COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The faith never wavered within the locker room that the help Ohio State needed would eventually arrive, and the Buckeyes certainly celebrated when it did.
But after spending about 15 minutes partying on the team buses on Saturday, coach Urban Meyer dramatically cut down on the amount of time spent addressing things outside of his control one day later.
The team met on Sunday afternoon, just five hours before it would officially move up to No. 2 in the BCS standings and into position to play new No. 1 Florida State for the national title. But Meyer had barely any plans to talk about that possibility, instead focusing all of his energy on surging Michigan State, which climbed up to No. 10 on Sunday evening to set the table for a marquee showdown in the Big Ten title game this weekend in Indianapolis.
“We’ll spend about six or eight seconds on that,” Meyer said. “There will be no conversation about it, no social networking about it. Our focus is on this game and that’s it.
“It would be a disservice to our players if I went and worried about it, and I’m certainly not.”
The Buckeyes may not be worrying about the polls or computer formulas, but that won’t stop the speculation about their case for playing for the national title despite finishing off a perfect regular season with a thrilling 42-41 win over rival Michigan.
Still on the highway on the way back home, the Buckeyes watched on televisions in their caravan as Auburn pulled off a miracle to upset previously top-ranked Alabama, rocking the buses when the score went final to put them in position to play for the crystal football. But even before they arrived back at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, the comparisons of Ohio State’s resume to Auburn’s had already started.
There still remains a .027-point margin between the teams heading into the respective conference title games on Saturday, with Ohio State holding an edge over Auburn in both human polls and in the average computer rankings. On top of that, a one-loss team has never jumped an undefeated squad from a major conference in the history of the BCS, and another win would figure to be enough to keep the Buckeyes in the title game.
Michigan State isn’t in the mix to play for a national crown, but it solidified its candidacy as an at-large BCS selection with another dominant defensive performance in a 14-3 win over Minnesota. Of course, it can also punch a ticket to the Rose Bowl by knocking off the Buckeyes, though the Big Ten would still be in good shape to earn two spots in the BCS lineup despite Wisconsin losing to Penn State and falling to No. 21.
But before either Michigan State or Ohio State can think about where it’s headed for bowl season, there’s still some pretty significant business to take care of in Indianapolis. And clearly for Meyer, that’s the only thing he wants to talk about even after finally climbing into position to play for something bigger.