Senior center Corey Linsley was lounging on the Ohio State sidelines during the second half of a 76-0 demolition of Florida A&M on Saturday when he noticed highlights on the giant video board of last year’s overtime win against Purdue.
Linsley wouldn’t necessarily want to go through another game where the Buckeyes were stretched to the limit like that, but seeing clips of the stirring comeback gave him a yearning for the intensity of Big Ten play.
“I said, ‘Wow, I can’t wait to get this started.’ … You definitely need these games to prove yourself and find out who you are and what you’re made of,” he said.
The Buckeyes have played four games this year but still don’t really know all that much about themselves. They beat nonleague foes Buffalo, San Diego State, Cal and FAMU by an average of more than 37 points, and that lineup of Teddy bears not only generated boredom for even the most ardent fans, but also some apathy among the players.
Linsley said the Buckeyes’ lack of competition came up in a discussion with left tackle Jack Mewhort.
“Jack said, ‘I’m ready to play somebody this week.’ We did play somebody against Cal, and these (other) opponents have been playing hard. But it’s not like a Big Ten game. It will never be. It COULD never be,” Linsley said.
“The Big Ten season has its own feel to it. It’s colder outside. Practices are a little bit longer and preparation is a little more intense. Everything is amped up — because it’s conference play.”
Ohio State will open its Big Ten season against Wisconsin in prime time at soldout Ohio Stadium on Saturday. And while the Buckeyes have won four of the last five meetings in the series, the Badgers have captured three straight conference titles.
Asked if the stroll through the nonleague schedule prepared his team for the Big Ten, coach Urban Meyer said, “We’ll know at about 12 o’clock Saturday. I’d like to think so.”
OSU prevailed in overtime in Madison last year on its way to the Big Ten Leaders Division crown. But Wisconsin represented the division in the league title game despite finishing third with a 4-4 record because the Buckeyes and second-place Penn State were ineligible.
Wisconsin blasted Nebraska in Indianapolis to earn a third straight trip to the Rose Bowl.
Asked if he feels the Badgers took something that rightfully belonged to the Buckeyes, cornerback Bradley Roby said, “Definitely.”
He added: “It was kind of hard watching the (conference championship) knowing we should have been playing. … When somebody takes something that’s yours, the next time you see them there’s going to be a fight. Saturday, obviously, is going to be a fight.”
Meyer called Wisconsin “the kings” of the Big Ten, but Roby disagreed, saying, “We’re the kings, it’s as simple as that.”
The Buckeyes rank fourth nationally in scoring with a 52.5-point average. They’re 15th in total offense at 529 yards per game and 13th in total defense at 280.3.
But Meyer sat his starters after halftime of the FAMU game, and the Buckeyes never attempted a pass in the second half — not exactly an ideal tune-up for the smash-mouth Badgers.
“I think this will be a classic game,” Meyer said. “As much as you like those games where it’s one-sided and you can get a bunch of guys in, you like the competitive spirit of the thing and the preparation where you have to cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s.
“Certainly, in those kinds of rivalry games, you know it’s going to come down to one or two series to win this game.”
Waiting their turn: Several offensive players who were bidding for playing time in preseason camp haven’t gotten off the bench: running back Bri’onte Dunn and receivers Jalin Marshall, Michael Thomas and Corey Smith.
Dunn and Thomas are sophomores and played a bit last year. Smith is a junior-college transfer, while Marshall is the lone freshman. All four could redshirt this year.
“They’re on call,” Meyer said. “They’re ready to go, but they won’t be used at mop-up time. We don’t really redshirt, but there’s some guys who could be fine players down the road, and I don’t want to burn a year just to get them five plays or 10 plays.”
Ohio State (4-0) vs. Wisconsin (3-1), 8 p.m., ABC, 1410