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Published: Monday, 10/11/2010

OSU seizes No. 1 ranking

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Ask Matt Markey your Ohio State football questions every Monday at 12 p.m. on ToledoBlade.com in the BGSU/OSU football Web chat.

COLUMBUS - Being ranked the No. 1 football team in the nation is a very precarious place to reside.

Just ask Alabama, a team that seemed nearly unbeatable just a week ago when it blitzed Florida, but then got bumped off the top of the mountain Saturday by South Carolina.

That cleared the way Sunday for the No. 2 team since the start of the season, Ohio State, to claim the top position in both major weekly polls. The Buckeyes (6-0) got a little more than half the first-place votes in the Associated Press poll and an overwhelming majority in the coaches poll.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said that his team is very cognizant of the insecure status of that lofty ranking, unless the Buckeyes take care of things on the field each weekend.

"Just review the change in the makeup of the Top 10 between the beginning of the season until now," Tressel said, emphasizing that four teams that started the season in the top 10 have since fallen out.

"The Buckeyes know what's it's like to have a target on our back, especially since we are now well into Big Ten play. We expect that every team will give us its best shot. How we respond will determine our ultimate ranking," Tressel said.

Oregon was second and Boise State third in both polls. Alabama, which had the nation's longest winning streak snapped at 19 straight with its 35-21 loss to the Gamecocks, dropped to No. 8 in both polls.

The Buckeyes are No. 1 for the first time since the first week in January of 2008. Ohio State went into the BCS championship game at the end of the 2007 season ranked in the top spot, but lost to Louisiana State in the title game. OSU senior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said maintaining that position is a formidable task.

"The top ranking is obviously a challenge we welcome," Sanzenbacher said. "But we all know how much more important it is to be No. 1 at the end of the season."

Ohio State junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor said the Buckeyes' large following will be able to revel in the prestige the top ranking brings, but the players will be charged with staying on track through the final half of the season, which begins this weekend with a trip to face 5-1 Wisconsin, ranked No. 16 in one poll and No. 18 in the other.

"I love it for the Ohio State students and fans, but it's a big responsibility and opportunity for us," Pryor said. "How we react to being No. 1, and how we stay determined in our focus and in our work habits, will tell us how long we will stay there."

With 13 unbeaten teams in the top 25 at the midway point in the season, Ohio State senior defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said the Buckeyes know that winning their final six games is the only way to insure that they hold on to the top spot and make the championship game.

"The No. 1 ranking just means that more than ever, we're in control of our own destiny," Heyward said.

The first BCS poll of the season will be released Sunday.

Contact Matt Markey at

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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