As Urban Meyer stood at the podium for his postgame press conference, the clock turned past midnight as Saturday turned into Sunday. Ohio State was still unbeaten.
Meyer’s group was hardly impressive in its 28-14 victory over Minnesota in the hours prior — Meyer himself called the performance “sloppy” — but he wanted everybody in attendance to know where he stood following the win.
“Best thing about 9-0?” Meyer quipped. “A chance to go 10-0 with a good bunch of people. I can’t wait to go back to work tomorrow.”
It’s a phrase Meyer uses all the time. He constantly reminds people as long as Ohio State continues to win games, everything will be fine. There will be bumps along the way, of course, but at the end of the day a win is all that matters.
And while that’s all true — the Buckeyes got another win Saturday night, their 22nd-straight overall — they missed a golden opportunity to make a statement to the all-seeing College Football Playoff committee.
College football’s second-, seventh- and eighth-ranked teams all lost Saturday as LSU, Michigan State and TCU all went down. Third-ranked Ohio State didn’t lose, but also didn’t look impressive in its win.
The Buckeyes don’t seem to care about that, though. For them, it’s all about finding a way to win.
“As long as we get that ‘W,’ that’s all that matters,” said running back Ezekiel Elliott, who carried the ball 26 times for 114 yards and a touchdown. “The guys we’ve got on this team are just so great, they all go hard and we’re going to do all we can to win on Saturdays.”
The Buckeyes were without their starting quarterback against the Gophers as Cardale Jones got the start with J.T. Barrett suspended. Jones, and Ohio State’s offense as a whole, looked OK. Jones said he’d grade his performance as “below average.”
That’s how you could view the Buckeyes’ entire performance against a now 4-5 Minnesota team as well. It was sloppy, at least on offense anyway. Part of that can probably be contributed to the constant quarterback shuffling.
There were “style points” available from the College Football Playoff committee for the Buckeyes, though, and they failed to earn them.
But maybe that doesn't matter much for this year's Ohio State team. Maybe it doesn't need those style points. Unlike last year, the Buckeyes don’t have a loss. If they continue to win, they’ll be in the College Football Playoff.
“It’s just very hard to uphold that title. We know everybody is going to give us their best shot,” safety Vonn Bell said. “We’re the Buckeyes, we’re the defending national champions, so they’re going to give us their best shot and come in here and they’re going to try and control the line of scrimmage and we answered the bell today.”
Last year, Ohio State needed a lot of things to fall its way to get into the College Football Playoff. This year, winning is all it needs to do. Saturday's game was a perfect example of that.
“It wasn’t pretty at times, but we got our ninth win and continued that streak,” offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said. “Not every win is always going to be as beautiful as you like, but wins are wins and that’s a good win against a well-coached team.”