"Win as many games as possible for the seniors," sophomore defensive tackle Michael Bennett said when asked about the team goal. "That's what we're harping on every practice, every play, everything. We just want these seniors – because they got a hard bargain. We're trying to give them everything we can."
The words sounded similar coming out of the mouths of junior offensive lineman Corey Linsley.
"We want to put these guys out on a right note," Linsley added. "We felt like a lot of them don't get the same opportunity as the rest of us. That's the facts of life and the situation that we're in, but it's what we're trying to do."
That would be a noble goal considering what the Ohio State seniors have gone through. They entered what they thought would be one of the most stable programs in college football and instead went through a tumultuous upheaval that would stand as one of the craziest in recent memory in college football if it wasn't for what's happening up the road at Penn State.
That's not to say there haven't been good times. Those who came in with the 2008 recruiting class – fifth-year players Ben Buchanan, Zach Domicone, Garrett Goebel, Travis Howard, Orhian Johnson, Etienne Sabino, Jacob Stoneburner and Nathan Williams – went to three BCS games and won two.
As for the members of the '09 class still on the squad – a group that includes seniors Zach Boren, Reid Fragel, Jordan Hall, Adam Homan, Johnny Simon and a number of underclassmen – they did participate on squads that beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl and Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl as well as grab a pair of Big Ten title rings.
Of course, everyone knows what happened next. The undefeated season or national title campaign that seemed so possible when those classes – ranked fourth and first, respectively, in the country – came in never materialized, followed by the scandal that cost the team head coach Jim Tressel and last year's historic 6-7 campaign.
But those who still remain have largely stayed out of trouble and represented the program well, and their isolated incidents with the law or the NCAA haven't done much to tarnish their legacies. In fact, the seniors who remain have the chance to be the ones who leave school having helped the program regain its solid footing under first-year head coach Urban Meyer.
They won't be able to go to a postseason game or win a Big Ten championship to do it, but there are plenty of things to play for in the minds of the seniors. Not only is there a chance to still post an undefeated regular season with a win against Michigan, the Buckeyes will be fighting to restore the program's luster across the country.
"Whenever you go somewhere, you want to leave it better than you found it, so we want to have an impact on this team and on this season and we hope to carry this team as far as we can," Sabino said.
That group has the full support of Meyer, who has cleared developed affection for the senior class as he's gotten to know them since being hired in November.
"I've got a great group of seniors and they got screwed," Meyer said bluntly on Sirius/XM radio this week in reference to the bowl ban.
The rest of the team seems to be following in that regard with their wish to send those in their final years out on a high note.
"We want to win as many games as we can for the seniors," wideout Corey Brown said. "We are going to work to go undefeated. There's no doubt that we're going to try to win every game. Our main goal is to win as many games as possible for the senior class."