COLUMBUS You might think that owning the top ranking in all of college football would leave its mark with a smorgasbord of mixed emotions pride, euphoria, anxiety, consternation.
But the preseason No. 1 slapped on Ohio State has left the Buckeyes feeling somewhat like it s just another day at the office.
It s nice to know people out there think that much of our team, but it doesn t really do anything to change the expectations around here. At Ohio State, the expectations are always sky-high, senior defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock said.
The Buckeyes, coming off a 10-2 season, a share of the Big Ten championship, and a Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame, are ranked first in both major polls. When Ohio State hosts Northern Illinois tomorrow at Ohio Stadium, the Buckeyes will open the season at No. 1 for the seventh time. Only Oklahoma (9) has occupied that seat more often.
The No. 1 ranking you don t think about it, you don t expect to get it, and so you don t make a big fuss over it, if it happens, Ohio State senior quarterback Troy Smith said. Sure, it s an honor and there s a lot of pride involved in it, but nothing s happened out on the field yet, so we can t put too much emphasis on that. Being No. 1 at the end of the year is what we play for.
The last time the Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 before a regular season game was in November of 1998, just before a loss to Michigan State at Ohio Stadium. Before that defeat, Ohio State had won eight consecutive games as the No. 1 ranked team that season. Ohio State finished the 2002 season as No. 1 after defeating previously top-ranked Miami for the national title.
Anytime you are ranked No. 1, it puts a bull s-eye on your back, but since this is Ohio State, we have that big bull s-eye on us all of the time, anyway, senior center Doug Datish said. We are going to get everyone s best shot, regardless of where we re ranked, or if we re ranked or not.
Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said he tries to keep his approach the same, and not let outside factors like polls or predictions impact what the Buckeyes do to prepare for the season or an upcoming game.
I think our guys are anxious, and I know we are as coaches, but I don t know that it s because of expectations, because the expectations are always there wherever we re ranked, Tressel said.
I think especially with the leadership group we have on this team, with so many guys who have been here for so long, and they re just so excited about the opportunity to lead this football team. Plus it s so much fun to play games at Ohio Stadium, and you look at our schedule, whether it be the home games or the away games, those are some exciting situations to be in. So I think we re anxious for all the right reasons.
Pitcock, one of just two returning starters on the OSU defense, said the top ranking the Buckeyes received is the proverbial double-edged sword.
Of course it is an honor and it s nice to be respected like that, and to be that highly touted in the eyes of so many people around the country. But at the same time, being king of the hill is a tough job, Pitcock said.
It really makes that target on our backs even bigger. It would be easier to have people not expect so much from you, and then be able to come up and surprise them with how well you do, but we re not going to have that opportunity here at Ohio State. People here always talk about shooting for the national championship. The expectations are always there.