Thursday Night Big for Ohio State's BCS Picture, But Team Staying Focused

By Kyle Rowland on November 7, 2013 at 9:15a
Urban Meyer is keeping his team focused during the bye week.

All season, even during the summer months, Urban Meyer has preached a message of keeping focus and not allowing distractions to creep in. Ohio State’s bye week presents a different set of circumstances. Instead of worrying about a future opponent, Thursday night will be spent with eyes and ears turned toward the television as two games that could greatly impact the national championship race take center stage – No. 3 Oregon at No. 5 Stanford and No. 10 Oklahoma at No. 6 Baylor.

“I’ll watch them both,” Meyer said. “I’ve been there before a couple of times where some things had to happen right. For us to waste energy on that, that’s not fair to the players we coach. But we’ll certainly be watching.”

Winners of 21 consecutive games, the Buckeyes are in an unenviable situation where they need help to make their way to Pasadena for the Jan. 6 title game. College football has been turned into a giant job fair with head coaches, players and fan hurriedly flashing their resume and talking points memo. Unfortunately Ohio State, its slip of paper isn’t as fancy as Alabama, Florida State or Oregon’s. But the Buckeyes’ remaining schedule poses little in the way of roadblocks.

“All we can control is how we beat the teams we’re playing,” defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. “I don’t stress over the things we can’t control.”

Ohio State has entered the month of November in the thick of the national title hunt four times in the 16-year history of the Bowl Championship Series. Twice – 1998 and 2007 – it needed a miracle to reach the national championship game. The Buckeyes received one dream Saturday, in 2007, while another resulted in everything coming up scarlet and gray until the last instant.

In 1998, the first year of the BCS, Ohio State ran roughshod over the competition until Nick Saban’s Michigan State Spartans upset the Buckeyes in the Horseshoe the first week of November. Ohio State won its final two games and then had to wait until championship Saturday on Dec. 5 to find out its fate.

The Buckeyes needed the top 3 teams – Tennessee, Kansas State and UCLA – to lose and thus sneak into the Fiesta Bowl. UCLA was the first to fall, then came Kansas State’s defeat in overtime. When Mississippi State returned a punt for a touchdown, taking a second-half lead over the Vols, Columbus erupted. But Tennessee generated a comeback and would beat Florida State for the national championship one month later.

Nine years after that chaotic Saturday, Ohio State again found itself in need of what many thought was an unrealistic series of events after losing the first week of November. On Dec. 1, three-win Pitt had to beat No. 2 West Virginia in Morgantown and the top-ranked Missouri Tigers needed to lose to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game. Both happened.

“The chase is on, man. It’s real.”

The calendar hasn’t flipped to December yet and the Buckeyes are still unbeaten, but the second week of November presents a smorgasbord full of opportunities for Ohio State to vault into the championship discussion. Along with the two Thursday night games, No. 1 Alabama hosts LSU on Saturday. A not-too-far-off scenario could place the Buckeyes as the second-ranked team in the country when they take the field at Illinois Nov. 16.

“That’s not something we discuss,” Meyer said. “We discuss playing for championships in November and that’s what we’re doing.”

Three games remain in the regular season, and Ohio State is a game up and owns the tiebreaker over Wisconsin in the Leaders Division. It would take a cataclysmic series of events for the Buckeyes to not appear in the Big Ten Championship Game. Then winning a title in December becomes the objective. From there, January could be in the offing.

“The chase is on, man. It’s real,” Meyer said. 

With each win, the realization that Ohio State is entering unprecedented heights becomes clearer. The school record of 22 consecutive wins, set in 1969 thanks in large part to arguably the greatest class in program history, is inevitably going to fall. There’s a noticeable buzz among the players and fans. Interviews might yield all the right answers, but the honor of being in such select company shines through.

“We try not to focus on it too much, we just try to focus on our opponent,” running back Carlos Hyde said. “I feel like if we get caught up focusing on this winning streak, we’ll lose track of who we’re playing, so we’re just trying to focus on our opponent.”

“I definitely feel like everybody’s more focused. We’re getting towards the end. We have this bye week to let everybody get rested and come back fresh. We need to come out these last three games and be explosive.”

The phrase Buckeye since birth is overused in the state of Ohio, but for wide receiver Evan Spencer, it rings true. He’s the son of a former running back and assistant coach and was born at the OSU Medical Center. He literally grew up on the practice fields at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center before he moved to Chicago, where dad, Tim, took a job with the Bears.

If there’s anyone one the roster who understands the significance of the current streak, it’s Spencer.

“I know that we have to keep taking care of business and keep winning,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. I try not to think too much about it because we have to keep winning. The camaraderie we have with our team is great.”

