Fresh off a 12-0 season with a handful of players preparing to tour the national awards circuit, Ohio State was preparing for a national championship game with an as-yet-unknown foe. But even as the Buckeyes learned they would be playing Florida and started practicing for the big game, something was lacking.
"We were kind of lollygagging around here," Cordle said. "I think we felt it a little bit. The coaches knew we weren't practicing hard. I don't know what it was. The team just wasn't focused."
The sentiment picked up when the team made it to Arizona, and it certainly showed in the form of OSU's 41-14 loss to Florida in the title game.
In all, the workouts leading up to the game were just one part of a drawn-out bowl preparation season that saw the Buckeyes arrive in Arizona as early as possible. While there, they switched hotels once and spent time enjoying themselves in the desert.
Things will be different this time around, it appears, regardless of what bowl in which the Buckeyes will find themselves playing. OSU will be spending the least amount of time on site at whichever bowl game it finds itself in. As for maintaining concentration, junior linebacker James Laurinaitis pointed to the team's first road game of the season as reason to believe there will be no problems remaining focused this time around.
When the Buckeyes headed west to take on Washington in week three, they left one day early to get better acclimated to the time change and the area. It was there that Laurinaitis said he felt things were different – in an encouraging way.
"I was kind of concerned," he said. "A lot of guys were walking around the city, seeing around Seattle, but as the trip went on we kind of calmed down. We were looking around the city but we were focused. We had a certain focus about us.
"It's alright to have fun when you're on a bowl trip, but you have to maintain that focus and reason why you're there. We didn't do that last year."
Last season, the Buckeyes were off for more than two weeks following their regular-season finale against Michigan before returning to campus for full-scale workouts near the end of finals week. Not so this season, as things got kicked off the Monday after Thanksgiving when the Buckeyes went through a full-body lifting session.
Although it lasted a little more than an hour, junior linebacker Marcus Freeman said it was one of the most physically demanding lifts of the entire season. It appears there is plenty more where that came from.
"I talked to the strength coaches (Monday) and they said they had a talk with the position coaches and Coach Tress and the one thing they've been emphasizing is making sure that we start early and work hard," Freeman said. "We're going to do a lot of hard work in these next two or three weeks and make sure we're ready to go."
Tuesday, the team had a conditioning session scheduled for 3 p.m. followed by film watching. Wednesday will be another lifting day, followed by a conditioning day and then two days of practice.
The final day of practice will coincide with the day the team's next opponent will be finally decided. The Buckeyes will be watching both the West Virginia-Pittsburgh and Oklahoma-Missouri games, hoping for either a Pitt or OU victory. Should WVU or Missouri be defeated, OSU will likely find itself reprising its role in the national title game.
Sophomore wide receiver Brian Hartline said the Missouri game will be screened at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on two projection screens so the players can hang out and root for the upset.
"We're going to have the option," Hartline said. "We were talking about it in our meeting rooms. I'm pretty sure I'll be here. We're going to have both projectors going, so that should be a great time."
But regardless of which team they play where and in what bowl game, this year's focus is much more on making sure the Buckeyes make sure they do all they can to prevent another letdown like the one they suffered on the biggest stage of the season one year ago.
"You could come up with a million excuses for why we got beat, but we just flat out got beat," Freeman said. "Maybe we didn't lift hard enough, maybe we didn't run hard enough, maybe it was the hotels. But we can't change that. There's no excuses. We have to go out this year and show a better showing."