Top-Ranked Buckeyes Keep Their Perspective

Following their win over No. 2 Texas on Saturday, members of top-ranked Ohio State maintained they plan to focus only on their weekly challenges and not on dreams of a championship season. With 10 weeks remaining in the regular season, they say that is the prudent thing to do. We share their comments as well as observations on OSU's 10 remaining opponents. Click here for more.

After a resounding 24-7 win at No. 2-ranked Texas, it would be easy for the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes to start making plans for the Bowl Championship Series national title game, set for Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz.

But OSU coach Jim Tressel said the Week 2 win over the defending national champion Longhorns – as impressive and as dominant as it was – is just another building block for his team.

"This is a big next step," Tressel said. "We said last week (after the win over Northern Illinois) we made a small step and we had to take a bigger one this week. I think we took a bigger one. But the reality of football is each step gets a little bit tougher.

"We talked a little bit after the game, ‘Now, you've go out here and get a little bit better.' "

The win at Texas made Ohio State the solid pick as the nation's No. 1 team. In the Associated Press media poll, the Buckeyes went from 39 first-place to 56 out of a possible 65 voters. In the USA Today coaches poll (which is part of the BCS formula used to select the two teams for the title game), OSU went from 41 first-place votes last week to 59 of a possible 63.

Tressel was asked if the Buckeyes (2-0) could stake a claim as national title contenders.

"We're not laying claim to anything other than we're 2-0 and the fact we have a chance to line up in the ‘Shoe next week," the coach said.

Sure enough, Ohio State returns home Saturday to host Cincinnati (1-1) before opening Big Ten play at home against Penn State (1-1) on Sept. 23.

With 10 games remaining, the Buckeyes' spirits are high. But they understand their lofty perch can be a precarious one.

"The way college football kind of works it's crazy," said wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, who notched career highs in receptions (eight) and yards (142) against Texas. "Every week, you have a new opponent coming and trying to beat you. In no way are we going to rest on this and be totally satisfied with this – no matter how sweet it was and it was sweet.

"At the same time, we have to understand that we have 10 games left in the season. That is a long way off."

Another of OSU's heroes in the win at Texas was sophomore middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, who tallied 13 tackles, two fumbles forced and an interception. He said winning a high profile game like the Texas game – college football's first regular season one versus two game in nearly 10 years – can only help the Buckeyes.

"It's impossible to put that to the side," Laurinaitis said. "It's on ABC. It was on national TV. Every day you flipped on SportsCenter, somebody was saying something about the game. You'd see an ad here and there. It was the national spotlight, but our preparation can't change from one week to the next.

"You never really know until the season plays itself out. We have 10 more games to focus on each week and any one of those teams could come up and bite you. That was proved with the way some teams across the board in college football were upset."

Laurinaitis is one of nine new starters on defense. He said this victory shows that youth does not necessarily have to hold a team back.

"We knew we have a tremendous offense and a young defense," he said. "To hold Texas to seven points, that is a great accomplishment. We have to keep going and keep striving and look forward to next week.

"I think we learned that we have a lot of talent. We can use our confidence with that talent and know we can play with the best in the business."

Cornerback Malcolm Jenkins struggled at times against Texas' Limas Sweed. But as the game wore on, Jenkins and the Buckeyes started winning more and more individual battles – enough that they were able to put the Longhorns away.

"Anybody who had any questions about our defense, they were answered tonight," Jenkins said. "I think we got better from last week and we just want to improve. It's a big confidence booster to beat a team like this. As long as we keep getting better week after week, we should be OK."

Senior safety Brandon Mitchell followed up a strong opening game against Northern Illinois with a nine-tackle effort against Texas. As a fifth year player, Mitchell knew this Texas game was more than just an ordinary nonconference road game.

"It definitely had a different feel," he said. "You come out on the sideline and see Emmitt Smith and LeBron James and all those guys, it makes it seem like a bowl game. The way our fans showed up and gave us support, it was really great. As a team, we were focused. We knew everything that was going to be going on around the game."

But Mitchell thinks the upcoming game with Cincinnati is also a special one.

"This next game is for the seniors," he said. "We're playing against Coach (Mark) Dantonio, who recruited a lot of us. Even some of the younger guys, he recruited them. For us to be able to show how we've grown since he left … we just want to take them one game at a time."