On Thursday, that togetherness will continue as groups of players watch two games that could push Ohio State closer to the national championship. But what Meyer doesn’t want is the mindset straying from the tone he’s set since fall camp.

“I’ve got to make sure we're not worried about anything like that,” Meyer said.

“It's a big thing we talked about all week,” admitted tight end Jeff Heuerman in the aftermath of last Saturday’s win. “We’ve got a really focused team right now.”


Comments Show All Comments

Doc's picture

I know these types of questions get asked to the team, but I would really like it if the media wouldn't try so hard to get the team unfocused.  Let's worry about Illionois, then IU, then TTUN.  After the B1GCG we can talk about streaks and MNC stuff.  STAY FOCUSED BUCKEYES!
p.s. Kyle this comment isn't aimed in your direction.  You do great work here.  My thoughts are more to the media in general.

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

Bucksfan's picture

“I don’t stress over the things we can’t control.”

Leave that to me.

TheShookster's picture

Before the inevitable questions about Stanford jumping OSU in the BCS rankings if they win, it could happen, but if it does don't freak out. I think most agree it will only be a temporary thing. Kyle has mentioned it, and Jerry Palm has said it multiple times as well.
Just keep winning. by a lot.

He ain't even stretch doe!!

vitaminB's picture

I agree.  The beauty is both Oregon and Bama lose this week Stanford can still move up two spots without jumping us.

BTBuckeye's picture

Tonight we got a date with popcorn destiny

Hovenaut's picture

I am charmed. 
Geaux Tigers, Boomer Sooner and, uh, you too Stanford. 

Estrada's picture

Fear the tree?  Or something like that...

TennesseeBuckeye's picture

About tonights games


I may not be able to outsmart too many people, but I can outwork 'em.
Woody Hayes

BukFan's picture

The one thing our AD can control is our future schedule!  Stop playing Hawaii.  Otherwise we'll be 32-0 and still complaining about being locked out!

hockey goalie's picture

Agree, but only so much can be done.  Vandy backed out last minute which, while no Alabama, they did beat UGA this year and are a helluva lot better than FAMU.  Also, when Cal was scheduled, they were #2 with Aaron Rodgers.  Who knew they'd later become the Purdue of the PAC-12?  

stevebelliseeya's picture

After this year, it would be almost impossible for an undefeated Ohio State team to be locked out of the 4 team playoff...that would require 5+ undefeated teams with better schedule/pedigrees than OSU.

"We are eternal. All this pain is an illusion." - Tool

gobucks5413's picture

UGhhhh I can't remember the last time I've been so nervous about watching non-Buckeye games. I'm on edge about tonight and Sat night.
In 2007, I kinda felt like if things didn't work out for us, so be it, we blew it... This year is so different..I believe in this team so much. C'MON STANFORD, OKLAHOMA AND LSU!

acBuckeye's picture

It also is worth noting....... many upsets happen on weekends when pundits least expect them to happen.
If things don't go our way this week, chill out. There's still a ton of football to be played.

chitown buckeye's picture

^^ This is a great point. Its typically a "let down" game that costs these teams their undefeated season. Even if things don't play out this weekend look for potential "let down" the following week.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

Seattle Linga's picture

Great point AC - I couldn't have said it any better than that

DeepSouthBuckeye's picture

Not saying it will happen, but Florida State is in a text book "let down" week this weekend. Coming off an emotion win against the Canes, going on the road for an 11am kickoff. Could be easy for them to go through the motions in this one.... Too bad Wake Forest isn't very good...

Loving all things Buckeye from SEC country in Alabama.

"How firm thy friendship....O-HI-O"

holtzy's picture

Wake Forest seems to always give them trouble, so you never know...

You can't spell chump without UM's picture

I hate bringing up past subjects that are irrelevant today, but for the Buckeyes sake, I will. Florida State plays @Wake Forest this week, the last time they played @Wake Forest, they lost. I know a lot of people on both teams are gone since that game happened, but we can all pray that Wake Forest wakes up on Saturday and plays their a**es off.

