|Buckeyes head into final 4 games unbeaten, hopeful|
|Tuesday, October 29, 2013 12:00 AM|
By RUSTY MILLER
COLUMBUS — Almost every major-college football team burns with the central goal of playing for a national championship.
That's also true at Ohio State, only with a twist.
Coach Urban Meyer says a more realistic and reachable goal is to merely to be in a position to play for all the marbles.
"We don't go into the season saying we want to win this one, or this one. If you look around there's not a bunch of goals," he explained on Monday. "Our goal is to win the national championship but we don't put that down. There's too many variables involved."
Instead of reaching for an all-or-nothing prize, Meyer and the Buckeyes hope to head into the stretch run of the season with championships on the line.
"It's always the same: To get to November and then let's go try to find a way to win a championship," Meyer said. "Because there's injuries and issues you have to deal with. So that's our focus."
Ohio State's season may not have traced the line a lot of Ohio State fans or insiders had plotted before the season even got going.
Due to injuries and suspensions, it seems the cast of characters has changed each week.
Yet the fourth-ranked Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) enter their final four games riding a 20-game winning streak and with a world of possibilities.
It's been so long since they lost that they have to think hard what it felt like.
"It has been a few years. What, the Gator Bowl was the last loss?" tight end Jeff Heuerman asked, referring to a 24-17 loss to Florida on Jan. 2, 2012, that capped a dreadful 6-7 campaign. "We experienced that a few times that year. A lot of the guys remember that. And that's not something we want."
Things are going so well right now that the Buckeyes are content to ride the wave and see where it takes them.
The offense, in particular, appears to be on a high-speed treadmill. It is averaging a Big Ten-best 47.2 points a game, coming off a 63-14 rout of Penn State on Saturday.
After a while, opposing defenses just want the game to end.
"We like to call that 'no mas'," tailback Carlos Hyde said with a grin. "It's pretty easy to tell when guys don't want anymore. They don't want to even tackle you anymore. And the offensive line is just blowing guys off the ball."
The Buckeyes open their November stretch run with a game on Saturday at Purdue (1-6, 0-3).
The Boilermakers are unquestionably suffering through a difficult seaso, but Ohio State is not expressing much sympathy.
Purdue has won the last two meetings and four of the last six in West Lafayette, Ind., and almost shocked the unbeaten Buckeyes a year ago at Ohio Stadium.
"Each week we respect our opponent," linebacker Curtis Grant said. "(Their record) doesn't have anything to do with it because they could come out this week and be ready to play. If you're not ready to play, you'll take a loss."
After the game at Ross-Ade Stadium, the Buckeyes have a bye week to gear up for games at Illinois (3-4, 0-3), the home finale against Indiana (3-4, 1-2) a week later and then the annual grudge match with rival Michigan (6-1, 2-1) at The Big House on Nov. 30.
Meyer isn't concerned about a letdown at any point along the way.
"We're going into November, we are competing for championships," he added. "So you can bet the focus is very intense."
BUCKEYES BUZZ: Ohio State TE Jeff Heuerman probably won't be vacationing in West Lafayette, Ind., any time soon.
Nor will he likely be invited.
The junior was asked on Monday what he would tell a younger teammate about the trip to play Purdue.
"It's not quite Ohio State. There's not going to be 105,000 fans there. It's kind of a gray city. It's not the most beautiful city in the country," he replied. "You just got to go in there and you've got to have your mind on one thing, that's playing football. No one's there rooting for you. It's just like any other away game, everyone wants you to lose."
What about the spartan visiting locker room?
"Ugh. Awful," Heuerman said.
Someone jokingly asked him if he planned on getting an internship with the West Lafayette Chamber of Commerce next summer.
"Not replied," he said, laughing.
QUOTABLE: Meyer says there's almost no chance that starting QB Braxton Miller won't feel the pressure of having a quality sub like the fan-favorite Kenny Guiton breathing down his neck and looking for playing time: "He knows the guy behind him — the friggin' stadium is calling his name."
INJURY UPDATE: Meyer said on Monday that DB and special-teams standout Devan Bogard tore an ACL in the 63-14 win over Penn State on Saturday night and will miss the rest of the season.
"Just crushing. He's in my office right now," Meyer said. "Great kid. Actually very positive about it. He's going to have surgery this week. Big blow."
On his Twitter account, Bogard posted: "I appreciate my blessings man I will come back stronger give all glory to God ill be ready!! #BuckeyeNation I love you."
Bogard, a sophomore safety out of the Cleveland Glenville HS pipeline, also had his first season at Ohio State end with knee surgery.
"It's tough for all of us but when you're in this business, it's much tougher knowing what the kid's going through," co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. "We can get through it. We've got somebody that will step up and take that spot. The real thing that hits hard is this kid is going to go through another situation like that and how can he handle it? How tough and how strong mentally is he to go through another battle like this? So that's what pulls at you."
LB Curtis Grant left the game after a collision but only has a sore neck and will play at Purdue.
BIG 'DOG: Ohio State opened as a 31-point favorite at Purdue before the spot dropped to 30.5 points.
B1G HONORS: Ohio State players received two of the top weekly honors presented by the Big Ten.
Miller, a junior from Huber Heights, Ohio, was the offensive player of the week after passing for three TDs and running for two more, piling up 320 yards of total offense while completing 18-of-24 passes for a career-high 252 yards and rushing for 58 yards on 11 carries.
The freshman of the week in the conference was RB Dontre Wilson, who had a 49-yard kickoff return that led to an Ohio State score and also converted a short pass into a 26-yard touchdown from Miller in the third quarter.
Other honorees included Iowa LB James Morris on defense after he had eight tackles and two sacks in Iowa's overtime victory over Northwestern and Minnesota K Chris Hawthorne on special teams, who converted both FGs and four EPs to help Minnesota beat Nebraska.
WATCH AND WAIT: Two Buckeyes have been listed as semifinalists on the multitude of watch lists that seem to honor every position on the field these days.
Senior S C.J. Barnett is one of 15 semifinalists for the Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation's outstanding DB. The winner will be announced Nov. 25. Barnett is a product of Clayton Northmont HS in the Dayton area. Two other Buckeyes have won the Thorpe: Antoine Winfield in 1998 and Malcolm Jenkins in 2008. The finalists will be announced on Nov. 25.
Ryan Shazier is among 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, presented each year to the top LB in the country. The junior from Pompano Beach, Fla., was an All-Big Ten choice a year ago. Butkus finalists will be announced Nov. 26 and the winner on Dec. 10.