COLUMBUS, Ohio – No. 3 Ohio State has another likely laugher this week against Indiana, which is fresh off a 51-3 loss at Wisconsin.
Urban Meyer is trying to darndest to keep things inside Ohio State’s locker room and facility business as usual — and focused only the business at hand.
The Buckeyes haven’t lost since Meyer took over less than two weeks short of two years ago, following a bowl-banned 12-0 season this year with 10 wins so far this season. On Saturday, they play the final home game for a senior class that’s seen plenty in its time on campus and try to clinch Ohio State’s first appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game.
That game is a step towards going where Ohio State really wants to go, to the BCS National Championship Game. The odds of that happening without a loss by No. 1 Alabama or No. 2 Florida State seem long, and Meyer both knows that and knows that is what plenty of people want to talk about.
So he’s not.
“We’re going to really do a good job this week of teaching (backup running backs) Warren Ball and Ezekiel (Elliott) how to tackle (because of injuries),” Meyer said in his Monday press conference. “We mentioned (the BCS standings) as of now (in a Sunday meeting) and we might have another chat about 8:00 Saturday night if we play well. Up until that point, we’re all business. We have some issues we have to take care of.
“Every team is dealing with those issues right now, (like) injuries, and making it right, that’s our job. We had an excellent team meeting yesterday. There was nothing other than conversation about, ‘Congratulations, great job. You ran for 441 yards.’
“We have got to get better in certain areas, but we also appreciate where we are. I think it’s an appreciation of where we’re at and move forward.”
Meyer answered a later question about the season being a disappointment if it didn’t include a national title game appearance by saying injuries to the linebacker and safety ranks have forced the Buckeyes to use walk-ons and running backs in kick coverage. Really.
Ohio State can’t control the BCS standings, how it could slip a spot this week if No. 4 Baylor can beat Oklahoma State, or Ohio State’s opponent in that Dec. 7 Big Ten Championship Game. So, Meyer is choosing to use a few letdown spots in last week’s 60-35 win at Illinois — the Buckeyes led 28-0 at one point — and the fact that Ohio State really has clinched nothing yet to movitate his team.
“This (Indiana) team can score points in bunches,” Meyer said. “We’ve got to control the clock, control the time. They scored a good amount of points on Michigan State, the number one defense I think it might be in the country. On a national scale, which we’re not worried about that, (the perception is) we’re going to beat this team. Wait a minute now. This is a very good team, very good players, well coached. We have to really focus this week on facing a very potent offense.”
Indiana is averaging 39 points per game, good for 14th in the country and 10 spots behind Ohio State. The Hoosiers are 4-6, though, because they’re really not stopping anybody.
Indiana ranks 124th — or next to last — in the country in total defense, allowing 534.8 yards per game. The Hoosiers are 116th in scoring defense, allowing an average of 38.8 yards per game and 122nd against the run, at 251.1 yards per game.
Ohio State has scored 63, 56, and 60 points in its last three games. And now it returns home knowing there’s a chance style points could affect national perception.
Meyer said he’s going to continue working to make sure his players enjoy every win and use every day of practice to improve. He pointed out that his players had “Victory Meal” on Sunday night for the 22nd straight time, and that all the work this week goes into making it 23 next week.
Then, the really big games come. And, maybe or maybe not, the chance to play in The Really, Really Big Game.