The Last Frontier

By Kyle Rowland on August 19, 2013 at 9:30a
19 Comments
The Rose Bowl, site of the 2014 national championship, the final installment of the BCS.

The scene is set.

Pasadena awaits the Rose Bowl every January, and every four years during the BCS era, the Arroyo Seco welcomes the national championship game. The 2013 season is one of those years.

Less than two weeks remain until the start of college football. But already No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Ohio State seem destined to face off in a dream matchup. Alabama-Ohio State, programs that ooze tradition. Nick Saban vs. Urban Meyer, a battle of the sport’s top two coaches. Tuscaloosa and Columbus, college football towns to the core.

All that’s left to do is win 13 games – or sneak in the side door at 12-1.

Expectations at Ohio State merge at undefeated and unrealistic. However, in 2013, national title talk in mid-August is justified. The Buckeyes are an amalgamation of hype and substance. Rock star coach, Heisman candidate quarterback and a potent cocktail of returning players and captivating newcomers. 

It’s clear after a 24-month span that included scandal, lackluster on-field results, the hiring of a new coach and the rebirth of one of college football’s bedrock programs, Ohio State once again has the nation’s attention and respect.

But despite owning the longest winning streak in the country and receiving preseason praise, the Buckeyes are content on ignoring all the buildup swirling around them.

“I don’t think it matters too much because you can be a preseason All-American and not do anything,” said junior defensive lineman Michael Bennett, when asked about the lofty preseason rankings. “You’ve just got to come out and play.”

“We didn’t get to do all the things we wanted to do. We’re still real hungry.” - Noah SPENCE

Preseason polls and watch lists exist partly to generate conversation. It works every year. The pitchforks come out and criticism rains down from Tallahassee to Ames. Inside locker rooms, rankings aren’t even a talking point. For most players and coaches, they’re irrelevant.

“Everyone else is talking about that. We’re not,” said sophomore linebacker Josh Perry. “We’re just trying to win a Big Ten championship. We’ve got other goals, we’re just trying to take it one game at a time.”

Games against Ohio State are never diminished. When Big Ten opponents knock off the Buckeyes, it can make a year or sometimes save a coach’s job. But during 2011, there was an emptiness that accompanied a victory over the evil empire of Ohio State.

There were no losses last year. The Buckeyes did regain their status as the hunted, though. And few times in the past has it been as palpable. Every coach and player was asked about the football factory in Columbus at Big Ten media days.

“Everybody in the Big Ten is going to be coming after us, which is what we expect,” Perry said. “We’ve got to expect their best shot. People are going to be turning on their TVs all around America. Whether they like the Buckeyes or not, they’re probably going to be watching. There’s definitely that target and that spotlight on us. We’ve got to be ready to go.”

Teams thrive on banding together and proving doubters wrong. Whether it’s college football or cricket, negative prognostications are used as fuel. One year ago, Ohio State had to answer questions about motivation. Many pundits thought there was nothing to play for. That simply wasn’t true, the Buckeyes said. And they proved it wasn’t difficult to get excited by rattling off 12 consecutive wins.

Every possible reward is available to Ohio State in 2013 – Big Ten championship, national title, etc. It hasn’t tasted defeat since the Gator Bowl on Jan. 2, 2012, but the Buckeyes remain starved for success.

“We didn’t get to do all the things we wanted to do,” said sophomore defensive end Noah Spence, about the postseason-less 2012 season. “We’re still real hungry.”

Said Bennett: “The country’s gunning for us. We’re not just a small team that goes out there and expects to go 5-7 or something like that, especially now after last year. We’re expected to be the best. We’ve always had that expectation. But it’s good now to have more people pushing you for it.”

So 12 days from the season opener, Ohio State waits anxiously to begin its 124th season. It’s been more than a decade now since the program’s last national championship. Listening to Meyer on Saturday makes one think another notch will be carved into the Big Ten’s futility meter.

“We're not ready to play a game yet,” he said. “The good thing is we don't have to be.”

Ranked No. 2, the only task for the Buckeyes is to win. On Aug. 31, the first of 13 tests will be administered.

19 Comments

Comments

That Guy's picture

Sounds like a hungry football team. I hope they keep that hunger through out the entire season. If they don't clean their plate in weeks 1 - 13, they wont get to taste that sweet crystal dessert. 
 
EDIT: Now I'm hungry. Come on lunch!

nm_buck's picture

One game at a time boys.  It's a long season with some respectable opponents.  This year I worry about Cal, Purdue and NW more than our traditional foes Whisky, Penn St and scUM.

ChicagoBuckeyeFan's picture

It's "NU" not "NW." All the NU nerds get on my case about that up here.

gwalther's picture

With Nebraska now in the conference, I'm probably going to stick with Northwestern as "NW" and Nebraska as "NU" even though you're correct, and both consider themselves "NU."

Class of 2008

spqr2008's picture

Nebraska is UN or UNL for University of Nebraska, Northwestern is NU for Northwestern University.

gwalther's picture

Says wiki: "The University of Nebraska–Lincoln (commonly referred to as Nebraska, UNL or NU) is a public research university located in Lincoln, Nebraska, United States."

Class of 2008

Deadly Nuts's picture

IMO that Wisco game will be similar to last years Nebraska game. At home, under the lights. There is absolutely no way we lose that game.

LEBRON

Deadly Nuts's picture

Same with Penn State.

LEBRON

buckeyepastor's picture

I doubt there will ever be a mid-August OSU team that is "ready" for Urban Meyer.   That's why I'm so glad he's our coach.   But they will be ready.   
Given the state of the B1G, I can't imagine a 12-1 OSU team in a title game.   Not this year.   We run the table or we play in Pasadena on New Year's Day and not for the NC.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

ChicagoBuckeyeFan's picture

Spence, how hungry are ya?

Deadly Nuts's picture

Hungrier than Hoke at a donut factory.

LEBRON

Oyster's picture

You should sell that pitch to Geico!

Deadly Nuts's picture

I was thinking that as I was typing it.

LEBRON

Edincostarica's picture

I think Spence and the guys are not only hungry but down right starving.

cinserious's picture

Gone ham, be back soon...

Mirror Lake Jump's picture

Reading this before going grocery shopping was a terrible decision.

pjtobin's picture

I'm glad that the players have the mindset of one game at a time. And they know that they have a bullseye on their backs. I love hearing this kind of talk. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad.