Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Buckeyes looking to silence doubters
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel has struggled against
COLUMBUS Pundits and analysts are convinced that Ohio State is not the best college football team in the country. Buckeye tight end Rory Nicol said he doesn't listen.
He doesn't have to.
Nicol has two sisters who call him about once a day. Invariably the talk comes around to Ohio State's No. 1 national ranking.
"Well, we lost on the biggest stage [national title game] you can be on, and we got beat pretty bad, too," Nicol said. "People are going to have that opinion until we prove otherwise."
OSU seems to be developing a chip on its shoulder. As much as those outside the state question the Buckeyes' ranking, the more intent they seem to prove them wrong.
"Everybody is waiting for us to slip," Nicol said.
This week might be a good week. Wisconsin comes to Ohio Stadium at noon Saturday. The Badgers, once a Big Ten favorite, have fallen down in the polls.
But the 19th-ranked Badgers have won their last three in Columbus and three of the last four overall against Ohio State. Wisconsin is the only Big Ten program to beat coach Jim Tressel three times.
The lasting memory of 2004 was Wisconsin's team dancing on the block "O" in the middle of the field.
"It's disrespectful," Nicol said. "But, hey, they beat us fair and square. It's not like they danced on it in the third quarter. All it means is we didn't protect our house."
Tressel has found ways to motivate his team. This week, there is plenty of tape from Wisconsin celebrating Ohio Stadium wins in 1999, 2001 and 2004. Each time the Badgers came from behind. Wisconsin erased two 17-0 deficits and trailed 10-0 in 2004.
"They get that OH-IO chant going ... the goal is to play well and to make it quiet," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said
Tressel's weekly press conference was a bit more serious. He was asked if he thought Wisconsin had his number, the type of question that would usually get a light-hearted response. Not now.
"We'll find out Saturday," he said.
These next three games will make or break the legacy of his 2007 team. OSU tuned up for November against a relatively easy schedule.
"Anything that's happened around Ohio State has been with teams that have played very, very well in November," Tressel said.
Ohio State has Wisconsin, Illinois and a trip to Michigan. Win those, and the Buckeyes can stamp their card back to the national title game and try to erase the memory of getting embarrassed by Florida.
"We always talk about great teams are good in November, and we're in a month when we're going to be challenged," Nicol said. "It's great for a young team. We're gonna see if we can step up and do it."