- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State's national ranking is open for discussion.
In fact, Urban Meyer wants the Buckeyes to know exactly where they sit in the Associated Press poll and makes sure to address the rankings every Sunday when he sums up the state of the program.
But looking forward and projecting where the unbeaten Buckeyes might wind up on the ballots in The Associated Press poll if they keep their record perfect isn't a conversation Meyer wants to have, even though every successive win increases the possibility they could earn a national championship by vote during a season in which they can't officially play for one.
"We're not shy," Meyer said. "They know, and we're not hiding it. They're a top-10 football team, and the stakes are real high.
"These players are just playing football and they have a right to know where they stand on a national level. You come to Ohio State now, that's why we're all here."
The Buckeyes have emerged back on the national scene quicker than anticipated since Meyer's arrival, climbing to No. 8 in the latest AP poll and earning their first top-10 ranking in two seasons after a rough 2011. The NCAA sanctions might not be in the rearview mirror yet, but Meyer has worked quickly to erase the sting of the losing record that preceded his hiring and has the program back in the spotlight for on-the-field reasons.
Braxton Miller is on the short list for Heisman Trophy consideration with his multipurpose skills at quarterback. The spread offense and a physical defense have taken turns leading the team to consecutive conference wins that have established the Buckeyes as the team to beat in the Big Ten at the midway point of the season. And while they aren't eligible for the Big Ten championship game, a bowl appearance or votes in the coaches' poll, it's quite obvious the players are aware that they have a shot to impress pollsters every week -- and what finishing in that top spot would mean.
"I definitely think it's important to us," center Corey Linsley said. "It's important to me. If you don't think statistics are important, you're kind of lying. That's what we play for. We play for these polls; we play to be No. 1 in the country, for there to be no doubt that everybody in the country knows that we're at the top of the AP poll or wherever we are.
"We want everybody in the country to be like, 'You know what, Ohio State should be there.' I think that's a great thing to have, a head coach who truly believes in that and uses it as a motivator."
The Buckeyes might not really need the extra fuel thanks to the chip on their shoulders that came from the disappointment of last season and the postseason ban they were facing as they went through workouts in the summer. But the fire might be burning even hotter now that they've made it through half of the schedule without a loss, and the voting points are starting to add up.
After all, every Sunday Ohio State is going over the math. The trick is making sure the Buckeyes continue to show their work and don't try to skip ahead.
"We just have to make sure we're taking it one week at a time," defensive end John Simon said. "I think it's important to the team to kind of show where we are right now. You know, you try to get as high as you can, and there's definitely something there.
"We try to get to No. 1 if at all possible, and we're doing everything we can."
The Buckeyes have much more to do to get there, but it's no secret to them that they're getting closer.