Buckeyes Sneak Into Top 5
November 05, 2012
With a 52-22 win over Illinois and the Illibuck trophy secure Saturday evening, select Ohio State football coaches and players headed to the postgame interview room aware of two things: 1) the Buckeyes were the only 10-0 team in the country, and 2) someone was about to lose the Alabama-LSU game that was about to kick off in Baton Rouge.
That, of course, prompted inevitable questions about the possibility of No. 6 Ohio State (10-0, 6-0 in the Big Ten) moving into the top five of The Associated Press poll even after dispatching of league doormat Illinois (2-7, 0-5).
Head coach Urban Meyer preferred to talk about the high points and concerns following the win, which was staged before a lively Ohio Stadium crowd of 105,311, but has recognized the team’s intrigue with the poll. It’s a unique situation for the Buckeyes and their fans considering that the team is not eligible for postseason play – and therefore a rousing bowl victory that could cement their case – because of NCAA sanctions.
Meyer has talked openly about his team playing anything like an elite outfit and even debunked mentions of quarterback Braxton Miller’s Heisman Trophy candidacy a few weeks ago. However, earlier in the week he proclaimed Miller was indeed deserving of being so mentioned and he also bit on the top-five question.
“I think so,” when asked if the Buckeyes were perhaps deserving of being that high in the poll. “Today’s performance was a top-five. You’d like to end it a little better instead of a fumble return for a touchdown.
“But in certain areas, though, when you can control the line of scrimmage, that’s usually a top-five team.”
Several key Buckeye players also were willing to address the topic, which had been taboo in the past.
“Being in the top five is definitely something we think we deserve,” cornerback Bradley Roby said.
Added linebacker and leading tackler Ryan Shazier, “I feel that we’re top-five worthy, and at the end of the year we’re trying to show that we’re going to be top-one, No. 1 in the country, and we’ll have the NCAA mad at us. So we’re going to try to do everything we can to finish out strong and let the seniors go out with a bang.”
Well, it turns out the Buckeyes did inch up a half a peg – even though the top-ranked Crimson Tide (9-0) rallied for a 21-17 victory to remain atop the AP poll for the 10th straight week.
Oregon (9-0) gave up a whopping 51 points to USC but scored 62 of its own and stayed No. 2 in the AP poll for the seventh straight week.
Kansas State (9-0) stayed at No. 3 after beating Oklahoma State 44-30, and Notre Dame (9-0) hung on to its No. 4 ranking after staring at defeat throughout its battle with a .500 Pittsburgh squad then rallying for an improbable 29-26 win in triple-overtime.
Joining those teams at 9-0 is Louisville, which blew open a close game with Temple by scoring 28 unanswered points in the second half of a 45-17 victory. However, the Cardinals remain just out of the top 10 at No. 11.
The last of the six undefeated teams, Ohio State, ended up tied for fifth in the latest AP poll, equaling the 1,198-point total of Georgia (8-1).
Florida (8-1), Florida State (8-1), LSU (7-2) and Clemson (8-1) round out the top 10 of the poll. The only other Big Ten team beside Ohio State is Nebraska, which moved up from No. 21 to No. 18 after a last-minute 28-24 win at Michigan State on Saturday.
The two teams chasing Nebraska in the Legends Division, Michigan (6-3) and Northwestern (7-2), also received votes but were not ranked. Ditto for Penn State (6-3), which is in second place in the Leaders Division of the Big Ten behind Ohio State.
Nebraska is No. 16 and Northwestern is No. 21 in the coaches poll, which is otherwise virtually identical to the AP top 25 except for extracted Ohio State.
No. 19 Texas (7-2) and No. 24 Rutgers (7-1) moved back into the AP rankings. Meanwhile, Illinois coach Tim Beckman certainly seems to be at his wit’s end coaching the Illini but his old team, Toledo (8-1), is ranked for the first time since 2001, checking in at No. 23.
The Buckeyes won their 99th meeting with the Illini and hung onto the Illibuck, a laminated wooden turtle, by scoring more than 50 points for the fourth time this season, which is a new school mark. Ohio State is 274-0-1 all-time when it scores at least 35 points. The tie was 35-35 against SMU in 1978.
OSU is now 65-30-4 vs. UI including a mark of 38-18-4 in Columbus. Ohio State also improved to 64-7 at the Horseshoe since the start of the 2002 season.
The defense has come on of late for the Buckeyes after they allowed 49 points in a three-point win at Indiana on Oct. 13. That unit held Illinois to 170 total yards of offense including just 96 yards passing by veteran QB Nathan Scheelhaase.
Also, Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman have the offense cooking, especially the ground game. The Buckeyes rolled up 330 yards rushing vs. UI with tailback Carlos Hyde leading the way with 139 yards and three touchdowns. Miller and freshman Bri’onte Dunn also pounded into the end zone, upping OSU’s seasonal total to 34 rushing touchdowns. It’s only the third time in the last 29 years Ohio State has had at least 30 rushing touchdowns. They scored 31 via the ground in the national championship season of 2002; 35 in 1984.
Miller has 13 rushing TDs on the year and has thrown for 14 including the two he added to the highlight reel on Saturday – a 37-yard catch-and-run by Philly Brown, who broke several tackles on his way to the right pylon in the south end zone; and a perfect downfield aerial to a streaking Rod Smith for a 51-yard score to the left pylon.
Miller was 12 of 20 for 226 yards in addition to his 73 yards rushing. He continues to play like an All-American but also has been more cognizant of protecting his body and spreading the ball around.
Meyer, of course, is used to such production after coaching the likes of Alex Smith at Utah and Chris Leak and Tim Tebow at Florida. He logged double-digit wins for the sixth time in his 11 years as a head coach and became just the second OSU coach to guide the Buckeyes to a 10-0 mark in his debut season, joining his mentor Earle Bruce (11-0, 1979).
Still. Meyer didn’t foresee this kind of success.
“If you asked me in the spring I would have said, no, I don’t think we are (a top-five team),” he said moments after the Illinois win. “But then I don’t think about those kind of things, to be honest with you. It’s just trying to get a first down and getting to the next week.
“I’ve been fortunate to have a couple of top-five teams. And this probably has more holes than those other ones. However, there’s also some great performances.
“So we are going to do well on the weaknesses, because those weaknesses get exposed when you play two good teams like we have to finish the season.”
The full Associated Press top-25 rankings follow:
RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1. Alabama (60) 9-0 1,500
2. Oregon 9-0 1,421
3. Kansas State 9-0 1,385
4. Notre Dame 9-0 1,318
5. Ohio State 10-0 1,198
5. Georgia 8-1 1,198
7. Florida 8-1 1,112
8. Florida St. 8-1 1,057
9. LSU 7-2 1029
10. Clemson 8-1 931
11. Louisville 9-0 862
12. S. Carolina 7-2 836
13. Oregon St. 7-1 796
14. Oklahoma 6-2 765
15. Texas A&M 7-2 700
16. Stanford 7-2 655
17. UCLA 7-2 446
18. Nebraska 7-2 441
19. Texas 7-2 355
19. La. Tech 8-1 355
21. USC 6-3 237
22. Miss. St. 7-2 187
23. Toledo 8-1 146
24. Rutgers 7-1 99
25. Texas Tech 6-3 97
• Dropped from rankings: Boise State 19, West Virginia 23, Arizona 24
• Others receiving votes: Northern Illinois 64, Kent State 61, Michigan 53, TCU 38, Northwestern 32, Oklahoma State 27, Ohio 22, UCF 15, Boise State 11, Washington 9, Penn State 8, San Diego State 7, Tulsa 6, Arizona 5, Utah State 4, Fresno State 2