Buckeyes prepare for road, Big Ten
The worst road trip Devin Barclay ever went on was to, of all
By comparison, he doesn’t expect second-ranked Ohio State’s
visit to scenic Champaign, Ill., on Saturday to be nearly as
Barclay, the Buckeyes’ 27-year-old kicker, used to be a
world-class soccer player. He once traveled with the U.S. Under-23
team to play in the Eternal City. Historical and romantic though it
may be for visitors, Rome became a nightmare for a visiting
”The Italians knew where our hotel was,” he said with a grin.
”And all night they were beeping horns. All night long.”
Needless to say, the sleep-deprived Americans lost that
Another top tourist destination, Los Angeles, was hardly a dream
stop for Ohio State wide receiver DeVier Posey.
After Southern California administered a thorough 35-3
humiliation to the Buckeyes two years ago, Posey never forgot the
eerie flight home.
”That was such a long, silent plane ride back,” he said.
This road trip is different from both of those. The Buckeyes
(4-0) of Barclay and Posey are a three-touchdown favorite in the
Big Ten opener at Illinois.
”This is going to be a good test for us: First road game, first
Big Ten game,” defensive lineman John Simon said.
Along with retaining their perfect record and remaining in the
national title hunt, Ohio State is also motivated by a sixth
straight Big Ten title. They’ve captured all or a piece of the last
five, and can match the record set by Woody Hayes’ Buckeyes of
”It’s a special thing,” center Mike Brewster said before the
season even got under way. ”Everyone’s going to be out to get us
this year because no one wants to see us win another Big Ten
championship. But we’re going to work as hard as we can and try to
win another one.”
Coach Jim Tressel realizes the first road game and the opening
of conference play means a return to the physical play that has
become a conference hallmark.
”We’re going into the Big Ten season now,” he said. ”A lot of
bruises (are) getting ready to be handed out.”
This will be the final time that the 11-team Big Ten plays under
the configuration adopted when Penn State joined the league in
1993. With Nebraska coming aboard next year, the league will split
into two divisions and will play a conference championship
Tressel said he wasn’t going to get emotional about the end of
”I’m not that nostalgic a guy because whatever the schedule is
next year, that’s what I’ll enjoy,” he said.
There are two big reasons why the Buckeyes say they’re fully
focused on the Illini.
First, Illinois traditionally has fought on even terms with Ohio
State. The Buckeyes haven’t lost in Memorial Stadium since 1991,
but over the last 20 meetings dating to 1988, Ohio State has only a
narrow 11-9 upperhand in the series.
Second, the Buckeyes faced a similar game almost a year ago at
13-point underdog Purdue. Despite being ranked seventh in the
country, and Purdue having won just one of its first six games, the
Boilermakers beat the Buckeyes 26-18.
It’s a defeat that still burns.
”We took Purdue lightly,” Posey said. ”We thought we’d just
go out there and have our way. In the Big Ten, that’s one thing
this group learned, that it’s not that way. We have a lot of guys
back from that team, so we understand that whatever we did before
that game it can’t be done again because you get whipped that way.
And we don’t want that to happen.”
There’s no need for the coaching staff to make any
”We won’t talk about Purdue,” Tressel said. ”You would hope
those who boarded the bus and headed to the airport for that game
would still have the understanding very deep in their soul that you
better be prepared when you’re on the road.”
It’s a lesson that Barclay learned years ago in Italy.
The trip in, the hotel, the unfamiliar locker room and the
unfriendly stadium all conspire against a team.
”All of those things are all going to play into it,” he said.
”It’s just a matter of going in knowing that things might be a
little different in preparation but when we get on the field, it’s
going to be the same.”