Cody Cousino / Multimedia editor
The Ohio State football team’s season has been flawed perfection – and coach Urban Meyer and the rest of the nation have taken notice.
After defeating Illinois, 52-22, Saturday, the Buckeyes sit at 10-0 heading into the bye week, and No. 5 in the Associated Press‘ top 25 poll.
Out of the six undefeated teams in college football, the Buckeyes are only ranked ahead of Louisville, which plays in the traditionally-weak Big East conference. Georgia, which has an 8-1 record, is tied with OSU for the No. 5 ranking.
The Buckeyes are battling the stigma that their undefeated record is less significant because of the perceived weakness in the Big Ten conference and a couple of close calls against opponents with poor records.
“There’s such a lack of respect for the Big Ten as a whole,” said Doug Lesmerises, a voter in the AP poll and an OSU beat reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “You go through Ohio State’s schedule and it just hurts them when you start comparing them to other teams.”
Before this season, the Buckeyes have been 10-0 three times since 2002, and in each season were in better position in the polls. In 2007 and 2006, the 10-0 Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 and in 2002 OSU was ranked No. 3 after 10 games.
Even if the Buckeyes did not have a postseason ban after the 2012 season, they would likely need to count on multiple teams losing to get to the national championship.
The players, though, think the team’s record speaks for itself.
“We don’t think anybody in the country can stop us if we play our game,” said junior receiver Corey Brown. “They don’t even talk about us right now. They’re talking about the Oregons and Alabamas right now, but we’re just going to keep doing our job, keep playing.”
Individual voters for the most recent edition of the AP poll ranked OSU as high as No. 4 and as low as No. 11, and the Buckeyes average ranking was just more than six. Lesmerises ranked OSU No. 6 in his poll behind Alabama, Kansas State, Oregon, Notre Dame and Georgia. Besides the weakness of the Big Ten, Lesmerises said OSU’s weak non-conference schedule and “miracle” win against 3-6 Purdue are what’s holding the Buckeyes back in the poll.
“Sometimes one win can go a long way,” he said. “If you have one legitimizing win, it brings up your whole resume and they just don’t have it. The Nebraska win is good, but how good is Nebraska? I don’t know.”
Meyer, who coached Utah to an undefeated season in 2004 and directed Florida to two national championships, acknowledged OSU has its flaws.
“I’ve been fortunate to have a couple of top-five teams,” Meyer said, “and this probably has more holes than those other ones.”
Some suggest those flaws don’t give OSU the feel of a typical undefeated team this far into the season.
The Buckeyes have won by an average of 16 points per contest. Comparatively, Alabama and Oregon – the AP poll’s top two teams in the country – have won by an average of 29.3 points and 31.4 points per game, respectively.
OSU has also only played one team – Nebraska – that’s currently ranked.
Brown said the Buckeyes aren’t the same team they were in the beginning of the year, though.
“We definitely didn’t play close to good games at the beginning of the year. It took a few games for us to actually sit down and watching film of us,” he said. “When we did that, everybody just came in together and like coach Meyer said, we got all in.”
Redshirt senior cornerback Travis Howard agreed.
“We’re definitely progressing,” he said.
With NCAA sactions banning OSU from going to a bowl game, some – including redshirt sophomore Bradley Roby – have pointed to the AP No. 1 ranking at the end of the year as the ultimate prize.
But even with an undefeated season, that might not be possible.
“I really do feel like there’s only so far (OSU) can go and a good one-loss SEC team, a good one-loss PAC-12 team, a Big-12 team in that situation very well could stay ahead of them just because of who Ohio State’s going to play and they’re not going to have that conference title game at the end of the year to give them a boost,” Lesmerises said.
Brown, though, isn’t counting his team out just yet.
“At the end of the year, when we’re undefeated,” Brown said, “we’re going to see who they’re talking about.”