Meyer making sure Buckeyes don’t get sidetracked

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer vowed he wouldn’t be drawn into a discussion about the national title picture again, believing he and his team lost focus against Illinois last week after answering numerous questions about it.

Meyer was pelted with BCS-related queries once more during his weekly media luncheon Monday, and he went to comical lengths at times to avoid the topic.

He mentioned back-up running back Warren Ball eight times during his 15-minute interview, trying to make a point that he’s staying locked in on his team’s most pressing needs. The Buckeyes’ kicking units have been ravaged by injuries, and more offensive players than usual have been called into action, leading to some coverage breakdowns.

When asked about the sentiment these days that anything less than a national title is considered a failure, he launched into technical jargon about getting Ball better prepared.

After finishing his long-winded response, he smiled and said, “Any other questions about Warren Ball’s coverage?”

But Meyer did admit he’s no fan of the BCS, although he’s not sure the national title race will be any less controversial with a four-team playoff next year.

The Buckeyes have been winning by comfortable margins, yet they keep losing ground to the teams trailing them in the standings. While they remained third behind Alabama and Florida State this week, their lead over No. 4 Baylor dropped to the narrowest of margins, .886 to .885.

The Bears probably will vault to No. 3 if they can beat 10th-ranked Oklahoma State on the road Saturday even if the Buckeyes blast Indiana.

“Without spending much time on it — because it’s not fair for our team to do that — I will say this: I think it’s a flawed system,” Meyer said. “When you logically think about it, what the BCS people have done was great for a while. It took an imperfect system and did the best you can without a playoff.

“But there’s going to be controversy in playoffs, too, now. There’s not a 64-team playoff. You’re going to have four teams. What is that fifth team going to feel like?”

The Buckeyes are coming off a 60-35 win at Illinois, and even quarterback Braxton Miller admitted, “It wasn’t our prettiest game.”

But Baylor struggled at home with Texas Tech, which had lost three straight games, and led only 35-27 at halftime before pulling away for a 63-34 win.

Alabama was in a tussle at Mississippi State before settling for a 20-7 win, after which Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel tweeted, “I’ve got nothing against Alabama beating a 4-5 team 20-7 on the road, but if Ohio St did it, people would scream bloody murder.”

Whether the Buckeyes pay more for sloppy performances than other teams is open to debate, but Meyer was troubled that his players seemed down after a 25-point win. He blames an obsession with the BCS title hunt for that.

“My job is to coach these players and not worry about anything else. I grade myself a C last week,” he said “I was worried about too many other things. I can promise you, we’re going to coach better this week.

“The guys need to enjoy a Division I win. That’s our job. And we certainly did (back in Columbus). That doesn’t mean we’re not going to go get after it, because we are. But I can assure (Sunday) we made sure the staff and players enjoyed that win.”

Injury report: The Buckeyes expect to have defensive end Joey Bosa for Indiana. The freshman had 2.5 sacks against Illinois before leaving early in the second half with a neck injury.

“It’s nothing structural. It’s a sore neck,” Meyer said. “He’s a tough hombre. I don’t worry about Joey Bosa. Everybody is going to know that name by the time he leaves here. That’s how good I think he’s going to be.”

Starting linebackers Josh Perry and Curtis Grant, who missed the Illinois game, also could be back. Perry slipped on ice and suffered a head injury last week, while Grant is battling back and ankle issues.

“Josh looks probable. Curtis looks 50-50,” Meyer said.

Two honored: Running back Carlos Hyde, who had 246 yards rushing, and linebacker Ryan Shazier, who had a career-high 16 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss, were named the offensive and defensive Big Ten players of the week.

Kickoff set: The 109th game between Ohio State and Michigan will be aired nationally on ABC at noon Saturday, Nov. 30.

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