CHICAGO — Once again, the Big Ten preseason predictions are out. And, once again, Ohio State is at the top.
Urban Meyer is aware of that. He embraces it. He also knows it's likely to always be this way — no matter the outcome of the previous season.
“Obviously, we weren’t at the top a year ago. We were near the top,” Meyer said Monday at Big Ten Media Days. “Ohio State is always going to be there. I mean, it should be one of the top schools in our conference."
"Other than that, I think that’s just respect for our players, respect that we recruited some good players and means no consequence at all in how we do our business.”
Of course, Meyer is right: Ohio State was not at the top last season. Penn State won the league as its win over the Buckeyes helped seal a spot in the Big Ten championship game. The Nittany Lions knocked off Wisconsin in Indianapolis to claim the league crown — the first in James Franklin’s tenure.
And despite massive success under Meyer — Ohio State is 61–6 in his five seasons — the Buckeyes have just one Big Ten championship to their credit. They’ve played for the league title just twice and neither of those came in the last two seasons despite a 22–2 regular-season record.
“Obviously, we weren’t at the top a year ago. We were near the top. Ohio State is always going to be there. I mean, it should be one of the top schools in our conference.”– Urban Meyer
Yet here we are again, with Ohio State as the preseason favorite in the conference.
It’s a distinction the Buckeyes are more than comfortable with.
“At a place like this where everyone in the organization is competitive from the AD to Coach Meyer to every coach to the players to walk-ons, we want to win everything. If they’re taking votes or keeping score, we want to win that,” fifth-year senior linebacker Chris Worley said. “If it’s something to win, it’s something to win. That’s a role that Coach Meyer instills in everyone and it’s not hard for me to pick up on it because of my competitive nature. If it’s something for us to win and say, ‘Hey, look at this.’ Let’s do it.”
It will certainly be a challenge for Ohio State to get back to the top of the Big Ten mountain. The Buckeyes play in the Big Ten East — a division which Meyer called “every bit as strong as I can remember in the SEC East.” Ohio State plays road games this fall at Iowa, Nebraska and Michigan and the Buckeyes host Penn State and Michigan State.
If the Buckeyes are standing at midfield inside Lucas Oil Stadium raising a trophy at the end of the season, they will almost certainly have earned it.
“I feel a great amount of respect nationally about the Big Ten,” Meyer said. “You sit and look at the national recruiting rankings and you see the Big Ten everywhere, all over the place, and that's the way it should be.”
“So there's a lot of credit to be given, obviously to the administrations that invest in their programs and to the coaching staffs that are out there doing the work. And this is as tough a conference as there is.”
And after speaking to Ohio State players this week, one thing is for certain: The Buckeyes aren't running from these lofty expectations.
“It’s legit. Why not make it a testimony?” fifth-year senior defensive end Tyquan Lewis said. “That’s what we think about it. But right now, we’re focusing on beating Indiana.”