We started Big Ten play last weekend and we traveled to Northwestern and were unsuccessful. Northwestern did an excellent job doing the things you need to do to win the game. We have an opportunity, though, to come back home and play against Wisconsin, which is an extraordinary team, 5-0, and got things going on all cylinders. I think our guys are anxious to go out and play a lot better than we did this past weekend."
I'm interested in looking at the Big Ten overall, right now there are only two runners averaging better than 100 yards and that's the lowest number in at least five years? Do you see a trend with regard to running in the Big Ten or with regard to the caliber of backs the league has or emphasis on more passing or anything along that line that might kind of explain why that could be?
"I think the Big Ten is a good defensive conference. It is tough running the football. Things kind of trickle down from the NFL and it is very, very difficult to run the football there and people do a lot of studying together and so forth and big, strong defensive lineman. I think as you mentioned people are doing a good job of throwing the football and dispersing the ball to receives and sometimes, some of the throws we make are like run plays, designed to be that type of thing. I think if you add all of those things together it is not surprising that we only have a couple 100-yard rushers."
Do you think when you go out on the recruiting trail that there are as many good running backs?
"I think there are. I think with the way that football has been brought to the homes of all these young kids. They see so much football, they get to watch it every day and their coaching staffs in high schools do a great job of studying. There's videos now and there's a lot better teaching instruments maybe than we had in the past. So I think you are finding still plenty of good running backs, plenty of good receivers, maybe more receivers now that the high schools are throwing the football a little bit more than they were. I think you are finding better and better football players at all positions."
It seems like Wisconsin has played against you guys very well over the last ten years and probably better than a lot of people. Are there certain teams that just kind of match up better and is there any reason why Wisconsin seems to play better than maybe some other teams do against you?
"I think Barry's [Alvarez] done a great job. He's done a great job of building a program. He knows exactly what he wants from his team. As for the matchup against us I don't know, I hear what you're saying, and there are teams that coincidentally sometimes are good matches for one another or aren't good matches but Wisconsin, I think, they've played five teams and they've been the right match for all five of them. They have an extraordinary team this year."
Jim, in watching film what have noticed from Wisconsin's defense that doesn't seem to allow any points hardly at all?
"The thing that they do so well is they are in great concert with one another. The front and the linebackers, their secondary, they do a great job of getting extra people around the ball when you'd like to run it. They do an excellent job of rushing the passer. Their front four are veterans. They remind me a lot of the front four that we had a year ago. They have so much experience and they haven't seen a run that they haven't stopped before, they haven't seen a pass section that they haven't been able to get after a little bit. And they've got the cornerback back there Jimmy Leonhard, the safety, that kind of keeps all things under control. They just play with great confidence, great knowledge and great experience."
How concerned are you at this point with your inability to establish the run and are people overreacting or is it a legitimate problem that needs to be corrected?
"I think it's a legitimate problem. I don't use that word that often. It is something we certainly need to get better at. We would like to be a balanced team just like nearly anyone you talk to would like to be a balanced team if you are going to have a chance to be a real, real good football team. And in order to do that I think you need to run the football well. I think it has an impact on your passing game when you don't run it as well. There is no question. We need to get better running the football. It is something that I promise you we work on every day."
The flip side of that: you've been so good at stopping the run and winning that physical battle on the ground. That's kind of what you built your team around. How important is that to your style to win that battle on the ground?
"That's real important. I think if you look at all the good defenses in our league over the years. You know, the good Michigan defenses, the good Purdue defenses, the good Wisconsin defenses and Penn State and on and on and on you'll find that they could stop the run and kind of made teams play left-handed and knowing they were going to throw and all of a sudden you can get pressure on the passer, which is the key to stopping the pass game. So, that's very important for us is to be able to stop the run and not allow someone to be balanced against us. Just like our goal is to be balanced against our opposing defenses, we cannot allow people to be balanced. We need them to be somewhat one-dimensional."
Much more emphasis this year on the polls in the BCS rankings. Do you think that's the way to go?
"I'm sure that there is no perfect way to do things. We have really a simple approach to the BCS and that's ‘you need to win all your games' and then if you deserve to have a chance to be the best team you will. Once we have that understanding hopefully back in April or August we put that aside and say, ‘OK, let's work on this game and then this game and then this game. We happen to be 3-1. I haven't heard anyone talking about BCS and quite honestly I didn't hear anybody talking about it when we were 3-0. I hope that we are talking about what are we going to do against Wisconsin and whether the emphasis is on the polls or whether it is on those computer things and all that stuff. I guess that's out of our hands and we don't worry about which it is. We need to worry about winning games."
Big Ten teleconference: Jim Tressel
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