Ohio State returns to Big Ten finale vs. Badgers
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Ohio State coach Urban Meyer showed smooth timing as he went down the list of accomplishments by his senior class.
He mentioned that they helped set a school record with 24 consecutive wins, that they've won 35 of their last 38 games, that they've captured three Big Ten division titles and that they haven't lost a conference game the last three regular seasons.
Then, without skipping a beat, he added, ''One thing you'll notice I did not mention in there was a championship.''
After going 6-7 as freshmen, and then missing out on the league title game due to NCAA probation, they were beaten by Michigan State 34-24 in last year's Big Ten championship game.
Now the Buckeyes (11-1, 8-0 Big Ten, No. 5 CFP) get a second chance at winning one when they take on No. 11 Wisconsin (10-2, 7-1, No. 13 CFP) on Saturday night in Indianapolis.
Like having a resume with a gigantic hole in the middle, the Buckeyes know that all of their accomplishments don't mean much without this one prize.
''A lot of of guys in our class are like, `We haven't won anything since we've been here,''' senior cornerback Doran Grant said. ''We've won a couple Eastern Division championships, but we haven't won a Big Ten title or anything bigger than that. That's our main goal.''
Two weeks ago Meyer said returning to Indianapolis was his team's primary goal coming into the season.
''That was everything,'' he said. ''Everything we did was to get another shot at the Big Ten championship. Everything, and that's at the doorstep.''
Wisconsin stands in the way. And the Badgers are almost the anti-Buckeyes when it comes to Big Ten titles.
They've played in the championship three of its four years and are chasing their fourth Big Ten crown in five seasons after winning three in a row, 2010-12.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes - despite being national contenders the past three years - can't even claim one ring.
Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Bennett and some of his other senior classmates have talked with their younger teammates about how rare these opportunities come along - and how you have to make the best of them when they do arrive.
''Nobody here has ever won a Big Ten championship or anything like that,'' Bennett said. ''So it would be very important as the leaders to rally a lot of these young players that have been contributing and then all the older players can come out on the top with a Big Ten championship. And maybe more.''
The Buckeyes would also miss out on a shot at the playoffs if they lose to the Badgers.
They've steadily climbed in the CFP rankings. But now that they're so close to contending for one of those four precious berths, they're coming off a win over rival Michigan in which they lost star quarterback J.T. Barrett to a broken ankle.
Jeff Long, chairman of the committee which decides the playoff teams, said his group will judge the Buckeyes' performance without Barrett and with Cardale Jones as his replacement to see if Ohio State is worthy of a playoff spot.
A lot is clearly riding on this one game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
''That's how you want to go out,'' tight end Jeff Heuerman said. ''You want to go out being a Big Ten champion.''
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