Buckeyes prepare for road, Big Ten

The worst road trip Devin Barclay ever went on was to, of all

places, Rome.

By comparison, he doesn’t expect second-ranked Ohio State’s

visit to scenic Champaign, Ill., on Saturday to be nearly as

bad.

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

team.

”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

game.

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

1972-77.

”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

game.

Tressel said he wasn’t going to get emotional about the end of

an era.

”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

comparisons.

”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.”