Mainly due to their 41-14 lop-sided loss to Florida in last season’s championship game, Ohio State received a ranking of 11 in the preseason rankings.
But with a 7-0 start to this season, the Buckeyes have once again found themselves on top of the college football rankings as they are now No. 1 in all polls.
Head Coach Jim Tressel said that he uses the loss to Florida as motivation to never take any team lightly, no matter how high you are ranked.
“Anytime you come up short in anything it helps you,” Tressel said. “We don’t start every team meeting with, ‘Now don’t forget!’ because you don’t have to. Now, if you thought there was ever a point in time where someone forgot, then it would be a good time to remind them.”
In his first season as quarterback for the Buckeyes, junior Todd Boeckman said that his success stems from learning from last year’s failure.
“We use that for a motivational factor,” Boeckman said. “We went out there through the winter and the spring and the summer and we used that to push ourselves because we don’t want to have that feeling again.”
After many top 10 teams have fallen early in the season in upsets, Ohio State slowly crept up to claim the No. 1 spot.
The last time they were ranked so high was before last January’s championship game.
Having learned from an upset of their own last season, the Buckeye’s say they have learned to take nothing for granted.
“Oh, definitely. Just watching college football and how it has been these last couple of weeks, you never know what to expect,” Boeckman said. “Teams are going to give everybody their best shot. Every team that was ranked in the preseason top 10 has at least one loss. There are so many good teams out here now.”
And although he has taken notice of their high ranking, Tressel said that he doesn’t like to think about it too much at this point.
“I don’t know if there’s any euphoria; I hope not,” Tressel said. “The only euphoria about being No. 1 is if you’re that in the middle of January.”
Back in the polls
After a shocking 0-2 start to the season which knocked them out of the rankings, Michigan has since rolled off five straight wins and finds itself back in the Top 25.
The Wolverine’s latest victory was the 48-21 stomping of then No. 23 Purdue.
The bigger story of the game, however, might have been the injury of Michigan’s star running back Mike Hart, who did not appear in the second half.
Some of Hart’s teammates were quoted this week in saying that there was no doubt he was going to play this week, but head coach Lloyd Carr did not seem so sure.
Carr said that Hart’s work ethic would help his speedy recovery, but that he wouldn’t know until later in the week if he would be ready to play.
The No. 24 Wolverines face another tough opponent this week in Illinois, who also boasts a record of 5-2.
The only Big Ten teams currently ranked in the top 25 are Michigan and Ohio State, both of whom are unbeaten in the conference.
One win away
There are currently seven teams in the Big Ten who are one win away from Bowl eligibility.
While Ohio State has already secured a postseason bowl berth with seven wins, there are seven teams in the conference that claim a 5-2 record.
Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Purdue, and Wisconsin are all just one victory away.
Northwestern, who has a mark of 4-3, needs just two more wins to get a bowl berth.
Players of the week
The co-offensive players of the week for the Big Ten are Michigan State’s Javon Ringer and Northwestern’s C.J. Bacher.
Ringer, a junior running back, exploded for a career high 203 rushing yards on 29 attempts on Saturday to lead Michigan State over Indiana. Ringer also pounded in two touchdowns.
Bacher, a junior quarterback, followed up his record setting performance last week by completing 41 of 58 passes for 470 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Wildcats over Minnesota in double overtime. This is the second straight weekly award for Bacher.
On defense, senior linebacker Mike Humpal of Iowa secured the award by racking up a career-best 18 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss. Humpal also gained a sack, and recovered a fumble in Iowa’s 10-6 win over Illinois.
The special teams award of the week went out to Brian Hartline of Ohio State. The sophomore kick returner shattered a 57-year old Buckeyes record by returning a punt 90 yards for a touchdown Saturday.