With a Monday morning game week dawning today, the Ohio State football team went back to work.
Meetings began at 7 a.m. as the Buckeyes – back from the first open week of the 2013 season – have returned to work in preparation for this weekend's homecoming game Saturday afternoon vs. Iowa (3:30 p.m., ABC regional). The team will practice in pads the next three days after enjoying a fair bit of time off after last week's short week of practices that ended Thursday.
"I think we managed it well," head coach Urban Meyer said at his weekly press conference Monday afternoon. "We gave them some rest. Six tough games, back-to-back prime-time games against ranked opponents. I told them we'd take care of them if we won, and they did a good job."
Unfortunately, though, it wasn't all good news for the Buckeyes over the open week. Meyer said that junior linebacker Curtis Grant, off to a good start as the team's middle linebacker through the first half of this season, lost his father – also named Curtis – on Oct. 8.
Meyer said that Grant is expected to play, though, against the Hawkeyes on Saturday.
"That was an issue we were dealing with over the weekend, and prayers are out to Curtis and his family. It's just a tough situation," Meyer said. "He'll play. We're behind him 100 percent, like any player."
That unfortunate news aside, the Buckeyes themselves appear to be on the right track for health. Starting quarterback Braxton Miller was decreed 100 percent by Meyer, while senior running back Jordan Hall – who missed the Northwestern game with a knee injury – will practice some this week and sophomore defensive tackle Tommy Schutt will return to the lineup after missing the first six weeks with a foot injury.
"He is a very welcomed back player," Meyer said of Schutt. "He might not have had the title of a starter but he was a starter for us. He has worked his tail off."
Meyer spent part of the open week watching football, as the Buckeyes enter the second half of the season ranked third in the coaches' poll, fourth in the AP rankings and needing to make up ground in the BCS standings – whose first release will come out Sunday – despite a 6-0 start.
However, Meyer came away with an appreciation of just how hard it is to win each week after watching one top-10 team in Stanford fall to Utah and another in Clemson play a close game vs. Boston College.
"This is the first chance I had to watch some football this weekend," he said. "We have to find a way to win this Saturday. It's not easy. We're 6-0 and doing the best we can to get first downs and stop people."
The head coach said he watched the four-overtime Michigan-Penn State game – even watching the end of the game on his iPad at his daughter's volleyball game – as well as the Clemson contest, a game that had big BCS implications given the fact the Buckeyes and Tigers are behind Alabama and Oregon in the national polls.
Meyer said he wasn't necessarily watching to rate how his team stacks up against those other foes – "I try not to, but the human element gets involved," he said – before discussing that very topic.
"I think we're right there," Meyer said. "I think we're a good team. I do. Some of these teams are real explosive teams. I watched Clemson really closely, and every once in a while you play football against a very well-prepared team and they take away some of that explosiveness. It happens. It's not necessarily what Clemson did wrong, it's what Boston College did right, and we run into the same things. That's something, if I had to grade us, we're not explosive from the first to the fourth quarter."
Of course, none of those comparisons will matter if the Buckeyes don't keep winning, but history seems to be on OSU's side this week heading into the matchup with Iowa. Meyer teams are 34-2 overall with more than a week to prepare for opponents (season openers, after open weeks and before bowl games), including mark of 22-1 at Florida and Ohio State.
For that success, Meyer pointed to longtime strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti as well as the assistant coaches he's had throughout his tenures.
"I've been very blessed to have very good assistant coaches," said Meyer, who said he tries to repeat previous successful ways to attack the open weeks. "I think we manage it well. I think that's where my strength coach is very involved."