- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The preference would be to avoid politicking completely.
But if Urban Meyer needs to stump for his team, the Ohio State coach isn’t afraid to do it.
Corey Linsley is all for sportsmanship and isn’t necessarily a fan of style points.
But the OSU center has done some research on the BCS formula, and his analysis makes it clear to him that the Buckeyes can’t afford to take their foot off the pedal down the stretch.
Despite repeated requests for Ohio State to compare itself to Alabama throughout the offseason and into the past few weeks since the BCS standings were unveiled, Buckeyes players have consistently steered the conversation back to the next opponent.
But Ohio State receiver Evan Spencer finally slipped up on Monday, becoming the first player to come out and publicly declare that the Buckeyes could “wipe the field” with the likes of Alabama or Florida State.
After spending the first two months of the season focusing solely on what they could control and expressing confidence that everything else would work out just fine, the Buckeyes are starting to show signs that they are aware their destiny isn’t entirely in their hands. And with just three games left before a potential appearance in the Big Ten championship to enhance their résumé, it appears the Buckeyes are now more willing to hit the campaign trail as they sit at No. 3 in the BCS standings -- just on the outside looking in at a chance to play for the national title.
“It’s awful, but I work for our players,” Meyer said last week. “I’ve been there before a couple times where some things had to happen right. For us to waste energy on that, it’s not fair to the players we coach.
“But at the end of the day, I’m working for the families of our coaching staff and the families of our players. That’s who we work for.”
The most important job remains keeping Ohio State unbeaten, because it will have no argument whatsoever if it trips up down the stretch given the crowded field at the top of the BCS standings and the weak perception of its schedule this season.
Oregon's losing to Stanford was a step in the right direction for the Buckeyes, and they were certainly pulling for an upset last week as they kicked their feet up on the couch during their second and final off week. But without another loss from a team ahead of them, the Buckeyes are not likely to climb any higher than where they’re at right now, and Stanford and Baylor are nipping at them from behind.
So while taking care of their own business remains the priority, it actually wouldn’t seem to hurt at all for the Buckeyes to call a little attention to themselves any way they can.
“We have to do everything in our power to not let anybody from behind jump us, and we’re absolutely interested in it because it’s no longer a case of us just playing our best,” Linsley said. “We also have to have somebody else not play their best. And if we beat Penn State 13-10 [instead of 63-14], we’re not in this conversation. Baylor jumps us or Stanford jumps us or whatever.
“But we did put up points, and we have to put up points and stop teams on defense. Call it what it is. We’re not facing the No. 5 team in the nation [Saturday at Illinois] or from then on out. ... Call it unsportsmanlike, call it running up the score, we’re trying to accomplish something that nobody else in our conference is trying to accomplish at this point.”
The list of programs around the nation capable of competing for that crystal football is starting to dwindle, and chances to stand out from the crowd are starting to get scarce.
That’s particularly true for the Buckeyes, who don’t play anybody in the Top 25 to close the regular season but could have a marquee showcase waiting for them in the Big Ten championship game if No. 16 Michigan State can close out the season without another loss and keep climbing in the BCS standings.
But if for some reason the Buckeyes don’t get any additional help, style points don’t have any impact or Meyer voting his team No. 2 in the coaches' poll doesn't change anything, maybe there’s a slim chance they can talk their way into a matchup with the Crimson Tide or Seminoles.
“I’m a little biased,” Spencer told reporters on Monday. “I think we’d wipe the field with both of them.”
At this point, there’s really nothing to lose by speaking their minds.