With just two games remaining in the regular season, the Ohio State football team is hoping to add at least one more game to its schedule.
The Buckeyes (9-1, 6-0) need to win just one of their remaining two games — or have Michigan State (8-2, 5-1) lose one — in order to return to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game for the second straight season.
OSU coach Urban Meyer said Monday that ever since falling in back-to-back games to end the 2013-14 season, the goal has been to return to Lucas Oil Stadium.
“That was everything. That was everything we did was to get another shot at the Big Ten Championship,” he said. “Everything, and that’s at the doorstep. I imagine that’s why they were pretty juiced up yesterday for practice.”
Wide receivers coach Zach Smith, who Meyer said coached his best game against Michigan State two weeks ago, agreed.
“That’s why we wake up in the morning and brush our teeth and do what we do. That’s been the ultimate goal, the No. 1 goal; the thing we had to do was get back there and win a championship for this university,” Smith said Monday. “That’s all we really talked about. There was no greater goal, nothing beyond that talked about, and that’s been what our sights have been set on since day one, pretty much every day.”
Redshirt-sophomore offensive lineman Pat Elflein, who made his first career start in the 34-24 loss to the Spartans in the 2013 Big Ten title game, said the memories of that game are still fresh in his mind.
“It’s huge. Fell short last year and that still hurts,” Elflein said Monday. “That’s what we can control is winning the conference (but) we have to beat Indiana first.”
The Hoosiers are set to enter Columbus as the only team in the Big Ten without a conference win (3-7, 0-6) and on paper, appear to be an easy opponent for the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes currently sit at No. 8 in the College Football Playoff rankings, and while style points would likely help OSU, Elflein said OSU needs to focus on the task at hand.
“That thought is there, but you can’t do that. You can’t think about that because Indiana, they are in our way,” he said. “You don’t want to overlook them because it is a Big Ten football team. You have to focus on what is important now which is Indiana.”
OSU has not lost to the Hoosiers since 1988, when the Buckeyes fell, 41-7, in Bloomington, Ind.
Even though a spot in the top four is still in sight, Meyer said he’s not sure his Buckeyes deserve a spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff just yet.
“Not right now, no. No, I don’t, because I don’t want to make ignorant comments,” Meyer said. “I just don’t know. I’d make the comment that we’re one win away from representing the East (Division) in the Big Ten Championship game, because I do know that.”
It has been largely debated as to whether or not the Big Ten will even get a team in the playoff, but Meyer said he believes the Big Ten is better than advertised, and even cited a specific example.
“Northwestern goes in there and beats Notre Dame, and Northwestern … last year I remember they were 15th in the country or 16th in the country, so the consistency of teams in our conference, I think, is the only thing lacking at times,” Meyer said. “But that’s without studying it, but the top five teams in our conference, they can play anywhere.”
With all of that, no one on the current OSU roster has been a part of a Big Ten championship or national championship team, something Elflein said should not be the norm.
“I don’t have any rings, I don’t have any championships (and) that’s why we came here, to win championships,” Elflein said. “When they say that (current OSU players don’t have a championship), it hits me its like, ‘wow, that’s not right.’ That’s not Ohio State. Compete for championships, that is what we are here to do.”
Before the Buckeyes can compete for a championship, they are set to take on the Hoosiers at noon Saturday at Ohio Stadium.