Setting a program record for victories and winning its first Mid-American Conference-West title likely won't erase the frustration the Ball State University football team felt after its dream of a perfect season ended Dec. 6 with a 42-24 loss to Buffalo in the MAC championship game.

Setting a program record for victories and winning its first Mid-American Conference-West title likely won't erase the frustration the Ball State University football team felt after its dream of a perfect season ended Dec. 6 with a 42-24 loss to Buffalo in the MAC championship game.

At least for former Worthington Kilbourne High School player and Cardinals defensive back Derrick Henry, there might not be a better opportunity to forget that disappointment than facing Tulsa in the GMAC Bowl on Jan. 6. Henry knows above all that he'll busy against one of the nation's top passing attacks.

That alone is enough to get him excited for the trip to Mobile, Ala., where his team will play in the final bowl game before the BCS National Championship game Jan. 8 between Florida and Oklahoma.

Ball State has a 12-1 record and Tulsa is 10-3, including a 27-24 loss to East Carolina in the Conference USA championship game Dec. 6.

"We were on a mission to be the MAC champions," Henry said. "Even though we weren't able to win it, we're still happy with the opportunity to play in our bowl game. Tulsa averages the second-most points in the NCAA behind Oklahoma and they're going to be throwing the ball a lot. I'm sure that I'll be happy because I'll be seeing a lot of playing time."

Tulsa, which averages 47.4 points to trail only the Sooners (54.0) and finished with the fifth-most passing yards in the Bowl Subdivision, will attempt to hand the Cardinals a bowl loss for the second consecutive season. Rutgers beat Ball State 52-30 in the 2008 International Bowl as Ray Rice ran for 279 yards and four touchdowns.

Henry played every game as a freshman a year ago and started four of the first five games this season before settling into a role in nickel and dime defensive packages. He was named the MAC-West Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in Ball State's 42-20 win over Indiana on Sept. 20 and has 40 tackles and two forced fumbles.

He is joined on the Cardinals' roster by Olentangy graduate Andre Dawson and Dublin Scioto graduate Adam Morris.

"(Ball State) ended up being the only school to offer me, but it's been working out ever since," Henry said. "It makes me play with a chip on my shoulder sometimes."

•REPRESENTING OHIO -- Of the 55 central Ohio natives who are listed on rosters of teams participating in bowl games, 26 play for colleges in Ohio -- 15 at Ohio State and 11 at Cincinnati.

Only two players with central Ohio ties are likely to start when Ohio State takes on Texas in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 5. Lancaster graduate Jim Cordle starts at left guard and Pickerington Central graduate A.J. Trapasso is the punter.

At least seven central Ohio natives are likely to see action when the Bearcats face Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, including four who are starters. Independence graduate Jacob Ramsey is the Bearcats' leading rusher with 630 yards and two touchdowns and also has 12 catches for 89 yards and one score. Pickerington Central graduate Ryan Manalac starts at middle linebacker and Independence's Torry Cornett (LB) and DeAngelo Smith (CB) also are starters.

Manalac leads the team in tackles (74) and also has two tackles for losses, Cornett is second in tackles (67) and Smith is fourth (61) and also has three tackles for losses and two interceptions.

•ALSO FROM THE BIG TEN -- Penn State and Ohio State will represent the Big Ten in BCS Bowls, but nine other area players compete for other Big Ten schools which will compete in bowl games as well.

Two players from central Ohio who have made significant impact are Northwestern's Jeremy Ebert and Michigan State's B.J. Cunningham. The success of Cunningham at wide receiver was no surprise after he had 45 catches, including nine touchdowns, for Westerville South and was selected the MVP of the 2007 Big 33 game, but Ebert's contributions at the same position have come as a surprise.

Ebert, who is a freshman, has played in all 12 of the Wildcats' games and has 15 catches for 161 yards with two touchdowns.

Ebert and Pickerington Central graduate Brian Peters will attempt to help Northwestern beat Missouri in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29. Peters also has played in all 12 of the Wildcats' games at safety and has 30 tackles and a fumble recovery.

Ebert was the Captain of the ThisWeek Super 25 as a senior playing quarterback for Hilliard Darby but has made a smooth transition to wide receiver.

"It's nice to know that I got to have a part of such a great team with such a great senior class," Ebert said. "I just went through camp, and the coaches said they liked me. Since I've been able to be out there, it gives me confidence to know that I can do it. Missouri has got some really good linebackers and they play in a real tough league in the Big 12. They'll be a real test for us."

Cunningham redshirted in 2007 but has 35 catches for 476 yards this season, starting in 10 games. He is fourth on the team in all-purpose yards (532).

Michigan State plays Georgia in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1. The Spartans are 9-3 and are competing in a New Year's Day game for the first time since 2000. Michigan State has had only two 10-win seasons -- 1965 and 1999.

"It's been a really special season," Cunningham said. "We haven't had a season like this in a long time. I came out in spring ball last year and did pretty well but I didn't know I was going to be a starter. The fact I was able to go out and start and have a chance to make a difference feels really good."

•PROGRAM REWARDS -- Pickerington Central has five players on rosters of teams competing in bowls and DeSales and Dublin Coffman have four.

The Stallions' quartet should have significant impact on their teams' hopes. Justin Moore and Chris Thomas are juniors and Will Keuchler is a sophomore for Air Force, which will play Houston on Dec. 31. Thomas is second for the Falcons in tackles (60) and also has two forced fumbles and one interception, Moore has 39 tackles and one forced fumble and Keuchler has seen action in all 12 games as well.

A.J. Principe, who won Buffalo's kicker job last spring as a freshman, has made 10 of 15 field goals and 46 of 50 extra points to help his team to an 8-5 record. The Bulls play Connecticut in the International Bowl on Jan. 3 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Buffalo won its first MAC title and is playing in a bowl game for the first time.

"It was an unbelievable season," Principe said. "I actually talked to (Buffalo coach Turner Gill) a couple times after (the 2007 high school season) and he said that I could walk on and if I won the job they might have some scholarship money for me. After the second scrimmage of training camp, he told me that they were going to put me on scholarship.

"I talk to (the Air Force players from DeSales) every once in a while. It's awesome just to look back and to think about how hard we all worked and have gotten rewarded."