"We didn't make it to the Sugar Bowl, but this may be the next best thing," Salley said. "We're playing against a team that pretty much dominated Oklahoma. We're going to work hard and go out there and play them. They have a great running back, a great quarterback and two good wide receivers."
Salley, a 6-3, 205-pound sophomore, came into his own this past season. He started 10 of the 12 games this year at free safety, ending up fourth on the team in tackles with 73. He is coming off a career-best 11 tackles in the loss at Michigan. He earned Hit of the Week honors four times for his big stops against Iowa, Penn State, Purdue and Michigan.
He went toe to toe with Michigan's Chris Perry in his last game and is busy preparing for a new challenge with K-State's Sproles, who needs just 52 yards to reach 2,000 for the season.
"I don't think he is like anybody we have played with his size and his quickness," Salley said. "I don't think we've played anyone like him. We just have to wrap him up."
Perhaps the best word to describe the 5-7, 170-pound Sproles is slippery. Opposing defenses struggled all season with getting him to the ground.
"He can bounce it out," Salley said. "Half the time you can't even see him. He just pops out of the crowd. He's so fast. We just have to contain him and work on our tackling and stay focused."
Switching gears, Salley was asked whether the season-long suspension to OSU tailback Maurice Clarett cast a pall on the season.
"We realized early on we weren't going to have him," Salley said. "We just kept working and we still got very close to reaching our goals. We didn't get it done in the end, but we still had a chance of getting it done without him. We did a great job of pushing that to the side and moving on."
Salley said the Buckeyes had no choice but to press on and do the best they could without Clarett.
"We knew what we had to do," Salley said. "He wasn't going to be here. Maybe people were going to keep bringing it up and talking about it and asking what might have been if he was here. But he wasn't going to be here. We couldn't worry about that. We kept working. We couldn't let that get us down. We just had to keep working and getting better."
Salley said he considers himself to be one of Clarett's friends on the team. He said he would welcome him back next season, no questions asked.
"It would be cool with me," he said. "We were cool on and off the field."