Ohio State football: Meyer has plan to deal with high expectations
Brutus Buckeye and Ohio State fans celebrated last season’s 13-0 record during a rally in St. John Arena in December. More celebrating is expected this year.
CHICAGO — The lowered ceiling is gone now.
Ohio State’s aspirations are no longer limited. The Buckeyes’ football season is not consigned to end in November.
Throughout 2012, coach Urban Meyer had his speech prepared for when major adversity hit. He never needed to pull it out of his back pocket. Playing under the cloud of the NCAA postseason ban, the Buckeyes persevered and went undefeated.
They finished third in the final Associated Press rankings and are expected to be at least that high in this year’s preseason rankings.
Given Meyer’s previous success in his second season at schools — undefeated at Utah, a national title at Florida — expectations couldn’t be much higher. In a media poll conducted by The Plain Dealer, the Buckeyes were a near-unanimous pick to win the Big Ten championship.
So yesterday at the start of Big Ten media days, when he wasn’t answering questions about the recent legal scrapes by several players, he was trying to tamp down what he considers premature talk about championships.
“I’m going to try to push it out of the back of everyone’s mind, because we hear that a lot,” Meyer said. “I think that’s a distraction. It really (only) matters at the end of the season, but I think there’s a lot of chatter about it.”
That’s why he plans to have a talk about that topic at the start of preseason camp in less than two weeks. He knows that human nature can make combating that a challenge.
“A team is a complex animal,” Meyer said. “You have to be careful about how you approach things. We don’t even talk about those things.”
What he will do is impress upon his players the importance of putting themselves in position to win a championship in November. But that will require embracing the daily grind and finding the leadership that allowed last year’s team to go 12-0.
Meyer is confident that his team has the capability of repeating last year’s success. Even with the status of running back Carlos Hyde and cornerback Bradley Roby up in the air, the Buckeyes have plenty of talent, led by Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller.
“I think we could potentially be a championship-caliber team by November,” Meyer acknowledged.
Safety Christian Bryant said that the incentive of playing in December and January will help.
“I think it’s a big step for us knowing we have a chance to compete for a national championship and a Big Ten championship,” he said. “Coming off the season we had last year, I think the first game this season is going to light a fire under us, knowing what we could have done last year. We want to keep that streak going.”
If the Buckeyes lose Hyde or Roby for an extended period, that will become considerably harder. Before Roby’s incident in Bloomington, Ind., he and Bryant spoke about having back-to-back undefeated seasons.
“Roby and I were talking about it two weeks ago: Going 26-0, that sounds great,” he said. “That’s a goal I think everybody is trying to accomplish.”
Bryant said he expects Roby to play for Ohio State this season.
“With him, I really think we would go 26-0.”
Miller said the attitude among his teammates this year isn’t much different than it was last year, but he’s comforted in knowing this season will end differently.
“It feels great,” he said. “You get a reward at the end. We played the whole season without any type of award. At the end, we expect something this year.”