The phrase "one game at a time" (or variations thereof) was heard a number of times following Saturday's landmark win. Here were more cases:

* From tailback Antonio Pittman, whose 2-yard touchdown run with 6:31 left put the game away -- "We have to come out and prove ourselves every weekend. We have Cincinnati this week and we need to just take them one at a time and try to make our destination."

* From linebacker Marcus Freeman, who had three tackles and a pass breakup in the win -- "We feel as if we are the best team in the country. We have to use this as a springboard to the rest of our season. We think this will help us toward our goal. Each week, we know each team will bring their best against us."

* From wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., who had a touchdown among his five catches -- "It's not about the championship. It's about taking it one game at a time. It's only the second week. We have to play Cincinnati now. Cincinnati will come in and play hard. We just have to keep it moving."

* And from A.J. Trapasso, who averaged 50.8 yards on six punts -- "This is another step toward the national championship. We take them one week at a time. This was all we were thinking about for an entire week and Cincinnati is the only thing we'll think about this week."

The Road Ahead

It is still a long way until Dec. 3, when the nation's top two teams in the BCS standings will be decided for the Jan. 8 national title game in Glendale, Ariz.

Here is a look at OSU's remaining 10 games with thoughts on each after two weeks of the season:

* Sept. 16, Cincinnati (1-1), noon (ESPN-Plus regional syndication) -- The Bearcats come in off a 33-15 loss at home to Pittsburgh. UC has a veteran team and you know Tressel will share with his team how scary the 23-19 win down in Cincinnati in 2002 really was.

* Sept. 23, Penn State (1-1), 3:30 p.m. (ABC) -- The Nittany Lions were exposed to an extent in their 41-17 loss at Notre Dame. PSU's defense could not stop the Brady Quinn offense and the Lions, with first-year starter Anthony Morelli, didn't get anything going offensively until after they trailed 41-3. OSU also has the memory of last year's 17-10 loss at PSU and the Lions are 0-for-6 in Big Ten games in Ohio Stadium.

* Sept. 30, at Iowa (2-0), 8 p.m. (ABC or ESPN) -- The Hawkeyes played Syracuse without QB Drew Tate and needed two overtimes to finally dispose of the sadsack Orangemen. Tate should be back by this game and this rare night game in Kinnick Stadium could prove a tough test for OSU.

* Oct. 7, Bowling Green (1-1), time, TV TBA (likely noon on ESPN-Plus) -- BG dropped its opener to Wisconsin 35-14, then needed overtime to get past Buffalo 48-40. OSU has not lost a game to a current MAC school since the late-1800s.

* Oct. 14, at Michigan State (2-0), time, TV TBA (likely 3:30 p.m. on ABC) -- MSU struggled against Idaho and then blasted Eastern Michigan 52-20. The next two games – at Pitt and home with Notre Dame – will help decide what direction MSU's season may take. Drew Stanton's presence gives the Spartans a chance to win every game on the schedule, including this one.

* Oct. 21, Indiana (2-0), time, TV TBA (likely noon on ESPN or ESPN2) -- The Hoosiers nipped Ball State 24-23 in Muncie this past Saturday. OSU has not lost a game to Indiana since the late-1800s. (OK, it only seems like it's been that long.)

* Oct. 28, Minnesota (1-1), 3:30 p.m. (ABC, ESPN or ESPN2) -- The Gophers got a rude awakening with a 42-17 loss at Cal this past Saturday.

* Nov. 4, at Illinois (1-1), time, TV TBA (likely noon on ESPN or ESPN2) -- The Illini got just as rude an awakening with a 33-0 loss at Rutgers this past Saturday.

* Nov. 11, at Northwestern (1-1), time, TV TBA (likely noon on ESPN, with a slight chance of 3:30 p.m. on ABC) -- The Wildcats also got a rude awakening with a 34-17 home loss to Division I-AA New Hampshire.

* Nov. 18, Michigan (2-0), 3:30 p.m. (ABC) -- Late afternoon-going into-night game could be perfect setting for OSU to punch (another) ticket to the desert. But The Game is always a season unto itself and the Wolverines have shown they have the offensive play makers and defense to contend again this year. Game this weekend at Notre Dame will tell quite a bit about UM's fortunes this year.

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