Nobody asked Christian Bryant for input on the schedule this year, but if the senior safety had his way, third-ranked Ohio State wouldn’t be hosting Florida A&M today.
The Football Championship Subdivision program is better known for its crowd-pleasing band than its football tradition, and OSU had hoped it was getting a package deal when it agreed to play the Rattlers.
But the band, known as the Marching 100, won’t be bringing its trademark choreography to Columbus. It was hit with a two-year suspension in 2011 for a hazing incident that led to the death of a member. Although it’s been reinstated, the group is making only limited appearances.
The halftime show wouldn’t have mattered anyway to Bryant or his fellow players. Their only concern is the competition, and they see a team that’s not even good in its own division.
The Rattlers are 1-2, having lost to Tennessee State and Samford. They were 4-7 last season and made a coaching change.
“I’d like to showcase our talent,” Bryant said. “I would like to play bigger games, but it’s really out of our control.
“I’m not really sure who makes the schedule, but we’ve still just got to go out there and face whatever team is put in front of us.”
Asked whom he’d prefer to play, Bryant said, “Definitely a top-10 team.”
Coach Urban Meyer acknowledged at his Monday press conference that he would have work to do in getting his players properly focused. Running back Carlos Hyde certainly showed he expected little opposition from the Rattlers based on a Twitter post.
While the Buckeyes were rolling up 608 yards in a 52-34 win at Cal on Saturday, Hyde, watching at home while serving a suspension, tweeted: “I feel bad for famu lol. #Victim.”
But Meyer liked what he had seen in practice as of Wednesday night. Asked if he took extra measures to get his players in the right frame of mind, he said: “I didn’t have to. I was ready to. But we were bowed up and ready to go to work on Tuesday.
“Our coaches — I told them to be really (ticked) Tuesday. And they were because (the players) take on our personalities and the personalities of the leaders. But we had two good days.”
The Buckeyes have played two teams from the division formerly known as I-AA since it was formed in 1978, beating Youngstown 38-6 and 43-0 in their season openers in 2007 and ‘08.
About a dozen Football Bowl Subdivision squads have lost to FCS teams this year, including defending Big 12 champ Kansas State (to North Dakota State), 25th-ranked Oregon State (Eastern Washington) and UConn (Towson).
But if OSU players can’t work up enthusiasm for the opponent, they certainly can get charged up over the battles for spots on the depth chart.
“Right now, I think there’s a good culture in this program,” Meyer said. “To earn playing time, to earn touches, to earn catches, to earn throws, to earn anything, you have to perform well in practice. And that’s all I care about.
“This time last year, we had a real problem, and the real problem was there was a culture offensively that I couldn’t stomach (because of underperforming players). This time around, I’m seeing guys fighting for the football, and the way you do that is go out and practice really, really hard.”
FCS opponents likely won’t be showing up again in Ohio Stadium once the college football playoffs begin near year. Strength of schedule will be a major component in picking the four participants, and the Buckeyes have lined up games in 2014 with Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, Kent State and Navy.
When the Big Ten goes to nine conference games in 2016, Commissioner Jim Delany doesn’t want to see FCS teams on schedules.
In the meantime, the players will look at this week as a chance to hone their skills for challenges still to come.
“You come out and you sharpen up your tools,” quarterback Kenny Guiton said. “We want to be perfect. You’re never going to be perfect, but that’s what you play for.”
Ohio State (3-0) vs. Florida A&M (1-2), noon, Big Ten Network, 1410