Another week, another must-win game for Buckeyes
There was a time when Ohio State players could look forward to a
break after trading bruises with archrival Michigan.
Not anymore. At least, not this year.
No sooner did the second-ranked Buckeyes escape Michigan Stadium
with a 42-41 victory – thanks to Tyvis Powell’s last-minute
interception on a two-point conversion pass at the goal line – than
they were already immersing themselves in preparation for yet
another make-or-break game.
The Big Ten championship game against No. 10 Michigan State –
the only top-15 team Ohio State has played in a school-record
24-game winning streak under coach Urban Meyer – looms on Saturday
at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The Buckeyes are beaten up, physically and mentally. But this is
no time to reflect on what’s been accomplished so far.
”I think they are sore,” Meyer said on Monday. ”I have got to
be smart this week in what we do. As far as energy and focus – and
throw in the fact that it’s finals week at Ohio State – we have to
be really efficient with these guys.”
Now No. 2 in the BCS standings, the Buckeyes need to win to hang
on to their spot in the BCS national championship game.
Since 1943, Ohio State has not had an opponent between Michigan
and a bowl game. But with the Big Ten going to a two-division
format three years ago, it was only a matter of time until the
Buckeyes were busy again the week after their annual grudge match
A year ago, the Buckeyes also went 12-0, but were not permitted
to play in the Big Ten title game or a bowl because of NCAA
sanctions from violations that occurred on former coach Jim
It’s not as if they don’t have some things to work on this
The defense was overwhelmed by Michigan’s previously erratic
offense. The Wolverines’ Devin Gardner completed 32 of 45 passes
for 451 yards and four touchdowns – including three in the fourth
quarter as Michigan pulled even after trailing by 14 points.
The Buckeyes surrendered 603 yards.
Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell was displeased
with the stats but couldn’t have been happier that the Buckeyes’
offense did enough to bail out his side of the ball.
”Did we win? Did we win?” he repeated when asked about the
failures of his defense. ”Because I’ve been up there quite a few
times in my 18-year career (as a player and coach) here and have
not always been able to come away with the win. Momentum and things
happen and we didn’t play great on the defensive side of the ball.
So there’s a lot of things to correct.”
Ohio State’s running game doesn’t have a lot of flaws right now.
Carlos Hyde, the first running back in Meyer’s 12 years as a head
coach to top 1,000 yards, rumbled for 226 yards on 27 carries and
scored once at the Big House, while quarterback Braxton Miller
rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns.
But the Buckeyes will be up against a Michigan State defense
that is ranked No. 1 among all major colleges against the run
(allowing just 64.8 yards per game), in passing efficiency defense
and also in total defense (giving up just 238 yards a game).
Offensive coordinator Tom Herman said the Spartans do not have
an apparent weakness.
”I don’t know if there is a first-team All American on that
defense,” he said. ”But they have 11 guys that know exactly what
they are doing and they do it really well and they tackle well and
they are always in the right spot. They are about as sound a
defense as you’ll see.”
As has been the case throughout the season, Meyer won’t discuss
BCS rankings or the potential of playing in the national
The Buckeyes, by virtue of two-time defending national champion
Alabama’s quirky loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl on Saturday night,
moved up a spot to No.2 in the BCS rankings.
If they beat Michigan State they will most likely play in the
title game on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif.
Meyer declined to get involved in the verbal skirmishing over
whether a Southeastern Conference champion with one loss deserves a
spot in the title game, and also refused to defend his own team’s
”We play a game,” he said of the Big Ten championship. ”And
for someone to ask about something (that might happen) after this
game, I mean, that’s cheating my football team. There will be no
conversation about what happens after this game until after the
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