COLUMBUS – Winning is fun. Preparing to win, not so much.
That might be something Ohio State’s football team discovers this week if it didn’t already know it.
When OSU coach Urban Meyer was asked what he planned to do to focus the Buckeyes on Saturday night’s Big Ten championship game against Northwestern after a huge 62-39 win over Michigan last Saturday, he said he intended to be “as hard and demanding as you can possibly be.”
“You don’t coach hard when you lose. That’s fragile, you’ve got to get them back. When you win and win the way we did, that’s the time to cut loose and be very over the top and demanding of them,” Meyer said.
“We’ve already addressed that with our staff. We’re going to be very hard on everybody this week. We cannot see anything other than the same effort we gave last week,” he said.
Ohio State (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) is in the Big Ten championship game for the fourth time in the last six seasons. Northwestern (8-4, 8-1 Big Ten) is playing in its first Big Ten title game.
Ohio State got back into the conversation about who could be in the College Football Playoff, but that is not a conversation Meyer wants to join, at least not in public.
“Zero,” he said when asked how much time he has spent on the playoff. “We’re going to try to win the Big Ten championship,” he said.
Senior wide receiver Terry McLaurin, one of six captains for OSU, said that sentiment was emphasized at Sunday’s “victory meal.”
“He preached to the team after we had our victory meal that this game (the Michigan game) is over and how great it was for our fans, our team and our confidence, but we have to focus on our next mission,” McLaurin said. “We celebrated Sunday but as soon as we walked out those doors it was on to Northwestern. They have our full, undivided attention.
“We’ve had great wins in the past and we’ve kind of come out slow, like a hangover. But our job as leaders is to make sure that doesn’t happen. If we want to have any aspirations of winning this game and possibly going further we have to put all of our energy and focus into this game. Motivation won’t be a problem because there is a championship on the line.”
Unlike Meyer, McLaurin did talk about what winning Saturday’s game might do for OSU in the eyes of the College Football Playoff selection committee.
“It’s pretty obvious the committee looks at how you beat teams and how you look collectively offensively and defensive,” McLaurin said.
“To have the performance we had last week against that defense and a top four team makes a big statement. So we hope that holds weight, but at the end of the day we’ve got to focus on this weekend because without winning this game there’s no chance of playing further,” he said.
When Meyer was asked if Ohio State was ready right now to be competitive in the College Football Playoff, he said, “I think certain areas of our team are and certain areas are not.”
“When you start using terms like national championship and playoffs, that’s rare air. Certain parts of our team are ready and certain parts are not. But I would imagine that’s most teams. I don’t know every team in the country but there’s probably other teams in that same boat,” he said.