Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
The Ohio State football team is just one game away from finishing an undefeated season, and although they are banned from postseason play, OSU coach Urban Meyer said the result of Saturday’s game versus Michigan will not define the season any more than it already would.
“Will we be defined by this game? You usually are,” Meyer said Monday in his weekly press conference. “Regardless of what happens, this is the game.”
The Buckeyes and Wolverines will meet for the 109th time in the long history of their college football programs Saturday at Ohio Stadium at noon. For the Buckeyes, it will be the final time they take the field this season, as NCAA sanctions from the “Tattoo-Gate” scandal have banned OSU from a bid in the Big Ten Championship game and bowl game.
The Buckeyes, though, find themselves with an opportunity to finish the year 12-0.
Rather than the bigger picture of clinching an undefeated season with a win, and potentially being in the running for an Associated Press national championship, Meyer said his team is “focused in” on their final opponent.
“We just talked about winning this game,” Meyer said. “We’re not talking about what everybody is going to think a week from now, two weeks from now.”
Redshirt senior outside linebacker Etienne Sabino said the rivalry with Michigan is all the motivation the Buckeyes need Saturday.
“This is the game,” Sabino said. “This is a Super Bowl, this is the bowl game, this is national championship, this is everything for us.”
Recognizing performances from Wisconsin win
Meyer said senior defensive end John Simon, who he once again called the team’s “heart and soul,” was the team’s defensive player of the week after a four-sack performance against Wisconsin.
Five other players were named defensive champions for their Wisconsin performances: redshirt junior safety C.J. Barnett, sophomore outside linebacker Ryan Shazier, junior safety Christian Bryant, redshirt senior Orhian Johnson and senior linebacker Zach Boren.
For Boren, it was his first time being named a champion since converting from fullback to linebacker for the seventh game of the season versus Indiana.
“I’ve gotten better. I can still get a lot better in a lot of different areas,” Boren said of his progress at linebacker. “I’m getting more and more comfortable.”
Meyer called Boren’s conversion this season “one of the great stories … in college football, and certainly in Ohio State history.”
“What he’s done, the selfless approach … what he would do for this team is extraordinary,” Meyer said. “Incredible human being and a great game.”
Offensively, junior running back Carlos Hyde was named player of the week for his 87-yard, two-touchdown rushing performance, which included the game-winning, 2-yard touchdown in overtime. Two wide receivers, sophomore Evan Spencer and junior Corey Brown, the latter of whom had a 68-yard punt return touchdown on Saturday, were also named offensive champions.
As a whole, however, Meyer said the offense “didn’t play very well,” and has to play better against Michigan.
“It was bad,” Meyer said. “We have to open this offense up and trust that good things are going to happen.”
In addition to his defensive recognition, Johnson was also named special teams player of the week. Meyer also acknowledged the blocking of redshirt senior Taylor Rice, Spencer, redshirt senior Stewart Smith and freshman Luke Roberts in leading Brown to his punt return touchdown.
Simon was also named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, while Brown earned the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week award.
No comment on Maryland
The University of Maryland made big news in the Big Ten on Monday, announcing that they will become the conference’s 13th member effective July 1, 2014. That means football matchups against the Buckeyes are within their near future, but Meyer had little to say about the announcement on Monday.
“Yesterday … was the first time I even heard about it,” Meyer said.