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October 23, 2013

Column: Forget the streak, Meyer about here and now

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Following a gutty win against unranked Iowa, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer -- like he's done so many times before -- ended the opening statement portion of his postgame press in familiar form.

"The best thing about 7-0," he started, "is the chance to go 8-0."

For Meyer, who took over the program nearly two years ago, it's a phrase that's become a staple of sorts ever since his first win -- a 56-10 thrashing of Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 1, 2012 -- in Columbus.

It's a philosophy -- while sometimes painfully cliche -- that's served the Buckeyes well over the course of about a season-and-a-half now.

Of course, after winning 19-straight games, it's one that's naturally evolved, too.

A year ago, the chance to go 1-0 turned into the chance to go 2-0 turned into the chance to go 3-0 and so on and so forth. That story -- Ohio State's first undefeated season since 2002 -- is well-documented around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

What remains muddled, however, is how today's plot will ultimately unfold.

In the first wave of BCS standings, the Buckeyes (7-0) find themselves ranked No. 4 behind fellow unbeatens Alabama, Oregon and Florida State.

They essentially control their own destiny, but its watery schedule isn't doing them any favors -- making it unclear if they'll get the help they'll almost surely need along the way to jockey for one of the poll's top two spots.

What's not so hazy is Meyer's game-by-game approach, which he's most-recently started to communicate through Twitter.

From his account handle, @OSUCoachMeyer, he ends tweets with a signature "The best part about 1-0 is the chance to go 2-0!" or "Best thing about 3-0 is chance to go 4-0!"

Meyer doesn't even need to finish the sentence anymore.

"Best part about 6-0.." he tweeted a day before beating the Hawkeyes, 34-24.

He lets his 55,000-plus followers fill in the blank now.

And this week, with a looming primetime showdown against Penn State, it's the chance to go 8-0 and, maybe more impressively, the chance to go 20-0.

If Ohio State can beat the Nittany Lions, it'll be one step closer to matching the school's longest winning streak which has held steady at 1969's mark of 22-straight games.

Certainly, it's an impressive feat in today's world of parity-ridden college football -- even if it includes just five wins against ranked teams at the time of playing them. But it doesn't matter in this year's arms race for the national championship.

It's an accomplishment that should be heralded in the record books, but not in the polls.

In an immediate sense, voters don't care that the Buckeyes are 19-0. Why should they? Sure, the winning streak lends an already-storied program some serious credibility, but it's irrelevant to the season at hand.

What they do care about is Ohio State's 7-0 record and how it plays in its final five games and potential (read, likely) Big Ten Championship Game berth.

That's what has Meyer's squad in the hunt for its first title in more than a decade.

For any coach, the release and subsequent editions of the often inherently flawed BCS standings can be a chaotic time.

"We had our first state of the union address on (Sunday). And it's the first time that I do talk about polls, because I wanted to they're going to hear it, this BCS thing came out," Meyer said Monday during his weekly press conference. "And my comment was that we are, indeed, in the mix. Embrace it."

That's true, and the Buckeyes deserve to be. Crappy schedule or not. Highlight wins against then-No. 23 Wisconsin and then-No. 16 Northwestern aren't ridiculously flashy, but they're respectable.

"People think very highly of you. Maybe some people don't," Meyer said. "You just have to go out and be the best team on the field on Saturday, not in the country."

Which, at its core, is a notion cut from the same thread as Meyer's repetitive "the best thing about" game-by-game approach.

That's probably why he has yet to lose at Ohio State.

If anything, winning 19-straight games embodies the type of program Meyer's built in a relatively short amount of time.

"This team gets it. There's no blaming, no arguments on either side of the ball," he said while reflecting on the Buckeyes' win against Iowa Saturday.

"We've had multiple wins around here where the defense has won the game for us. And the offensive is very appreciative. The other times offensive carried it a little bit. And other times special teams did something. There's good chemistry on the team right now."

And if Ohio State can keep that up, Meyer might be able to eventually tweet, "The best thing about 13-0"

You fill in the rest.



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