COLUMBUS - Just before his noon press conference yesterday, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel sat down at a table filled with television crew members and held an informal conversation for about 10 minutes while working on a plate of lasagna.
When asked light-heartedly how he planned to dress for Halloween, Tressel seemed unaware that trick-or-treat was going to be held later that evening.
But Tressel was fully cognizant, however, of the fact that November was just 12 hours away, since he considers that the month when champions are made.
"There have been a lot of good teams at Ohio State over the years, and the ones that are considered great teams are the ones that played great in November," Tressel said.
"That's just the way football is."
Tressel's No. 1 ranked Buckeyes have sailed through September and October unbeaten, and virtually unscathed. The nearest thing to a close call this year was a 17-point win on the road over defending national champion Texas in September - a game the Buckeyes controlled throughout.
Momentum seems to be building, since over the last month Ohio State has outscored its opponents 161-17. The Buckeyes have now won 16 straight games, the nation's longest winning streak and the most consecutive victories at Ohio State since Tressel's 2002 and 2003 teams won 19 in a row.
But Tressel reiterated that November is what counts. And the Buckeyes will start November in Illinois on Saturday afternoon with a Big Ten game against the Illini.
"The most important task at hand as we flip the calendar over to November is to make sure we're playing our best football in this month," Tressel said. "You do a lot of work prior to November, but the month of November really is the legacy that you leave."
In his five previous seasons at Ohio State, Tressel has gone 15-3 in those November games. After Illinois, this year's November schedule holds a road game at Northwestern next week, then a season-ending showdown with No. 2 Michigan at Ohio Stadium. Tressel indicated the Buckeyes will take on the crucial month incrementally.
"What the team needs done right now is to have a great practice today and enter November with the proper mindset as to how good we have to be," Tressel said.
"We have to make sure that as we take the practice field for one last time in October, that we're preparing ourselves to have great performance in November. But thus far, they've been very willing to do what needs to be done."
Tressel said Illinois has his attention after stunning Michigan State earlier this season, and pushing Penn State and Wisconsin to the limit the past couple of weeks.
"I think they've got all the pieces and I think they're trying to put all those pieces together. Things don't happen overnight, but you can see the progress, for sure," Tressel said. "They've had some tough situations occur. They were ahead of Wisconsin, and very well could have beat them. And they played Penn State right off their feet and it was nose to nose."
Tressel said the significance of facing Big Ten opposition is not diminished a bit by the Illinois record.
"We have a tremendous challenge as we travel over to Champaign-Urbana, because I think Illinois is a good football team," he said.
"And our guys know when you go on the road, it's difficult. They know the importance that November has in the course of a college football season, so I think they'll go to work this afternoon pretty darn hard."
And with that the Buckeyes were off to spend their Halloween evening on the practice field.
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