With the No. 5 Buckeyes preparing to head across the country to take on the No. 1 USC Trojans in Saturday night's game of the week (8 p.m., ABC), Tressel was in a meeting talking with quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels. For just a few brief seconds, the two coaches allowed themselves to appreciate what this week might mean for the program.
"We looked at one another and we said, ‘What a tremendous opportunity for our football team to have a chance to play in a game that has this type of notice, this type of challenge. What a thrill,' " Tressel said. "Then we took about two seconds to soak that in and then went back to work."
Following OSU's 26-14 victory against Ohio University on Saturday, it is evident that there is plenty of work to be done. The Buckeyes have had time to break down film from a performance junior wide receiver Brian Hartline termed "pathetic" in the postgame interview session, and they know they must improve their performance in nearly every category in order to be successful against the Trojans.
Discussing the team's offensive struggles, Tressel said the offensive line had two players grade out with winning performances in seniors Alex Boone and Steve Rehring. The team's wideouts were not as sharp or crisp as they needed to be, Tressel said, and the quarterback was not as patient.
"Protection was not the issue," Tressel said.
But one category in which they might be able to make a significant amount of progress is the running game. After missing the OU game, junior tailback Chris "Beanie" Wells appears healthy enough to tote the ball against the Trojans.
During Monday's practice, Wells worked out on the sidelines, Tressel said. On Wednesday, the plan is to put him fully into the fray and see how his injured right foot holds up to the pounding.
"I thought Beanie ran well yesterday," Tressel said. "In fact, he ran better than I thought he might. I think the big thing will be Tuesday and Wednesday work and will that create soreness. I have a lot of confidence in our doctors and trainers and strength guys."
The plan for Tuesday's practice is to have Wells do what Tressel termed "football things" without having people around him. Depending on how he responds to those drills, Wells will then take part in full-contact drills.
The question now is whether or not Wells will be as effective as he was prior to suffering the injury against Youngstown State in the first game of the season.
"That I don't know," Tressel said. "I'd like to think that. He said to Coach Bollman and I on Monday, ‘I'm ready to carry the ball 45 times on Saturday.' He's not going to carry it 45 times if he's not effective.
One of his replacements, redshirt freshman Dan Herron, earned the team's offensive player of the week award for his 12-carry, 50-yard performance that also resulted in a touchdown.
The Buckeyes also will see linebacker Brian Rolle and defensive tackle Todd Denlinger back and available for action. Rolle missed the OU game with a concussion and Denlinger suffered a lower leg injury during the contest.
The Buckeyes will also get a boost in the secondary as senior safety Jamario O'Neal and junior cornerback Donald Washington return to action after sitting out the first two games of the season due to suspension. Tressel declined to elaborate on how they will be utilized, instead telling reporters to "tune in."
After seeing limited action against the Bobcats, freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor will figure into the game plan this week.
"I think we do (plan to get him in) because I think he brings a lot to the table," Tressel said of Pryor. "He's proven with his knowledge of what we're doing … he's going to have opportunities."
The importance of the game has not been lost on the Buckeyes. As part of his weekly press luncheon, Tressel typically spends the first few minutes talking about his team's own performances from the previous week.
This week, he spoke at length about each aspect of the USC roster for a solid six minutes before opening the floor to questions.
"You can feel the tension level raise a little bit over at our facility this week," said Tressel, who said he has never been to the Los Angeles Coliseum.