Ohio State’s bye week came somewhat early this season, but almost at the right time. The Buckeyes just wrapped up nonconference play and are now looking ahead to their conference slate.
The open week serves as a divider between the two portions of their schedule. OSU kicks off its conference play at home against Rutgers on Oct. 1. With non-league games now in the rear-view mirror, OSU can shift its focus to winning the Big Ten crown.
“The intensity cranks up a little bit knowing that it’s conference play,” quarterback J.T. Barrett said after practice Wednesday. “We want to make sure we’re nine units strong and then we compete for that Big Ten championship at the end of November.”
The Buckeyes' game against the Scarlet Knights has a different layer to it this year. Former OSU co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash is now the man in charge in Piscataway, N.J. After a season-opening loss at Washington, Ash’s team has won two straight and will look to improve to 3-1 when it hosts Iowa on Sept. 24. Barrett respects Ash and knows to not take his squad lightly.
“Chris Ash is a great coach,” Barrett said. ”He’s going to get those guys fired up to play us. Him knowing us, we also know him too.”
Junior offensive lineman Jamarco Jones stressed the importance of using this week to prepare for league play.
“This is a really big week for us,” Jones said Sept. 21. “We have a little bye week after the first couple of games so now we can get ready for the Big Ten. This is what it’s all about, Big Ten football.
“You’ve got to have the run game. You have to be ready for all types of conditions. Our schedule’s got some big away games so we have to prepare like we did the first part of the season and keep improving.”
A couple of those road games are at No. 11 Wisconsin Oct. 15 and at Penn State the following week. Following the Rutgers contest, the Buckeyes stay in Columbus to take on Indiana Oct. 8. The season concludes with three of their last four games are home against No. 20 Nebraska, at No. 8 Michigan State and home against No. 4 Michigan for the season finale.
Being a third-year player, Jones understands the team must keep its edge during the off week to continue the momentum gained from the first three games.
“We’ve got the momentum going after the first couple of games and we can’t lose that momentum,” Jones said. “You have to make sure you stay focused. A lot of the older guys have to push the younger guys. We have to stay focused as well. We don’t have a game this week but we still have to have that focus.”
With the team not having a game this weekend, Barrett plans to relax and watch other college football teams in action.
“Just watching ball, not doing anything crazy,” Barrett said of his weekend agenda. “I like watching good football. College football has such a great passion and environment and atmosphere of the game. I enjoy watching it.”