Columbus, Ohio – — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer doesn’t want his team to overlook Illinois, the Big Ten basement dweller visiting Ohio Stadium today. Meyer prohibited talk among players of the upcoming Michigan game or the Big Ten championship game that might follow.
And he definitely doesn’t want to hear any discussion of scenarios — as unlikely as they might be — that would have the Buckeyes sneaking back into the College Football Playoff hunt.
He declined to entertain questions from the media about any of the above.
Meyer thought the team patted itself on the back a little too long after beating Penn State on Oct. 28. The next week, Ohio State was inexplicably blown out by unranked Iowa.
“There will be zero conversation around here,” he said. “Especially when you guys talk to the players, there will be zero conversation about what happened before and what’s going to happen in the future.”
The Buckeyes (8-2, 6-1) likely dropped out of the national championship race when they lost to Iowa. But last week’s 48-3 drubbing of Michigan State has led to suggestions that the Buckeyes could climb back into the final four at the end if they win out, even with two losses.
Ohio State can claim the Big Ten East title with a win over Illinois (2-8, 0-7 Big Ten), coupled with a Wisconsin victory over Michigan.
While Ohio State counts victories, second-year Illinois coach Lovie Smith is looking for slivers of hope. he Illini let their best chance of getting a conference win slip away last week. They pulled within three points of Indiana in the fourth quarter last week before falling 24-14.
“Too many times I’ve talked about us improving,” Smith said. “We are improving, but we haven’t been able to get the job done in a long period of time, as you know.
“When you’re in a situation like this, you have to look for some small steps that you’re taking. We want to take big steps, but you do have to look at some of the small steps.”