COLUMBUS -- Saturday might be a red-letter day for the Ohio State Buckeyes, but Tuesday was a red-blazer day for their head coach.
With the No. 10 Buckeyes set to host No. 3 Penn State for a rare night game at Ohio Stadium (8 p.m., ABC), the program is encouraging fans to wear scarlet to support the home squad. At his weekly press luncheon, Jim Tressel showed up wearing a red blazer and urged fans to wear red at this weekend’s game.
“There’s a 40 percent chance of rain, so bring your red poncho with you to go over your red sweatshirt,” Tressel said.
Never mind the fact that the school’s color is officially scarlet and not red: The Buckeyes are preparing for the game that will likely make or break their chances to become the first team to earn a third consecutive outright Big Ten title. Although the Nittany Lions come into the contest a perfect 8-0 following a 46-17 victory against Michigan, the Buckeyes are also riding high after dismantling Michigan State that same afternoon to the tune of a 45-7 decision.
In all, six players on each side of the ball graded out with winning performances against the Spartans. It was a step in the right direction for an OSU team that would also find itself back in the national title hunt with a win against PSU.
“It ended up being a good, decisive victory,” Tressel said of the game against the Spartans. “I think we raised the level of our consistency a little bit. If we can have that continue to grow – especially against the competition we’re about ready to face – that would be huge for us.”
Also huge for the Buckeyes is the continued recovery of tailback Chris Wells. The player known as “Beanie” toted the ball a season-high 31 times against the Spartans, and Tressel said he came out of it reasonably well.
“He gets sore like any back that carries it 31 times,” he said. “He’s as good as you can get from a health standpoint.”
Asked if Wells was at 100 percent, Tressel replied, “I’m not sure I know what 100 percent means” before pointing out that tailbacks are seldom fully healthy during a season.
Some help is arriving in the form of Dan Herron, a redshirt freshman who climbed the depth chart and assumed the bulk of the carries while Wells was out with his toe injury. Herron suffered a concussion in the team’s road victory against Wisconsin and missed both the Purdue and MSU games. He made the trip to East Lansing but did not dress for the game.
“He’ll be ready to go,” Tressel said. “I asked the trainers if in an emergency where three players got hurt if we’d be able to put him in and they said we’d better not, so we didn’t dress him.”
He will be available to go this weekend against the Nittany Lions. So, too, will cornerback Chimdi Chekwa, who suffered an injured left shoulder while breaking up a pass in the end zone against the Spartans.
After the game, Tressel said Chekwa had told him he felt fine. Should Chekwa be unavailable, junior Donald Washington would reclaim the starting spot he lost when he was suspended for the first two games of the season.
Tuesday, the team’s morning injury report said the sophomore is ready to go.
“Now, we’ve got three days of practice to see if that’s true,” Tressel said.
The Buckeyes also have three day of practice that could determine whether or not they end up back in the national championship picture. While that is rapidly becoming a hot topic in many parts of the country, that does not include within the OSU locker room.
“We’ve never discussed the BCS standings,” he said. “That’s way premature. We didn’t even discuss them last year after we were done with the regular season because there were still games to play.
“We truly believe that you get as your works deserve and we’ve got a lot more works to do and whatever we earn is what we’ll get and so far we’ve earned seven wins and a chance to play in a big game on Saturday night and see what we can do there.”