COLUMBUS — After a six-week blitz, it was time for No. 4 Ohio State to take a much-deserved break.
"Six tough games including back-to-back primetime games against ranked opponents," coach Urban Meyer said Monday. "I told them we would take care of them if they won, and they did a good job."
So the Buckeyes (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) made the most of a long weekend off.
Linebacker Ryan Shazier went with lineman Joel Hale to his mother's house in Indianapolis and gorged on fried chicken and steak. Wide-out Corey Brown headed for Philadelphia to see his little brother touch the ball three times and score three touchdowns for his eighth-grade team.
Even Meyer relaxed a little, going to see his daughter play volleyball before watching some college games on TV. He couldn't help but make comparisons between his team and those he saw in action in the Clemson-Boston College and Michigan-Penn State games.
How does he think the Buckeyes stack up?
“I think we are right there,” Meyer said. “I think we are a good team. I do.”
But it took some prodding to get that answer. Most coaches have almost an allergic reaction to questions that don’t involve the next opponent, play or moment. Meyer is no different.
So all that’s on his mind is Iowa, Ohio State’s opponent on Saturday. The Hawkeyes (4-2) have been better than expected, but that’s because little was expected of them. Iowa ranks ninth nationally in run defense and hasn’t given up a rushing touchdown all season.
“Where are we? I don’t know,” Meyer said. “We are 6-0 and doing the best we can to get first downs and stop people.”
The bye week was a perfect time for No. 4 Ohio State to reflect on its first half of the season and look ahead to what's coming next in the second half.
Hale and Shazier both made the most of some home cooking.
"We were just eating like kings," Hale said with a laugh.
Shazier regained the 5 pounds he had lost in the first half of the season. Of course, he couldn't stay away from the games on television.
"I watched a little bit of college football," he said. "I saw a lot of good teams play. I feel that we can play with any of them."
He only watched a little bit of Penn State's upset of the Buckeyes' chief rival before turning it off. A cousin filled him in on what he missed.
"I already knew who I wanted to lose, so that's all that matters," he said.
Asked who he was rooting against, he smiled and added, "They lost."
The Buckeyes practiced three days last week before taking off extra time. They worked on fundamentals and analyzed some of the things they had excelled at and also needed to improve in before beginning preparations for Saturday's game at home against Iowa.
Stan Drayton, assistant head coach in charge of running backs, said there was a lot of good that came out of the first six games — but there was also a lot that wasn't so good.
"To be quite honest, I don't think that we have kind of put the whole thing together yet. We haven't clicked on all cylinders just yet," he said of an offense that is sixth in the nation with 46.8 points a game. "We still need to continue throwing the ball a little bit better and complement this entire team a little bit better as an offense."
The defense, with an entirely new front wall and two new starters at linebacker, is sixth against the run (allowing 86.2 yards per game) but still has some things to fix.
"Our philosophy is obviously to stop the run," co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers said. "I don't think there's any (particular) weakness. I just think we've got to tackle better."
Brown enjoyed finally getting to see little brother Justin play along with visiting his family. But he also made a bee-line for Geno's in the City of Brotherly Love.
"I had to get a cheesesteak," he said. "Because they don't make 'em good here in Ohio."
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