Asked if they spent any part of their off-week determining where they matched up against the nation’s top teams, Ohio State players simply stated that they’re focused on themselves and a ‘one game at a time’ mindset.
Their head coach was more honest in his answer.
Sitting inside of Brooks Gym in Johnson City, Tenn. to see his daughter Gigi’s Florida Gulf Coast volleyball team take on East Tennessee State, Urban Meyer couldn’t help but let his eyes and mind wander to his personal iPad. It was there that the second-year OSU head coach tuned into Penn State’s quadruple overtime victory over Michigan, which left the Buckeyes as one of the 14 remaining teams in college football with an undefeated record this season.
“That's really the only one I watched film start to finish. But I saw the highlights,” Meyer said. “I watched some volleyball but I did watch some football, as well.”
As the two-time national champion head coach watched highlights from games that could impact his hunt for a third crystal ball, he saw No. 1 Alabama throttle Kentucky, No. 2 Oregon beat No. 19 Washington, No. 4 Clemson escape with a victory over Boston College, No. 5 Stanford lose its first game of the season to Utah, No. 7 Georgia fall to Missouri, and formerly unbeaten and 10th-ranked Oklahoma lose to Texas.
Never one to take a half-measure, once Meyer’s attention had been turned to the college football landscape, he couldn’t help but deviate for a brief moment from the mindset that he preaches to his players.
“I try not to, but the human element gets involved when you start watching some of these teams,” Meyer said. “I think we are right there. I think we are a good team, I do.
“You start wondering where you stack up, and then I try to click right back into, don't worry about that, just take care of your own business.”
The fact of the matter remains, however, that even if the Buckeyes take care of their remaining six regular season games -- all of which they’ll likely be favored in -- and a subsequent Big Ten Championship Game, that still might not be enough to land them in Pasadena on Jan. 6, 2014. With Big Ten teams beating up on each other -- and OSU’s strength of schedule in the process -- an undefeated Ohio State squad would almost certainly find itself behind unbeaten Alabama and Oregon teams in the final BCS regular season standings.
And the Crimson Tide and Ducks aren’t the only ones that the Buckeyes could be worrying about.
Ohio State is currently ranked ahead of 6-0 Clemson, who will face its toughest test of the season on Saturday when the Tigers take on No. 5 Florida State. There’s a good chance that the winner of that contest will jump the third-ranked Buckeyes, as the ACC -- which also includes No. 11 and unbeaten Miami (Fla.) -- has proved itself to be superior to the Big Ten halfway through the season. When it comes to what’s best for OSU, seeing the three currently unbeaten ACC squads cancel each other out would be ideal.
Ohio State was dealt a hand of help when Stanford eliminated itself from the national championship discussion with its loss to the Utes on Saturday, as Buckeye fans will now be pulling for the Cardinal in their Nov. 7 matchup with Oregon. Georgia picking up its second loss of the season was also big for OSU, as it’s in the Buckeyes best interest not to be competing with a one-loss SEC team for a BCS Championship Game spot, especially if that team happens to be Alabama or LSU.
Also lingering as potential -- albeit, unlikely -- issues for the Buckeyes are currently unbeaten teams in Louisville, Baylor, Missouri, and UCLA. But despite the potential uncontrollable road blocks in his team’s way, OSU linebacker Ryan Shazier remains confident that the Buckeyes would stack up with any team that comes their way.
“I saw a lot of good teams play,” Shazier said. “I feel like we can play with any of them. Whatever happens, happens. When the time comes, we’re going to play where we have to play.”
With more than a month remaining in the regular season, that is yet to be determined. At this point, all the Buckeyes can do is win what’s ahead of them, and hope that the computers like them more then than they do right now.
A head coach of 12 years in the BCS era, Meyer knows this. And while he’s willing to admit to brief moments of distraction like the one he engaged in inside of Brooks Gym last weekend, it’s now back to work for the Buckeyes, who Meyer hopes will follow the example set by a team that he could be campaigning against in the coming weeks.
“I think Oregon does an incredible job of this tight end got in trouble and left or something and next guy up, go play, he's gone,” Meyer said. “And I think that's every coach's focus is just get to the next day.”