COLUMBUS -- Ohio State football players left their practice facility early Monday night to encounter not the usual late-summer quiet but a campus stirring with life.
Storefront signs welcomed back students. The annual campus involvement fair overtook the Oval. A line of cars stretched bumper to bumper down Lane Avenue.
Welcome to the Buckeyes' brave new world.
As classes start today a month earlier than in past years, winning nonconference football games will no longer be their only focus.
With Ohio State moving to the more widely utilized semester system this year, players will open the season Sept. 1 against Miami (Ohio) as full-time students.
Gone are the days when an academic calendar divided into quarters meant OSU played its first three -- and sometimes four -- games with an NFL-style routine. Classes opened Sept. 21 last year.
"It hasn't changed for me because this is all I know, but our players and [defensive coordinator] Luke Fickell made the comment to me that it was a big-time advantage," coach Urban Meyer said. "You had your players 24-7."
The edge was perhaps more psychological than anything. In the last 10 years, Ohio State went 34-4 in games over the first four calendar weeks of the season, though most of those wins came against standard nonconference fare. The Buckeyes were 7-3 against ranked teams, with the losses coming to Texas in 2005 and Southern California in 2008 and 2009. They also fell at Miami last season.
Meyer, meanwhile, experienced similar early success in his first 10 seasons as a head coach -- all at schools on the semester calendar. His teams at Bowling Green State University, Utah and Florida went 37-3 in the first four games of their season. BGSU lost 37-31 at Marshall in 2001, Utah lost 28-26 at Texas A&M in 2003 and Florida fell 31-30 at Ole Miss in 2008.
"It's a challenge for our guys that have done it a certain way but I haven't seen any resistance," Meyer said of the new calendar. "We're good to go."
COMING OF AGE: Offensive coordinator Tom Herman billed Braxton Miller's performance Saturday in a closed scrimmage Saturday as a milestone moment.
Though Miller was off limits to contact and playing against the second-team defense, Herman said the sophomore quarterback looked the part in leading the Buckeyes' no-huddle spread offense. Miller passed for 358 yards and two touchdowns.
"It was the first time, really, that I felt like he looked comfortable with what we were doing and wasn't thinking, but rather playing," Herman said Tuesday. With him, the biggest thing is repetition, repetition, repetition. … Doing something so many times, over and over and over again, against all the different looks a defense can present to you, eventually the game slows down and becomes second nature to you. I felt like Saturday he looked that way a lot of the time."
NEXT IN LINE: Ohio State's 25 scholarship freshmen were heralded as one of the nation's top 2012 recruiting classes. But on Tuesday, it was a walk-on who became the latest first-year player to ceremonially graduate into the program.
Joe Burger, a 6-foot-1, 225-pound linebacker from LaSalle High in Cincinnati, is the eighth OSU freshmen to have his black helmet stripe removed.
He is the latest in a line of Burgers who have relied as much on will as talent. Burger's father, Bob, and brother, Bobby, both walked on at Notre Dame, with Bob ultimately earning a football scholarship.
Joe bypassed a preferred walk-on opportunity from the Irish to stay in Ohio, where he was named first-team all-state last season. Burger, who graduated with a near-4.0 GPA and held a seat on the student council, led the Lancers with 103 tackles and five sacks.
"When you come in, those stars all those things you had in recruiting don't matter," Fickell said. "It's about what you do here, and it's a great example to all those guys.
"We don't care what you did before, it's what you do now and how you can help this team. There's a bunch of ways you can help this team, and we're proud to say Joe helped this team in a lot of different ways."
SIMON OK: Defensive end John Simon missed Tuesday's practice with a minor ankle injury, but insisted afterward he was not a willing spectator.
"I'm perfectly fine," said Simon, an all-Big Ten senior and newly minted captain. "This is just precautionary. I'd be out there today if it was my call."
Contact David Briggs at email@example.com, 419-724-6084, or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.
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