For the Ohio State Buckeyes, it's about getting first downs and stopping people.
Those are the words of head coach Urban Meyer, at least. Whatever he's trying to do on a daily basis, though, he readily acknowledges that what everyone else is talking about can certainly creep in.
Everyone else, of course, is talking about the fact that this team has won 18 games in a row under Meyer — including all six this season — has a No. 4 ranking and has a very good shot at getting to the national title game. So with those possibilities swirling, sometimes its impossible to keep the Buckeyes in a bubble.
"We are 6-0 and doing the best we can to get first downs and stop people," Meyer said at his weekly press conference on Monday. "And I can feel sometimes pressure mounting on players when you streak; you start hearing about streaks, you start hearing about that. And it's my job as a coach and our coaching staff is it's all about today. There's some teams that do an incredible job of that.
"I think Oregon does an incredible job of this. Tight end got in trouble and left or something and next guy up, go play, he's gone. And I think that's every coach's focus is just get to the next day."
Did you catch it? Meyer mentioned Oregon. Now perhaps he's just complimenting the Ducks for how they handle national attention, but Oregon also happens to be one of Ohio State's main competitors in the quest for the national title. The Ducks currently hold the No. 2 ranking in the country to Ohio State's No. 4. Meyer admitted on Tuesday's Big Ten coaches conference call that he has watched film of Oregon and said it's human nature to mentally wonder how the two top teams — along with Ohio State and other contenders — would stack up.
"Human nature is — especially when you have time on a weekend, a bye week to watch a lot of games — how (do) you match up?" Meyer said Tuesday. "I kind of have these mechanisms in place to stop thinking (about that) and refocus on getting first downs and stopping people because that's really not helping the cause at all."
So even coaches are prone to distractions and the national conversation.
"I think we are right there. I think we are a good team, I do," Meyer said Monday. "I think we are not an explosive (team like) some of these teams are real explosive teams, but I saw Clemson, everybody watched film (of) Clemson very closely.
"And every once in awhile you play football against a very well prepared team and they take away from of the explosiveness and that's what happens. It's not necessarily what they did, what Clemson did wrong (in its close call vs. Boston College); it's what Boston College did right and we run into the same things, scholarships, too, very good players and well coached teams. That's something I want to be. If I had to grade us, we are not explosive from first to fourth quarter."
Coaches, Meyer included, always talk about taking things one game at a time. It's a useful suggestion but one that's not always easy to follow. As the season marches on, the speculation and the arguing and the guessing of who will make the final BCS National Championship Game will only intensify.
If the Buckeyes are going to be in that conversation, they have to get first downs and stop people.
That continues when Ohio State takes on Iowa at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on ABC.
All Big Ten games on Saturday, Oct. 19. (Bye weeks: Nebraska, Penn State)
Minnesota at Northwestern, 11 a.m., ESPN 2. The Wildcats need to bounce back in a big way after getting clobbered last week in Madison, and the Gophers coming to Ryan Field is the perfect way to do so. Minnesota has struggled mightily after going 4-0 in its non-conference schedule, sustaining a pair of blowout losses, and now they're without head coach Jerry Kill, who's taking a leave of absence to deal with his epilepsy. It's this kind of struggling opponent, though, that could allow Northwestern to get back on track. Minnesota has given up big passing days to each of its last two foes, meaning there's strong potential for a bounce back from Northwestern quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian. And, after getting scorched two weeks in a row on the ground by Carlos Hyde and Melvin Gordon, the Wildcats defense could redeem themselves against a Minnesota team that rushed for only 30 yards two games ago against Iowa.
Purdue at Michigan State, 11 a.m., Big Ten Network. Purdue ranks last in the Big Ten with 287.3 yards of offense per game. Michigan State ranks first in the Big Ten (and the country) allowing just 228.3 yards per game. This doesn't look like it's going to line up like a good day for the Boilermakers. It's also not a good matchup for freshman quarterback Danny Etling, who's still looking for his first good performance as starter. Michigan State, meanwhile figures to add another win to its increasingly impressive campaign. After pouring 42 points and nearly 500 yards on Indiana's (pretty bad) defense, the Spartans' season-opening offensive woes seem a distant memory. Quarterback Connor Cook is looking better each week, and running back Jeremy Langford is the defending Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week.
Indiana at Michigan, 2:30 p.m., Big Ten Network. The Wolverines are undefeated no more after their close calls finally caught up with them last week in that four-overtime classic against Penn State. It was a series of pretty amazing events that led to them actually losing that game after staging their own impressive comeback. The Michigan offense should be licking its chops this week, as playmakers Devin Gardner, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess go up against an Indiana defense that's giving up more than 32 points and 450 yards each week. But while this could still be a Wolverine romp, Michigan will have to score an incredible amount of points to make it happen. Indiana's defense might be in the Big Ten basement, but the Hoosiers' offense is arguably the most explosive in the conference. Indiana, led by quarterback Nate Sudfeld, is second in the Big Ten with 504.3 yards per game. Fans of shootouts might want to tune in.
No. 25 Wisconsin at Illinois, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network. Before last week's bye, the Illini were trounced in their Big Ten opener against Nebraska, and that doesn't bode well for this week's matchup with the conference leader in total offense. The Badgers are posting 519.5 yards per game, and incredible number driven by that famous run game and a suddenly excellent passing attack. Running backs Melvin Gordon and James White are among the nation's best runners — individually. As a duo they're practically unstoppable. And what started as a mediocre season for quarterback Joel Stave has blossomed into a real threatening air attack, as the Badgers average 221.3 yards through the air each week. And if Illinois was hoping to catch Wisconsin in a shootout, that's unlikely, as well. Wisconsin also boasts the one of the conference's top two defense. The Badgers are allowing 13.2 points per game (best in the Big Ten) and 267.3 yards per game (No. 2 in the Big Ten).