Cleaning out my reporter’s notebook after week on the Ohio State football beat. This time the Buckeyes were sounding refreshed after a week off prior to a trip to Madison, Wisc., to take on the Badgers.
Ohio State’s head football coach said Wisconsin is a much-improved team right now. Teams get better or they get worse through the course of the season, and this one is on the upswing. The blowout of Indiana last week was the Badgers’ best performance on both sides of the ball.
Wisconsin does a nice job with shifts and motions before the snap on offense and it’s hard to maintain gap integrity against the Badgers. When they go to the air, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis is a heck of a player.
Practice was excellent on Monday. The team seemed rejuvenated after having the weekend off, so the coaches have to be careful how they use that energy. It was a very physical practice.
He has had good success in the past after weeks off, so he maintains the same practice schedule.
The Buckeyes’ bowl ban has not really been addressed much so far this season because he likes how the team shows up to work on a regular basis. He has a lot of competitors in the locker room. They want to show up and perform their best against a good team like Wisconsin.
Leadership is an underrated aspect of college football, and Zach Boren brings that to the Buckeyes. He wasn’t doing that in the spring or summer, but he is now. Boren is one of Meyer’s all-time favorites now.
The defense is not the Silver Bullets yet, but it has been playing much better.
He hasn’t thought about the inability to go to a bowl while being undefeated as much as he expected. It comes up from time to time and then he thinks about how good the team might really be. He pauses to reflect then moves on to get ready for the next game.
He hasn’t talked to the team about the potential of an Associated Press national title for the last few weeks. He likes how the team meetings have been going. They know where they are as a team. It’s a no-nonsense group. He really likes coaching them.
Before the weekend off, he told the guys to think about how anything they do will help them get their 11th win. If so, do it a lot. If not, don’t do it.
Asked his impressions of the rivalry with Wisconsin, he said pretty good. He is learning about what it’s been like in recent years. He’s hearing about it from the guys who have been around. It is a rivalry game now.
The cornerbacks are an improved group for Ohio State. Travis Howard wasn’t very good earlier in the season, but he’s developed a lot.
He wasn’t sure what to make of a question about bad blood between the two programs but said the players respect Wisconsin so they are preparing hard for them. Meyer has no issue with Bielema. That was blown out of proportion early in the year and they squashed it.
Wisconsin has a very good front seven, one of several in the Big Ten. Meyer is impressed with how many there are in the league, perhaps more than he expected based on the reputation of the conference before he got here. Wisconsin has a very big front four, and linebacker Chris Borland is one of the best in the league. The Kettering, Ohio, native is very instinctual.
Meyer has talked to the team about winning the conference division outright. That is an important task.
He’s been to Camp Randall Stadium before – including as an assistant here in the ‘80s – and it is a great atmosphere.
Wisconsin running back Montee Ball had a slow start to the season, but a lot of that might have been on others more than him. The coaching staff has come together as the season has progressed, and they’ve gotten creative in the running game. Ball will be a very good NFL running back.
Asked to rate his team’s playmaking ability, Meyer said probably a C or C-. Braxton Miller fits the mold, and Carlos Hyde is joining him along with Philly Brown, but he expects at least four. And Hyde and Brown still have work to do. He wants making plays to be common place, not something that is remarkable every time they make someone miss or break a tackle.
Wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown noted the Buckeyes and Badgers have been going back and forth with messing up each other’s seasons. Ohio State is trying to get revenge for losing there his freshman year when they were undefeated and ranked No. 1.
The atmosphere at Camp Randall Stadium is not so much intimidating as much as it is fun. Same with Penn State. Those are two of the loudest stadiums they have played in and they try to use the energy from the crowd to their advantage.
He remembers “Jump Around” at the end of the third quarter last time when he was a freshman. Hopefully won’t be as loud because they’ll be winning, he said.
This group is hungry enough to put in the work to go undefeated. They are all in and he has no doubts they can do it.
Defensive lineman John Simon predicts the most physical team will win in Madison. They know the Badgers are going to try to run up the middle against them, and they have to stop it.
This is a huge game and hostile territory. fans are crazy and Badgers play very well at home. The Buckeyes are doing all they can to be prepared for challenge, but they are taking it one game at a time as far as going undefeated.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but they have two of their toughest tests coming at the end so they have to be prepared for each one of them and leave nothing to chance.
Cornerback Travis Howard says they figure on seeing a big running game from the Badgers and it will come down to which team is the most physical.
They should be able to put the corners on an island and stack the box to stop the run without worrying about how he and Bradly Roby will hold up.
Howard thinks it is “fabulous” to hear Meyer say he and Roby are one of the best cornerback tandems he has coached because he knows Meyer had some tremendous guys at Florida. Howard feels like Meyer’s pushing them to get better every day has been significant in their improvement.
The Buckeyes have a chip on their shoulder but can’t control situation other than to go out and win every game.
That’s what they are trying to do. At the end of the day they can look back and say they accomplished great things but it’s not time for that yet. Wisconsin is most important right now.