When the final seconds ticked off the clock in Ohio State’s 48-3 decimation of Kent State on Saturday, it signaled the start of basically a new season for the Buckeyes.
From here on out it’s Big Ten time, and that’s exactly how head coach Jim Tressel and his team like it.
First up on the docket is Michigan State, coached by former OSU defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio.
“Real fast our attention turned to going back in the Big Ten and we know the grind that lies ahead,” Tressel said at his weekly press luncheon. “We know, as we watch Michigan State on film, you look at their offensive numbers and they're very, very good. They do a great job of doing the things we like to do and that's leading with the run and controlling the tempo of the game and controlling the clock and all those things.”
The challenge of stopping the Spartans appeared to become more daunting in the immediate aftermath of the victory over the Golden Flashes when two key members of the vaunted OSU defense were sidelined with injury. Both linebacker James Laurinaitis and free safety Anderson Russell played sparingly in the contest after both suffering injuries.
Seen in a walking boot and on crutches following the game, the injury to Russell’s ankle appeared more serious than the hip injury suffered by Laurinaitis. Tressel said he expects both to be available this weekend against MSU, but Russell will be more limited during practice this week.
“Laurinaitis, I don't think, will miss a beat,” Tressel said. “Anderson, I think what we're going to do today is just go about half the number of reps. I don't expect him to miss a beat on Saturday, but he just kind of got rolled from behind and fortunately it was one of those kind of games where you could have him just rest it and so forth, but I would expect both of those guys to be full speed and ready to go.”
Sophomore defensive tackle Todd Denlinger is expected to return after missing the last two games with a deep thigh bruise.
In less positive news, sophomore linebacker Ross Homan, who has been battling an undisclosed injury rumored to be turf toe, is not expected back any time soon. He has missed four games with the injury, allowing junior Marcus Freeman to settle into the starting spot after the two had been splitting plays about evenly.
Tuesday, Tressel said he would probably be out for “at least another couple weeks.” Sophomore kicker Aaron Pettrey is also out for two more weeks, he said, while junior defensive end Lawrence Wilson – who suffered a broken tibia in the first game of the season – had his six-week x-rays.
“They’re looking great,” Tressel said, although there was no update on when he could return to the field.
Sophomore tailback Chris Wells carried the ball just four times for 17 yards against the Golden Flashes. “Beanie” has been suffering from a lingering ankle injury for much of the season, but he would have played more against KSU had the game not gotten out of hand.
Thanks to the 35-0 advantage the Buckeyes held at halftime, the Buckeyes were able to utilize their second-string offense for the entire second half. Tressel said the second team got 42 snaps in the game.
“When your second group can get that kind of work, that's tremendous for you,” he said.
Following the victory on Saturday, the Buckeyes ascended to the top spot in both major polls. On Sunday, they were ranked tops in the first release of the BCS rankings.
That does not change things for his team or the focus of the Buckeyes, said Tressel, who said he had not mentioned the fact to his players.
“I don't know if there's any euphoria,” he said. “I hope not. The only euphoria about being Number 1 is if you're that in the middle of January. It hasn't been discussed, now is it talked about by individuals? Maybe. Not by this individual, but maybe people talk about it.”