The Ohio State football team has not lost a game since Jan. 2, 2012. The team currently holds the nation’s longest winning streak, and is one win away from setting a school record for consecutive wins with 23. Throughout the whole season, the Buckeyes have been near the top of the rankings, shoving aside their competition in what is unfolding as the second straight undefeated season under coach Urban Meyer.
But even with all that success, the coach still doesn’t want to talk about where OSU sits among the country’s best.
Meyer sidestepped yet another question about what OSU (10-0, 6-0) looks like compared to the rest of the country and if the fact that the last two times OSU played for the national championship (2007, 2008) it lost has crossed his mind. Instead, he chose to talk about how two running backs, redshirt-freshman Warren Ball and freshman Ezekiel Elliott, need to get better at tackling in order to help the punt team.
“Ezekiel on our punt team, I have to teach him how to tackle. Warren Ball is running down on kickoff,” Meyer said Monday during a press conference, to chuckles from the media. “He hasn’t done that in his high school career. We’re going to work hard on that in practice. Any other questions about Warren Ball’s coverage?”
One thing Meyer did comment on was the Bowl Championship Series, which is in its final year of selecting the pair of teams who play for the national title.
“Without spending much time on it, because it’s not fair for our team to do that, I will say this: I think it’s a flawed system,” Meyer said. “When you logically think about it, what the BCS people have done, which obviously we’re all part of it, I think it was great for a while.”
The Buckeyes are ranked No. 3 in the BCS for the second week in row, but sit a mere .0013 points ahead of No. 4 Baylor after beating Illinois, 60-35, in Champaign, Ill.
A college football playoff system is set to be implemented next season, with a selection committee choosing four of the nation’s top teams to play in a round of semifinals before those two eventual winners meet in a national title game.
“I think (the BCS) took an imperfect system and did the best you can without a playoff,” Meyer said. “There’s going to be controversy in playoffs, too … There’s not a 64-team playoff. You’re going to have four guys. What is that fifth team going to feel like?”
In the meantime, where OSU is ranked in the BCS or any other poll could be beyond the Buckeyes’ power, something OSU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said does not cause any discontent.
“I don’t think there’s any frustration because I think at the end of the day, it was like last year, everybody said, is there frustration you can’t go to a bowl game? No. We knew we couldn’t go to a bowl game in January,” Herman said Monday. OSU fulfilled an NCAA-imposed bowl ban following last season, a ban stemming from the Tattoo-gate scandal which saw former coach Jim Tressel resign. “We’ve known about the BCS for the last 15 years. We know this is the system we play in and these are the cards that are dealt.”
Baylor defeated Texas Tech, 63-34, on Saturday, which catapulted them ahead of OSU to No. 3 from No. 4 in the AP rankings. Although the Buckeyes defeated Illinois by about the same margin, the Illini made things interesting in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 12 with just less than nine minutes to go.
Meyer said he left Champaign with “a little bit” of a pit in his stomach because he felt neither he nor the team performed up to his standards.
“I grade myself a C last week. I was worried about too many other things,” Meyer said. “I can promise you, we’re going to coach better this week.”
Although the effort against Illinois (3-7, 0-6) might not have been the Buckeyes’ best from top to bottom, a win’s a win, and Meyer said he wanted to be sure every player appreciated that.
“These guys need to enjoy a Division I win. That’s our job,” Meyer said. “That doesn’t mean today, tomorrow and Wednesday we’re not going to get after it, because we are. I can assure you yesterday that we made sure that the staff and players enjoyed that win.”
Herman said no matter where the Buckeyes sit in the minds of the pollsters or BCS computers, the team is going to get ready for the next game the same way as usual.
“It really has no bearing on how we prepare, how we play,” Herman said. “And to waste brain cells, as I call it, thinking about it, worrying about it, would be brain cells that I can use better to help the offense or help (junior quarterback) Braxton (Miller) … it’s out of our control. So we can just go win games, play as well as we can, keep getting better every week.”
That mentality seems to have trickled down to some of the players themselves, like redshirt-senior left tackle Jack Mewhort.
“We’re kind of done looking forward and we’re just going to handle our business. Obviously, the beginning of the season we set our goals, we said we’re going to compete for championships in November and I think we can do that by handling our business this weekend,” Mewhort said Monday. “We have our eyes on something, but we don’t want to talk about it … We’re just going to take it day by day and go through the daily grind and try to get better as an offense and defense and improve special teams also.”
Redshirt-senior center Corey Linsley, though, offered another perspective.
“It is what it is,” Linsley said Monday, alluding to the BCS standings and where OSU is ranked.
“There’s nothing we can do about it. There’s no lobbying we can do at this point to change the BCS formula. The only thing we can concentrate on is how do we advance further in the BCS and how do we keep ahead of Baylor. It’s just the reality.”
Whether it’s the win streak, BCS ranking or another goal the team might accomplish in 2013, reveling in the success should be done at a later date.
“Someday you’ll be able to look back and reflect. Now is not that time. We have too much work to do,” Meyer said. “To have our name even in that breath (of all the other great OSU teams) is almost as overwhelming. If you spend too much time on it … We spent I think 30 seconds on it, moved on, started working on Warren Ball. Poor Warren.”
Meyer and the Buckeyes are set to take on Indiana (4-6, 2-4) in the final home game of the season Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.