Oh, and the Buckeyes have a BCS bowl game to play in too.
There's been no shortage of stories in South Beach when it comes to No. 7 Ohio State, who will face 12th-ranked Clemson in Friday's Discover Orange Bowl. The plethora of distractions inside of the Buckeyes' camp, however, haven't seemed to have affected OSU head coach Urban Meyer, who is well aware of what will be on the line when his team faces the Tigers.
"We're 12-1. 12-2 is a lot different than 13-1," Meyer said. "Winning a BCS bowl game is very important."
The second-year OSU head coach admitted that Friday's battle on the shores of the Biscayne Bay could go a long way toward determining the national perception of the Buckeyes, who were on the cusp of playing for a national championship this season before being upended by Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game.
With a playoff format in place for the start of the 2014 season, Meyer knows that the fact of the matter remains that Ohio State's reputation is even more important that it once was moving forward, as games on the national stage could help shape what selection committee members think of the Buckeyes.
"Any time a member of your conference does well in a big game, I do think it's important because the truth is the upper level Big Ten teams are excellent football teams. The conference is getting better. Guys are working extremely hard to close the gap on the SEC. That's the one conference the last few years that has really dominated," Meyer said. "That's a topic of conversation quite often."
Including a flu bug that Meyer believes has run its course after affecting tight end Jeff Heuerman on Wednesday, the Buckeyes have dealt with a number of issues in the days leading up to their first BCS appearance since the 2010 season. Most notably, Ohio State will be without All-Big Ten defensive end Noah Spence on Friday, after Spence was suspended for three games by the Big Ten for an undisclosed violation of conference rules.
In Spence's absence, the Buckeyes will turn to sophomore Jamal Marcus, who has recorded two sacks this season and has received high praise from the OSU coaching staff for his recent preparation.
"Jamal Marcus is going to be a disruptive guy. He's one of the more talented guys on our team. I'm anxious to watch him play," Meyer said. "This is his kind of game. Very talented guy. We're anxious to see him go."
Spence won't be the only starter missing for the Buckeyes on the defensive side of the ball, as Meyer expects cornerback Bradley Roby to miss the Orange Bowl due to a bone bruise in his left knee. Having already announced his intentions to turn pro, Roby has apparently played in his last game at Ohio State, while many are wondering if Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller will be playing in his college finale on Friday.
Both Miller and Meyer have stayed mum on the topic, with the quarterback saying that he'll take no less than a week to make his choice and the head coach rhetorically asking, "Who knows what's going on?" in regards to Miller's upcoming decision. A head coaching veteran of 12 years, Meyer is no stranger when it comes to draft-related distractions, having seen several players leave early during his six-year stint at Florida.
"We can say that doesn't exist, but that's a flat lie," Meyer said. "But if I see it, if I hear it, I've done this long enough that I've had to have conversations with people. I haven't felt that on this group at all. I've had a couple conversations, many about, ‘Hey, we'll discuss this afterwards. Let's go win this game.' And I give credit to these players."
With Meyer revealing on Thursday that safety Christian Bryant's request for a medical redshirt was denied by the Big Ten, effectively ending his college career, the bad news seems to have come in bunches as of late for the Buckeyes. But even with all things considered, Meyer's biggest obstacle remains defeating a Clemson team that possesses the most potent passing attack that Ohio State will have seen all season.
Given the Buckeyes struggles late in the season on the defensive side of the ball, the Tigers appear on paper to be a matchup nightmare for OSU. But Meyer likes the way that his team has responded recently, after surrendering more than 1,000 combined passing yards in its three most recent game.
"Our pass defense has been a major issue at Ohio State, not near the standard we expect. Whenever that happens, you look at personnel. You look at scheme. That's both been evaluated," Meyer said. "This time of year, it's just go work as hard as you can, and so we have Tyvis Powell and Vonn Bell will be starting at positions they've never started before at. So that's personnel. We've made some adjustments to scheme. And then we do what we do, and that's go out and work as hard as you possibly can."
If the Buckeyes can do that, then their seemingly nightmarish week could prove to be much ado about nothing. That, of course, is easier said than done, but Meyer is clearly aware of what will be at stake inside of Sun Life Stadium on Friday.
"It's a chance to go compete. Whether it's checkers or ping pong, we're going to try to win the game. Our job every time we keep score is to win," Meyer said. "It's the mentality we try to create within our program. Whether it's the Orange Bowl, whether it's the eighth game of the season, we're trying to win a game."