After long season, task is simple for Buckeyes
It might seem as if the pressure just keeps building and
building on No. 2 Ohio State.
That’s not really the case.
”That’s the beauty about the position we’re in,” center Corey
Linsley said. ”We really do control our own destiny. We just have
to win this game and then it’s all set for us.”
Still, the risks and rewards are elevated – even after the
Buckeyes’ biggest win of the season against archrival Michigan. Now
they have to turn right around and play yet another major
They meet No. 10 Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game
on Saturday – the latest in a long line of games which have
required focusing on the task at hand instead of Big Ten, big bowl
and BCS dreams.
In a way, however, as the long season has unfolded, it’s
actually easier to concentrate and discard all the extraneous white
noise. Roll the dice, play the game, see what happens.
A lot of the pressure went away on Saturday night, after the
Buckeyes had pulled out a 42-41 win at Michigan Stadium. The
Buckeyes were about 30 minutes north of Columbus when they saw on
the TV sets and their smartphones on the team bus that Auburn had
shocked top-ranked Alabama on a last-play, 100-plus-yard return of
a missed field goal.
That not only pushed the Buckeyes into the coveted No. 2 spot in
the BCS rankings behind Florida State, but it also touched off a
wild celebration on the bus.
Cell-phone video of the moment when it was all but assured that
Ohio State would move up a spot into control of a national
championship berth showed screaming, laughing and a lot of
back-slapping and high-fiving.
”That was a real exciting moment because a lot of guys were
watching the game on the bus,” linebacker Ryan Shazier said. ”A
lot of guys got hyped from it. That something like this fell into
our favor, everything just played out like it should have.”
Now it’s up to the Buckeyes (12-0) to not let this chance slip
through their fingers against the Spartans (11-1) at Lucas Oil
Stadium in Indianapolis.
”We have done everything we need to do up to this point,”
Linsley said. ”We can’t start doing things that we haven’t done.
We’ve never paid attention to the BCS. Never. That’s never been our
primary focus – to jump somebody in the BCS. Our primary focus
every week was to win the game by as many points as we needed to
win. We can’t start changing stuff up now.”
It would be easy to let up. The Buckeyes survived a last-minute
two-point conversion pass that was intercepted by Tyvis Powell to
beat Michigan in an instant classic.
Now is when the more experienced players need to show and tell
the others how to stay the course.
Coach Urban Meyer, 24-0 on the Buckeyes sideline to extend a
school-record winning streak, is convinced that the seniors on the
team are strong enough leaders to not permit a letdown or a loss of
After all, in the midst of the cheering on the bus, wide
receiver Corey Brown stepped up front, quieted everyone and told
them that their work wasn’t finished yet. The mood changed
”The first thing is you feel pretty strong about the leaders on
our team,” Meyer said. ”I didn’t feel very strong about them back
in January and February, but I feel very strong about them now. It
was a very draining, emotional win (at Michigan). It’s almost like
that three-hour bus ride home was a very good opportunity to let it
all out of you and get back to work.
”I’m concerned about (the team’s focus) but I trust our
Ohio State edged Michigan State 17-16 a year ago in a game that
the Buckeyes trailed at halftime but came back to win. It helped
set them on course for where they are now – within reach of all of
They just need to win the next game – the Big Ten’s best offense
(Ohio State) against its best defense (Michigan State) – in a
make-or-break game for both teams.
Of course, this focus thing works both ways.
The Spartans can leap into the BCS picture, or at the very least
assure themselves of a Rose or other top bowl, by upsetting the
Buckeyes. It’s not as if they’re satisfied to have merely reached
the title game.
”We certainly have come a long way, but right now we’re
focusing on beating Ohio State and letting the cards fall,”
Michigan State punter Mike Sadler said. ”There’s only so much we
can control and we just want to beat Ohio State and let the rest
take care of itself.”
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