COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There will be a trophy on the line this season after all.
Banned from the postseason and initially expected to be barred from officially winning its division because of it, Ohio State instead will be eligible to collect a little hardware if it wins the Big Ten Leaders Division.
The Buckeyes would obviously prefer to play for a few awards after the regular season ends, and a division title hasn’t suddenly become a carrot coach Urban Meyer will dangle for his team. But after the league confirmed to ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg on Wednesday that Ohio State would potentially be recognized for finishing in first place, the program at least went to practice with something more tangible to play for then it had when the season started.
“That’s the first I’ve heard of something like that,” Meyer said. “We’re 1-0 and we’re not a very good team, we’re average right now and we’re playing a very good team (Central Florida) that I think is equal at some positions. There’s going to be zero conversation about that in our locker room.
“I know we can’t go to the (championship) game. They didn’t change that, did they?”
Those sanctions haven’t been lifted, but it had been assumed that since Ohio State couldn’t participate in the Big Ten title game, it wouldn’t be honored with a division crown even if it had been earned on the field.
But the league cleared that issue up, citing the fact that the regular season results and statistics count for the Buckeyes in the record book this season. So they also will when it comes time to hand out a trophy.
“I didn’t know until now,” cornerback Travis Howard said after practice. “It means a lot to us. Anytime you can play for something and get an award for it is awesome.
“At the same time, we can’t look ahead. We just have to focus on UCF right now, focus on them, take it one game at a time and then make our way to the end of the season to enjoy that.”
In the meantime, there won’t be any discussion about the potential reward waiting for the Buckeyes from their coach.
But Meyer also wouldn’t rule out using it as a motivator once they do get a bit deeper into the season.
“I think at the end of the day -- I’d never heard that, I’d never thought about it -- it’s not going to make us play harder this Saturday,” Meyer said. “But I think at some point in November or something, yeah, that will be interesting.”
Bumps and bruises: Jordan Hall is officially out for Saturday's home date with Central Florida, though the senior running back is closing in on a return.
The diagnosis for defensive end Michael Bennett isn't as clear at this point as he tries to get back on the field after reinjuring his groin warming up before the season opener.
"Michael Bennett, I’d put him doubtful for this weekend," Meyer said. "He retweaked his groin injury, it’s frustrating for all of us. He should be back, but he reinjured it. We’ll know more later in the week, but he hasn’t practiced much."
Stripe-less: The black tape didn't come off just because training camp was over and the season had started.
Ohio State had three more freshmen finally get to peel off that stripe on their practice helmets this week in the ceremony to designate becoming full-fledged members of the program.