COLUMBUS -- Ohio State football players will not end the season with roses clenched in their teeth. They may be hoisting a trophy.
Turns out, the bowl-banned Buckeyes are playing for something other than pride this fall.
The Big Ten Conference announced Wednesday that Ohio State is eligible to win the Leaders Division and receive a trophy.
With the Buckeyes ineligible to play in the Big Ten championship game, it was taken as gospel that they could not gain such recognition. Even OSU appeared in the dark, with first-year coach Urban Meyer's contract noting the program was "not eligible to be named the division champion." Meyer was to instead receive a $50,000 bonus reserved for winning the Leaders Division if the Buckeyes finished the season with the best record among the six-team grouping.
Conference spokesman Scott Chipman said a media inquiry last week prompted the league to evaluate the issue.
"All eight of their regular-season [conference] games count," Chipman said. "So if a team finishes a year with the best record, they're the division champion."
Meyer only heard the news when he was informed by reporters after practice Wednesday. He did not rule out using the carrot of officially winning the division as motivation later in the season, though he said it will not be discussed soon.
If OSU finishes atop the Leaders Division, the eligible team with the next-best record would advance to the league championship game. Penn State faces a four-year postseason ban, but is also now eligible to win the Leaders Division.
That leaves Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, and Wisconsin as the division's four teams in the running this season to advance to the Big Ten title game.
TECH REVOLUTION: When Ohio State distributed iPads to 500 athletes this year, it was billed as an academic investment. But some football players are also using the tablets to study a different subject.
The iPads allow them to watch game film earlier than ever. Right tackle Reid Fragel, for instance, said a replay of Ohio State's opener against Miami (Ohio) and film of its next opponent -- Central Florida -- were ready to download on his tablet and iPhone by Saturday night.
"Before I called it a night," he said, "I was able to pull up the game film and go over a few things."
In past years, players sometimes knew little about their upcoming challenger when meeting with reporters on Tuesday. They could watch at home but had to wait for managers to burn them a disc. On Monday, Meyer said his players had already begun cramming.
"To say that we don't have a lot of respect for Central Florida would be nonsense," he said. "The good thing is nowadays our players have already seen film so they have a touch of what's going on with all these iPads floating around here."
Still, not all are on the tech bandwagon. Safety Christian Bryant said his iPad largely collects dust. He prefers to watch video with his teammates at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
"There are some old-school guys," defensive line coach Mike Vrabel said. "John Simon, he likes to come in, watch it on the screen and have a notebook in front of him, have a game plan in front of him. I think it works both ways. I don't think the old-school, film-and-paper game plan is going to give way to the iPad. I think it enhances preparation."
The athletic department plans to distribute iPads to all 1,100 of its athletes during the next two years at a cost of $400,000.
VETERAN PRESENCE: The best story from Ohio State's opener played out with the game long since decided.
When Craig Cataline made a tackle on kickoff coverage in the final seconds, it was his first since 2005. The 24-year-old special teams reserve served in the Navy and did a tour in Iraq before walking on to the team this summer.
Meyer promised Cataline he would get in the game.
"He's earned that right, so that's a great story," Meyer said of the Grandview Heights native, listed as a 6-foot-2, 226-pound sophomore fullback.
"He's what you would imagine from a guy that served in the Navy for a while," Meyer said. "Tough as nails, completely committed and incredible discipline. He goes 100 miles an hour. I wish he was more athletic, because we'd find a way to get him on the field more. He's got some talent."
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084, or on Twitter @DBriggs Blade.
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