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Big Ten morning links

In four days, Ohio State aims to bring a national championship to the Big Ten for the first time in 12 years. So, with respect to all else that’s happening in the league this week, sorry, it can wait.

There’s a lot clanging around my head this morning about the Buckeyes’ Monday meeting with Oregon in the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T.

Here’s a sampling:

Ohio State players and coaches appear confident in their preparation for the Ducks and ready to embrace the role of underdog. And why not? It’s worked well for the Buckeyes in their past two games.

Ohio State players had a few thoughts on the situation. Said safety Tyvis Powell:

“Yeah, well, what is new? We’ve still got a lot to prove. As you can see, we still don’t get the respect that we deserve. I’ve seen some things on the Internet where like 66 percent of the world is picking Oregon. I understand why. Everybody sees Oregon and they’re like, ‘Oh, wow.’

“But it’s just motivation to come out here and make sure we get the job done on Jan. 12.”

Ohio State, 5-0 as an underdog under Urban Meyer, doesn’t need extra motivation against Oregon. But if the Buckeyes can find it by playing the lack-of-respect card, well, good for them. It’s not a viable long-term strategy at a powerhouse program like Ohio State. Until Monday night, though, run with it.

If you’re not impressed by Meyer’s 37-3 record at Ohio State or the two national championships he won at Florida, reassess the criteria you use to evaluate sports. Or life in general.

Meyer continued to wow me Wednesday with his comments when asked about the challenges the Buckeyes face to get up for a 15th game of the season. I’ve met many a college coach who would scoff at the suggestion that his team might be ripe for a letdown with the national title at stake.

Not Meyer. This topic offers a window into his world. He considers every detail and prepares for all scenarios. And I think he’s right to worry about a flat performance -- strange as it sounds -- against Oregon.

As Meyer said, this is new territory. No team in FBS history has played a second postseason game. It’s impossible to know how the players will handle the moment.

A comforting thought for Ohio State: There’s likely no coach better prepared to deal with the uncertainty of the title-game dynamics than Meyer.

A good breakdown here from Fox Sports analyst Coy Wire on five Buckeyes who can beat Oregon. Most intriguing to me is the final pair listed -- co-defensive coordinators Luke Fickell and Chris Ash.

They devised a whale of a game plan last week to help beat Alabama. And against the Ducks, Fickell and Ash will have to be even better. Get ready for the chess match on tap between three of the top young coaching minds in the game as Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost matches wits with the Ohio State defensive coordinators.

Fickell and Ash are both 41. Frost turned 40 this week. Big things are in their futures. For now, they take center stage in the first playoff championship.

A statistical oddity to watch in this matchup: Ohio State, despite its solid defensive numbers, ranks dead last nationally in goal-to-go efficiency rate; its opponents have scored 21 touchdowns in 21 goal-to-go opportunities. Oregon, interestingly, ranks 82nd nationally in goal-to-go offensive efficiency with 30 touchdowns in 42 chances.

Poor performance in this area has done little to slow the Buckeyes on defense or Oregon’s offense. Perhaps, in this biggest of big games, it will emerge as a factor.

More on Ohio State:

And elsewhere in the Big Ten: