COLUMBUS – Maybe it is just a statistical oddity, but after 18 years it is probably more than that.
Urban Meyer’s teams have been nearly unbeatable after taking a week off during the football season. Overall, they are 20-1 after a week off and have won 19 in a row since a loss to Miami (Ohio) in his first year as a head coach at Bowling Green in 2001.
No. 6 Ohio State (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) was off last week before this Saturday’s game at home against No. 2 Penn State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten).
So, is there a game plan – or more accurately a no-game plan – Meyer follows every time his team has a week off, particularly before big games like Saturday’s match-up?
Not necessarily, he said during his weekly press conference on Monday.
“I remember one year we had a really bad team, we went out in full pads for five straight days and practiced and got better. I’ve had very good teams where we were very mature and we backed off them a little bit. So there’s no template, it depends on the team,” Meyer said.
“The minute you say it (an off week) is a great advantage, you don’t play well. We have to do a good job practicing the heck out of them. But you have to be fresh,” he said.
Ohio State went into last week with momentum after winning five games in a row. And maintaining that feeling was something Meyer wanted to do.
“When you’re playing well, you’d like to keep rolling. So actually on Thursday we played a game. It was in shells (shoulder pads and helmets), but we played 55 or 60 plays out here because I wanted to make sure we keep going in this game mode,” he said.
Penn State won 24-21 over Ohio State last year in State College, Pa. The Nittany Lions, who were off the week before that game, were behind 21-7 early in the fourth quarter before scoring 17 unanswered points to stun OSU.
The game breaker came when Marcus Allen blocked a field goal attempt and Grant Haley scooped it up and raced 60 yards for a touchdown with 4 ½ minutes left in the game.
Asked if revenge for that loss would be used to motivate the Buckeyes, Meyer said, “We haven’t decided. We use that quite a bit and other times you move on.”
When the question was asked again later, he said, “Sure revenge is a motivator. Hell, yeah it is. There are times we’ve used it and we looked silly using it. There are other times it has worked. I don’t know yet. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday aren’t about that. It’s about execution of a game plan and focus.”
INJURY UPDATE: Receiver Parris Campbell, offensive tackle Jamarco Jones, defensive end Jalyn Holmes and running back Mike Weber all left the game at Nebraska for at least a while because of injuries, but all of them will be ready to play on Saturday, Meyer said.
KNOX STILL NO. 1: Demetrius Knox played well in his first career start at right guard against Nebraska in the place of the injured Branden Bowen and is expected to start again on Saturday night.
Meyer said Knox’s role was “settled” but then seemed to back track a bit.
“It’s day to day. I’d like to think there are other guys in the program that are going to keep swinging and fight as hard as they possibly can for that spot,” he said. “He did grade a winner. This will be a hell of a challenge this week.”
IOWA GAME TIME: OSU’s game at Iowa on Nov. 4 will start at either noon or 3:30 p.m. Eastern time.
It appears the winner of Saturday’s game between Ohio State and Penn State will get the 3:30 kickoff and the loser will get the noon kickoff. Penn State will play Michigan State next week.
WARD A SEMIFINALIST: Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward is one of 13 semifinalists for the Thorpe Award, which is given to the player voted the best defensive back in the country.
Penn State has two Thorpe Award semifinalists in Marcus Allen and cornerback Grant Haley.
KICKOFF CONCENTRATION: Ohio State kickers putting kickoffs out of bounds too often this season has been one of Meyer’s pet peeves.
He said Monday that OSU is “working extremely hard on that.”
“We’ve adjusted that and it’s changed. What’s the definition of insanity? Keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” he said.