Brady Hoke ate my comment

Furious George 27's picture

What's unfortunate is OSU is hammered for losing badly to an SEC team in 2006 and that is the basis for holding them out based on national perception rather than acknowledging that the last 3 BCS games OSU has gone 2-1 only losing last minute to Texas who should have been in the NCG that year.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

alust2013's picture

To be fair, Baylor's schedule is a bigger joke than ours, so I'm really not worried about them, plus they don't have a championship game. And speaking of championship games, that's another great opportunity for Bama, Oregon, or FSU to lose (and for OSU as well). 
Here's how I see it: If we don't have another "Game of the Century" FG fest with LSU winning, Bama either drops Auburn or the SEC champ game. They manage to lose some pretty surprising game sometimes. Stanford knows how to beat Oregon, and I think they will. FSU doesn't really have many challenges left, unless Florida shows up for a game, but I think they win out. Someone is going to ruin Baylor's season, given that the only halfway decent team they have played is .500 and held them to just a bit over half their scoring average. I say they drop 2 of their last 5. Given that OSU wins out, and handles Sparty in the B1GCG, that leaves OSU-FSU in the MNCG. 
Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm a total homer.

...and Michigan still sucks.

Idaho Helga's picture

Baylor won't jump us if both are undefeated.  Worse schedule and we have the 2 yr winning streak going. 
The good thing about so many undefeated teams is Urban can't take his foot off the gas.  I look for more 56-0's on Indiana and Illinois and GOD HELP TTUN he'd hang 100 on them if it were possible.

CincyOSU's picture

Umm, what schedule are you looking at? Baylor has a worse schedule to date, but look at their next 5 games. If they win out, there SOS will undoubtedly be better than ours and they will be a real threat to jump over us(note, I don't think they will though but the threat will be real).

Idaho Helga's picture

You got me there Cincy, I didn't look forward, I looked up the current SOS.  Well, ....poop.

RedStorm45's picture

Oklahoma and...?  They still play shoddy defense in the Big 12.  Texas Tech has been exposed.  I mean OK State is good, but not great.  Beating Sparty would be a better win.  We have a CCG, they won't.

ck's picture

The past month I've entered this zen-like state where I really don't care what happens to these other teams. Usually I would be hyperventilating tonight, but I've come to the conclusion that if we get into the NCG, I'm going to be simply fortunate as a fan.
Otherwise, the best case scenario outside of that is we go undefeated, find ourselves in a BCS bowl with a highly regarded Top 5 team (an SEC opponent would be nice) and we kick the crap out of them. And then next season I can have a heart attack when we have those close games against inferior opponents.
I think all things are cyclical and I really believe the SEC reached its peak last year. Alabama truly hasn't played all that good competition and they might sleepwalk through the NCG. We'll see the PAC-12 emerge as the elite conference in the next few years and the B1G probably climbing out of the hole its in.

fear_the_nut70's picture

CK, we go undefeated, that means we win the BIG and play in the Rose Bowl (probably against Oregon or Stanford).  Hate to burst your bubble, but unless we drop a game, there is no chance of a BCS bowl against a SEC team.

JLP36's picture

There are two problems with the schedule:
1. going undefeated through it may not get you a chance to play for a championship; and
2. even if you are fortunate enough to get the chance your team is not battle hardened.
Playing good teams makes your team better.


fear_the_nut70's picture

I hate being negative, but just think that both Oregon and Alabama are going to win this week.  I think this because I don't think either Stanford (injuries) or LSU (don't know why) have the same kind of defenses they have had in the past, the keys to pulling off the upsets.
But, I refuse to let this ruin a good season.  This might be the last time the Rose Bowl is meaningful (outside of those seasons where it is a semi-final game) and I plan to enjoy it (assuming we take care of business), the national rhetoric aside.

Seattle Linga's picture

If you get a chance to listen to Mike North on Fox Sports Radio out of Chicago - he is a realist and a believer in the Buckeyes at least this year. He is a Big Ten homer but he takes on any and all callers nationwide and tells them why the Buckeyes are in the top 2 as we speak. Ahead of Oregon and bama - believe it or not. 
Just saying.............

Bruce's picture

IIRC, in 2007 we only needed one of the 2 to lose to get in, but both did, which opened it up for 2 loss LSU.
Some moments just stick in your mind. That was one of them.

From the 2007 HBO special ---->

DeepSouthBuckeye's picture

This is the biggest weekend for Ohio State fans, without the Buckeyes even playing,  in a long long time. Should be interesting to see how it plays out. As mentioned above, crazier things have happened. Even if Oregon, Bama, and Baylor survive this weekend, do not count out the craziness of college football to strike in a future week.

Loving all things Buckeye from SEC country in Alabama.

"How firm thy friendship....O-HI-O"

nm_buck's picture

I just want to win the next four games.  If we get help, fine.  If not, we can still keep the streak alive, win our bowl game, and be set up nicely for our campaign next year... the first season with playoffs.  I am thinking nobody leaves early if this happens... these kids will want another run next year.  Especially Shazier.
Everything happens for a reason.

"The future is bright at Ohio State."  - Urban Meyer 1/1/15