Time Running Out For Buckeyes

It might not seem like it, but Ohio State's date with Texas in the Fiesta Bowl is right around the corner. In a week dubbed the most important part of the team's bowl preparation, find out how the Buckeyes -- and senior co-captain Malcolm Jenkins -- are approaching these last days heading into the season's final game.

Before Malcolm Jenkins knows it, he will be playing the last game of his Ohio State career.

The Buckeyes reconvened for team practice Dec. 11 once everyone had completed final exams, and work began with an eye on the team's Jan. 5 showdown with Texas in the Fiesta Bowl. But five days later at the team's local bowl media day, the senior co-captain could feel time quickly slipping past.

"You get the sense that the game is so far away that you have time to prepare but actually we've been practicing for a week now and we're going to be in Arizona in two weeks," he said. "It's not as far as it seems sometimes."

The Buckeyes will continue practicing until Dec. 23, when the players will all be sent home to enjoy five full days with their respective families. From there, OSU will fly west to Arizona on Dec. 29 to begin its bowl preparation out there.

But the time period from Dec. 15 until the 23rd will be of the utmost importance if the Buckeyes want to be successful against the Longhorns, Tressel said. This week of practice will be the biggest week of bowl preparation from a planning standpoint.

"This week is very important," OSU senior defensive tackle Nader Abdallah said. "The base of our preparation is this week."

The hope is that once OSU arrives in Arizona, the team's practices leading up to the game will be more for fine tuning than anything else.

"I would say probably a third of the time you're in fundamental work, maybe 45 percent of the time you're working on game plan, and then that 10 or 15 or whatever percent that's left, you're competing, because you want to keep that going," Tressel said of this week's practices. "You want to keep the competitive edge, whether it's with the young guys or the old guys, you want to compete."

Through it all, though, the game plan takes precedent this week. This is the time for the Buckeyes to learn how they plan to attack the Longhorns and how Texas will repay the favor.

That will require the Buckeyes keeping a sharp mind while also allowing themselves some needed relaxation time around the holidays. Each player is sent home with a packet of suggested workouts, but Tressel estimated that about 12 percent of his players follow through with the plan.

Senior linebacker Marcus Freeman disagreed with that assessment.

"I know each and every person on this team will be ready to play whether they get a workout in or not," he said. "I'm pretty sure we'll have more than 12 percent working out. I don't know if they'll do the suggested workout but they'll get some kind of workout in because we know how big of a game this is and we better be ready to play."

Freeman, too, stressed the importance of this week's worth of practice.

"We've said this is the most important week there is," he said. "When it's game week you have to be tuning up by then. Right now is when you have to make yourself a better football player and get better prepared for Texas."

Two years ago, the Buckeyes headed to a date with Florida in the national championship game as loose as possible. Later, they admitted they might not have been focused enough to be adequately prepared for what the Gators would bring to the table.

Last season, OSU approached its date with LSU in the title game as a business trip and might have been too uptight when the game got rolling.

This year, Jenkins said he is working to help his teammates realize the correct balance when they touch down in Arizona.

"You've got to realize the game is coming up soon and you've got to prepare as much as you can and take advantage of every opportunity that you have," he said. "I think that's something that we're definitely going to do this year, make sure everybody knows it's a business trip and that everybody is focused on the game at hand.

"It's not going to be a military camp, though. By all means enjoy yourselves, but keep things in perspective."

Doing so could go a long way toward how determining successful OSU can be against the Longhorns.


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