Buckeyes Drew Inspiration from Big Ten Wins

Victories by Wisconsin and Michigan State prior to OSU's date with Alabama did not go unnoticed as the Buckeyes went through their final preparations for the Sugar Bowl.

Prior to the Sugar Bowl, few if any Ohio State football players were interested in hearing questions about the perceived difference between their conference and the one their opponent plays in.

In the Sugar Bowl, the Buckeyes did as much as they could to make sure they won't be asked such questions again anytime soon.

And they also shared after the game they drew confidence and inspiration from some of their Big Ten brethren prior to taking the field against No. 1 Alabama.

"There's a perception out here," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said after his team beat Alabama 42-35 to earn a spot in the first College Football Playoff Championship Game. "I'll tell you when I think the tide turned a little bit when Wisconsin beat Auburn. Everybody on our team knew that. I made sure they knew that. When Michigan State came back and beat an excellent Baylor team. And maybe the Big Ten's not that bad. Maybe the Big Ten is pretty damned good.  And it's certainly getting better."

Those games to which Meyer referred to came earlier Jan. 1 before the Buckeyes and the Crimson Tide kicked off. Wisconsin rallied to beat Auburn 34-31 in overtime in the Outback Bowl shortly before the Spartans finished off an epic comeback to take a 42-41 victory over Baylor in the Cotton Bowl.

In felling a highly ranked team and another that formerly was this season in the span of an hour or so, the Spartans and Badgers gave fans and pundits alike across the country reason to think perhaps their perceptions about the Big Ten this season were off the mark. Count the Buckeyes among those groups as well.

"Because the mind is a fragile thing," Meyer explained. "You know, all of a sudden you get down against a team like that, that's No. 1 in recruiting every year for the past six, seven years, our guys know that. You see them on film a great team, but we're pretty good, too." 

But Ohio State's two most impressive performances of the season came against Michigan State and Wisconsin, and that gave them reason to believe they can play with anyone -- especially when those teams showed the rest of college football they can do the same.

"We had a reflection moment with our team and a speaker the day before the game, and he talked about how strong belief can increase your level of play," Meyer said. "Bad belief or poor belief can also lower your level of play. So there's no doubt that when we saw Wisconsin beat Auburn, that was a major, major moment for us getting ready for this game."

Wide receiver Evan Spencer pointed out before the game Ohio State recruits from all over the country, including getting its share of players from the South, so the whole narrative about the Buckeyes being cut of a different cloth than SEC teams has lost some steam if it ever was based in much truth.

"We've got some really great teams this year and we're a really strong conference," he said of the Big Ten after the first day of 2015 had bled into the second. "Once we got the chance to go up against other strong conferences we knew that as other teams in the Big Ten that we were going to succeed. Michigan State got it done earlier today, Wisconsin got it done and so did we. It just shows the talent and the drive to win that we have in the Big Ten and the competition, really."

Meanwhile, Tyvis Powell went a step farther. The sophomore safety from Bedford, Ohio, admitted knocking off the team that has dominated college football like no other over the past few years was not just another win.

"For us to come out and get this win against The Greatest Team In The World, I would say that the Big Ten would get some type of recognition," he said. "We would have to. Why wouldn't we?"

Follow on Twitter @marcushartman

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