Fickell Focused On Buckeyes, Spartans

College football coaches have been known to be famously unaware of what is going on around them while they are buried in pregame preparations, and Ohio State head man Luke Fickell confirmed he is no different as he addressed the media Tuesday in anticipation of a matchup with Michigan State this Saturday.

Luke Fickell does not know who is playing the biggest game in the Big Ten this week, but the Ohio State head coach acknowledged Saturday marks not only the beginning of the conference schedule but one potentially harrowing month for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State plays host to Michigan State in a matchup of two of the league's three defending champions at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Columbus, but more focus figures to go on the clash between No. 7 Wisconsin and No. 8 Nebraska later that night.

"I didn't know they were playing," Fickell replied when asked if he had any thoughts on the game in Madison. "I've got enough things to worry about. I don't even know when my kids are playing, let alone who else plays. Some day I hope I can balance it out well enough that I can enjoy watching other people play and who's got who, but for now unfortunately I've got a little bit of blinders and have to worry about what we've got."

What happens between Wisconsin and Nebraska will be inconsequential to Fickell's team if the Buckeyes do not figure out a way to navigate a month of October that includes five games against the four teams that have looked like the best in the league so far this season. After facing the Spartans, the Buckeyes play Nebraska, No. 22 Illinois and Wisconsin. The foursome on their October slate concluded September with a combined record of 15-1.

"I don't know what else there is to say about it. It's a big month," Fickell said. "The players aren't blind. They walk in every day and see the schedule posted on the board, but we're trying to keep them focused on what it is we've got to do and focused on getting better. We know it's going to be a grind."

As for his team, Fickell remains uncertain if he will get back the services of starting wide receiver Philly Brown (ankle) or defensive end Nathan Williams (knee). Brown is listed as a co-starter along with Chris Fields at one wide receiver slot, but Williams is not included in the depth chart published by the university. Redshirt freshman J.T. Moore and true freshman Steve Miller are listed as co-starters at the Leo defensive end spot Williams normally holds down.

For the first time in five Tuesday press luncheons, however, there was no uncertainty about who will start the game under center for the Buckeyes.

Freshman Braxton Miller is scheduled to make his second career start after helping Ohio State to a 37-17 victory over Colorado last week.

Miller's passing line (5 for 13 passing, 83 yards, two touchdowns) was not spectacular, but he provided a spark with his legs (83 yards rushing) and showed the staff has something upon which to build for the future.

"He did a good job," Fickell said. "The No. 1 thing he did was hold onto the football. He made some plays with his feet, settled down and threw some good balls later in the game. I think starting off the ball wasn't coming out of his hand as well as he would have liked or anyone else would have liked, but that can come with nerves.

"He settled down, he was good on the sideline, he took some shots and he still got up and continued to compete."

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