28-0. This wasn't Tom Harmon's Michigan, either. The Wolverines were 6-4 before the game.

"That's one of the most embarrassing games I think I've ever been associated with," Buckeyes' Coach John Cooper said afterward.

Cooper would be associated with others.

In 1995, Ohio State was 11-0 and ranked No. 2 before the regular season ender against No. 18 Michigan. Ohio State wide receiver Terry Glenn proclaimed, "Michigan is nobody. I guarantee we're going to the Rose Bowl."

Postscript: Michigan's Tim Biakabutuka rushed for 313 yards in the Wolverines' 31-23 victory.

Ohio State went to the Citrus Bowl.

"I don't know if I've ever been as disappointed in my life," Cooper said.

No one at the time said, "Wait 'til next year, coach."

Sure enough, in 1996, Ohio State again was undefeated, at 10-0, and No. 2 before playing Michigan. No more Terry Glenn bulletin-board bluster this time, as Cooper ordered a media quarantine. The Buckeyes came out so tight they squeaked, settling for three first-half field goals instead of touchdowns.

On the second play of the second half, Michigan backup quarterback Brian Griese hit Tai Streets on a 68-yard scoring pass and the Wolverines won, 13-9.

Buckeye fans have reason to feel better about the Michigan menace this year.

For one, John Cooper is no longer the Buckeyes' coach. For all his abilities at talent procurement and pushing the Buckeyes to the precipice, Cooper had this thing about the Wolverines. He couldn't beat them when it counted, going 2-10-1 in 13 tries, adding only triskaidekaphobia to this tale of whoa.

The more Cooper pressed, the more it reflected on Ohio State performances.

Take 1996: All year, against the judgment of many, Cooper started Stanley Jackson at quarterback over Joe Germaine.

Germaine was the better quarterback, but the team was 10-0 when Jackson started. So Cooper starts Germaine and the Buckeyes lose.

Sometimes, just cleaning out the coach's office can help in matters of the Michigan kind. Jim Tressel replaced Cooper two years ago and immediately announced he was going to stomp some Wolverine tail.

Tressel didn't need a recitation on Ohio State miseries against Michigan."I don't know if that's the type of history we study," he said this week. "I think we do study what makes the difference in big games."

Last season, Tressel's first, Ohio State went to Ann Arbor and beat Michigan, 26-20.

It was that game, not the ghost of Thanksgiving weekend past, that makes Ohio State players think this year is going to be different.

"I think we gained a lot of confidence going up and winning the way we did," Wilhelm said. "Having control of the game for almost the entire game and really having no threat of them coming back toward the end of the game, that really gives this team a lot more confidence as a whole."

USC's BCS Hopes

Southern California has sent two athletic department staffers to lobby the Sugar and Orange bowls for a possible BCS at-large position.

The facts: USC is not going to win a head-to-head battle against Notre Dame with the Orange Bowl. If Miami, Ohio State and Washington State win out, the Orange Bowl is going to use its at-large pick on Notre Dame even if USC defeated the Irish.

USC's best chance for an at-large choice is to hope a Miami loss puts Ohio State and Washington State in the Fiesta Bowl. In that case, the Rose Bowl could fill the at-large spots with USC vs. Iowa.

Here's another way the 10-2 Trojans (entering this weekend's game against UCLA) could not be denied: get to No. 4 in the final BCS standings. That would guarantee USC an at-large spot under BCS rules. It's not as farfetched as it sounds. The Trojans are No. 8 in the BCS this week, trailing No. 7 Iowa by only 1.88 points. USC has two games left, while Iowa's regular season is finished. Two wins for USC would likely vault the Trojans over Iowa and Notre Dame. From there, USC could get the No. 4 spot if two of the five teams ahead of it slip.

Ohio State's Cie Grant (6) and Jamar Martin celebrate last season's win over the Wolverines.