Ohio State coach Urban Meyer says he wishes he could take his team to a desert island somewhere to get away from all the postseason blather — a place with no probing reporters, meddling parents or fans with outsized expectations (is there any other kind?).
Meyer knows that’s impossible, though. The first BCS ratings were unveiled Sunday night, and the Buckeyes were a distant fourth behind Alabama, Florida State and Oregon, in that order.
But while he had a brief discussion about the standings with his players, Meyer doesn’t want them thinking about anything beyond Saturday’s game against Penn State.
“We had our first state of the union address (Sunday), and it’s the first time I do talk about polls,” he said at his weekly press luncheon Monday. “I wanted to because they’re going to hear it.
“This BCS thing came out, and my comment was, ‘We are, indeed, in the mix. Embrace it. In the mix for what? Don’t worry about it. We are in the mix, though. People think very highly of you. Maybe some people don’t. You just have to go out and be the best team on the field on Saturday, not in the country.’ ”
Meyer is right in saying some analysts don’t think much of OSU because of its soft schedule and can get quite worked up about it. But if the Buckeyes win out and two teams ahead of them lose, they’ll almost certainly play in the national title game, and that would generate more howls than a werewolf convention.
ESPN’s Jesse Palmer is on record as saying he’d put No. 6 Stanford ahead of the Buckeyes as of now, even though the Cardinal lost to lowly Utah.
But the OSU players will take their cue from Meyer and tune out the chatter across the airwaves.
“He just wanted us to know if we took care of business, the BCS would work itself out,” said junior defensive tackle Michael Bennett of Centerville. “I think we can handle it. I think we still have that game-to-game approach.
“But it’s good to know if we keep on doing our job, everything will be fine.”
Well, maybe not. There haven’t been more than two undefeated teams from major conferences since 2004, but Alabama, Florida State and Oregon all look strong enough to go undefeated.
”We can’t do much about it,” Bennett said. “All you can do is go out and win and start winning by large margins.”
The Buckeyes didn’t earn many style points in a 34-24 victory over Iowa last week, a game that was tied going into the fourth quarter.
The OSU defense had its nose bloodied in the first half when the Hawkeyes had three long scoring drives.
Asked if it was poor play or a coaching issue, Meyer said: “I think a little bit of both. We’re all in this together, so I think the adjustments need to be made quicker when they give us something we have not seen.
“The first three drives were alarming. I don’t think our defensive line played very well. I think what happened was you have some good emotion in that stadium, and you give up a 13-play drive, and you let the air out of the stadium.
“I’m very disappointed. Can it be fixed? Absolutely. We’re still a good rush defense. We’ve got to continue to work because we’ve dealt with some injuries and depth issues, and we’ve got to play better. But I’m very, very concerned.”
Rule questioned: Meyer went on a lengthy diatribe about the targeting infraction that resulted in cornerback Bradley Roby being ejected in the first quarter.
The All-American hit Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz above the numbers with his shoulder, and his helmet did slide up and make contact with Fiedorowicz’s facemask. But the targeting rule is meant to penalize players for above-the-shoulder hits.
“We actually had an official come in and speak to our team. We were told there’s two ways that you get thrown out of the game: if you hit with the crown of your helmet … and when you target someone else’s head above the shoulder pads,” Meyer said.
“To have a guy ejected on a play like that, obviously I’m concerned. I just think, on a national level, that’s something that needs to continue to be evaluated. Make sure we’re doing the right thing for player safety, but understand the devastating impact on that game when you’re out.
“That was not the intent of the rule. I can say that without, I’m sure, getting in trouble. That rule was not put in for that play.”
Kickoff set: The OSU-Purdue game on Nov. 2 in West Lafayette will start at noon and be televised by the Big Ten Network.
Ohio State (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) vs. Penn State (4-2, 1-1), 8 p.m., ABC, 1410