Buckeyes happy to return home to play

Published 1:21 am Tuesday, November 18, 2014

COLUMBUS (AP) — Urban Meyer continues to dig in his heels whenever he is asked about anything other than the task at hand.

Such as when he faced a question on Monday about whether his seventh-ranked Buckeyes are one of the top four teams in the country — in other words, playoff-worthy.

“Not right now, no. No, I don’t, because I don’t want to make ignorant comments. I just don’t know,” he said. “I’d make the comment that we’re one win away from representing the East in the Big Ten championship game, because I do know that.”

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In his 13th year as a head coach, Meyer is skipping bold predictions. No embroidery about how great his team is and how it deserves to be ahead of Teams A and B in the CFP rankings.

Instead, he switches the conversation from what might be in six weeks to what will be in six days.

The Buckeyes (9-1, 6-0 Big Ten, No. 8 CFP) happily return home from a big two-game road swing to host Indiana (3-7, 0-6). Should they win — and they’re favored by six touchdowns — they’ll punch their ticket for the Big Ten title game for the second year in a row.

That really resonates for senior linebacker Curtis Grant, who has been on teams that despite winning a school-record 24 consecutive games at one point in his career, and a current Big Ten record streak of winning 22 regular-season conference games in a row, haven’t captured a championship.

“Like I tell (teammates), we haven’t won anything yet here,” he said.

The Buckeyes strung together 24 wins in a row at the start of Meyer’s tenure, then lost 34-24 to Michigan State in last year’s Big Ten title game and fell 40-35 to Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

The loss to the Spartans for the conference title — and getting back to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis this year — provided incentive during the long hours of offseason conditioning last winter, spring workouts and August camp in 90-degree heat.

“That’s been the ultimate goal, the No. 1 goal — the thing we had to do was get back there and win a championship,” receivers coach Zach Smith said.

“That’s all we really talked about. There was no greater goal, nothing beyond that talked about, and that’s been what our sights have been set on since day one, pretty much every day.”

Grant said he’s never forgotten what the Buckeyes missed — championship rings, the last BCS title game, respect, memories.

“It hurt just to lose all of that, especially coming off 24-0,” he said. “We haven’t won anything, so let’s keep moving forward.”

Now Indiana, saddled with a five-game losing skid and headed nowhere, stands in the way of Ohio State returning for another chance to collect the Big Ten’s biggest trophy.

“Everything we did was to get another shot at the Big Ten championship. Everything,” Meyer said. “And that’s at the doorstep. I imagine that’s why (the players) were pretty juiced up yesterday for practice.”

Beyond the Indiana game, of course, lies the annual rivalry showdown with Michigan, also at Ohio Stadium. That will undoubtedly provide even more energy and motivation.


Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP