While Buckeye Nation was focused on the release of the BCS standings Sunday night, it appears that Urban Meyer was focused mostly on the Buckeyes’ upcoming Big Ten Championship Game clash with Michigan State.
That’s if his Monday press conference was any indication.
It was a straight and to the point Meyer who greeted a packed house of media Monday afternoon at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for his usual weekly press conference.
The second-year, undefeated Ohio State head coach gave off the countenance of a man with a laserlike hold on what is next for his program – and what is next is a 10th-ranked Spartans team that will be no easy victory for his Buckeyes in Indianapolis.
"We just jumped into an excellent team, Michigan State, and want to do the best job we can to make sure we're prepared,” Meyer said. “This will be a very stiff challenge for us. Excellent, excellent defense and a much-improved offense that is scoring a lot of points.”
It will be a true clash of strength vs. strength when the No. 2 Buckeyes – who are seemingly one win away from an appearance in the BCS National Championship Game – and Spartans meet. OSU brings the nation’s No. 2 rush offense into the game, having averaged at least 8.0 yards per carry in each of the last five games, while Michigan State has the nation’s No. 1 rushing defense and passing efficiency unit.
Michigan State’s defense made it tough on the Buckeyes last year in OSU’s 17-16 victory to open Big Ten play in East Lansing, and offensive coordinator Tom Herman said the Spartans’ stop troops have aged like a fine wine – simply getting better with age.
Meyer was similarly complimentary of the Spartans, who have allowed less than 12 points per game.
“It’s as fine a defense as there is in America,” Meyer said.
There are, of course, issues on the other side of the football, too, for the Buckeyes. OSU gave up 603 yards vs. Michigan, the second-most ever vs. any school, and allowed Devin Gardner to throw for 451 yards.
Meyer professed to be a believer in the old adage that defense wins championships – check his two title-winning teams at Florida – so he was well aware the defensive performance vs. Michigan needs to improve.
“We won’t win the game,” if the defensive performance doesn’t improve, Meyer said. “I trust that we’ll get it fixed.”
Either way, though, Meyer was proud of the team for its 42-41 win at Michigan, the team’s ninth in the last 10 years in the rivalry and 11th in 13.
“This team just finds a way to win,” Meyer said. “If one side of the ball is not playing particularly well, the other side has picked them up over the last two years."
Meyer was also unsure about the status of offensive guard Marcus Hall, reserve running back/kick returner Dontre Wilson and the rest of his team as far as any potential Big Ten supplemental discipline for the on-field skirmish with Michigan that resulted in the ejections of Hall and Wilson in the second quarter.
If anything else happens, they’ll cross that bridge when it comes, but the team was so focused this week heading into MSU prep that the usual weekly champions were not named. In addition, OSU was shut out of the Big Ten weekly honors despite Braxton Miller’s five-TD day at U-M and Carlos Hyde’s rivalry-best 226-yard rushing performance, as Indiana’s Tre Roberson was named offensive player of the week.