Ohio State LG Jack Mewhort (74) blocks Michigan State OLB Denicos Allen (28) during the second quarter Saturday, 10/01/11, in Columbus, Ohio. MSU defeated OSU 10-7.
CHICAGO — Coaches live to worry.
Ohio State’s Urban Meyer worried last year if a bowl ban would dull the Buckeyes’ motivation. And, now that OSU has everything to play for — and are being told by everyone and their third cousin that they will play for everything — he is worried about overconfidence.
Like last year, though, he hopes the concerns will be for naught.
“I spent all summer worrying about how to approach [motivation] if there were questions like, ‘Why no bowl game, why no championship?’ ” Meyer said. “If you have a good group of leaders, that never comes up. You’re going to go try to play the game and try to win the game. So I’m hoping we’re taking the same approach this season.”
From the start, he has said the Buckeyes’ fate will hinge on their leadership — a void that continues to be filled in.
“That’s going to be the difference,” Meyer said. “The older I get and the better teams I’ve been around over this last decade of football, there’s one constant. It wasn’t the style of offense, it wasn’t the style of defense, it wasn’t the height, weight, size, how high you jump, how fast you run. It’s the leadership within the program.”
For now, he said, the offensive line is carrying a lopsided share of that responsibility, citing each of the four starters on the line: left tackle Jack Mewhort, center Corey Linsley, guard Marcus Hall, and guard Andrew Norwell.
“Our offensive line is, without question, the heart and soul of the team,” Meyer said. “They’re the voice, they’re the face of our program, which if you’re going to start somewhere, it’s got to be a quarterback on your offensive line. Where it has to improve is on defense, where you lost [John] Simon and [Zach] Boren.”
NEW ERA: New Purdue coach Darrell Hazell said these aren’t your older brother’s Boilermakers.
“One of the first things I said to our team at our very first team meeting was that Purdue was always a team perceived in the middle of the Big Ten — never up here, never down here,” Hazell said. “I told them it's going to take a lot of work, but we’re going to climb ourselves out of the middle, we’re going to put this program into national prominence for a long time.”
Purdue went 6-7 in Danny Hope’s final season and has not finished in the top 25 since 2003.
Hazell spent seven years as an Ohio State assistant before leaving after the 2010 season for Kent State. Last year, his Golden Flashes ran the table in the Mid-American Conference and crashed their first bowl game in 40 years.
HOKE ROOTS FOR DETROIT: Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he is “pulling for Detroit” after the city filed for bankruptcy last week.
“We’re pulling for the city and the state to get together or the federal government, because it’s a great town,” he said. “It’s a great city.”
MARROW LEAVING: Former Central Catholic star Mike Marrow’s wayfaring college journey will continue somewhere besides Nebraska.
Huskers coach Bo Pelini said the senior fullback has left the team, calling the departure a decision made by Marrow’s family. Marrow spent a season at Alabama and Eastern Michigan before transferring to Nebraska, where his father, Vince, was a graduate assistant. He played in nine games last season, including starts against Arkansas State and Michigan.
Vince Marrow left Nebraska after last season to become a tight ends coach at Kentucky.