November 5, 2012

Buckeyes talk top five ranking

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It was less than two years ago that a cash-for-memorabilia scandal broke that shook the core of Ohio State football and cost it a Hall of Fame-caliber head coach. It was just 10 months ago that the Buckeyes were suffering their seventh loss of the 2011 season, capping off their first losing campaign since 1988.

But despite all of the trials and tribulations that the OSU program has been through in the past 23 months, the Buckeyes find themselves as a top five nationally-ranked team.

After its 52-22 win over Illinois on Saturday, Ohio State continued its season-long climb up The Associated Press Top 25 poll, one which started when the Buckeyes entered the new college football year ranked as the No. 18 team in the country. There have been a few setbacks along the way, such as when OSU dropped from No. 12 to No. 16 after its close call with California, but remaining one of college football's six unbeaten teams through the first 10 weeks of the season made it tough for pollsters to keep the 10-0 Buckeyes out of The AP's No. 5 spot, one which they share with 8-1 Georgia.

Given the 6-7 record that the Buckeyes endured just a season ago, the significance of Ohio State's latest ranking isn't lost on its players, who have hardly taken any of their past 10 victories for granted.

"Obviously last year wasn't the year we wanted to have," OSU wide receiver Corey Brown said. "Our record is just credit to what we did in the offseason. All that hard work is now paying off."

Defensive end John Simon shared Brown's enthusiasm regarding the Buckeyes' top five ranking, but asserted that he and his teammates aren't looking past their next opponent.

"It was a long journey for us and it's still going to be a long journey," the senior captain said. "We're just focused week-by-week. We've had tough opponents every week. Tough, tough players to go up against. Our focus right now is every Saturday."

Having coached a combined four teams at Utah and Florida that finished the season ranked inside of The AP's first five, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer knows a thing or two about what a top team looks like. And while the first-year Buckeyes coach agreed that his team deserves its current spot, he admitted that it's taken more work than it's taken with some of his previous teams to get him there.

"I've been fortunate to have a couple of top five teams. And this probably has more holes than those other ones," Meyer said. "If you asked me in the spring I would have said, no, I don't think we are. But then I don't think about those kind of things."

The Buckeyes have been able to cover some of those holes, thanks in part to the stellar play of Heisman hopeful quarterback Braxton Miller and a defense that has steadily improved throughout the season. And despite facing a postseason ban that has kept Ohio State out of both the Coaches Poll and BCS rankings, the Buckeyes will now enter their bye week with a realistic shot at going 12-0, with dates with Wisconsin and Michigan being the only games that remain on their schedule.

"Going into this season we wanted to do everything possible to have the best season we could have," OSU linebacker Ryan Shazier said. "Being a top five team is exactly where we want to be to try to finish at No. 1."


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