Like a lot of coaches, Ohio State's Urban Meyer tries to get his team to ignore the polls.
But then he took an extraordinary step.
When the team met a week ago, he addressed the initial BCS rankings, what the Buckeyes' No. 4 ranking meant and what it could mean in the future. He told his team everything would turn out right if it just kept winning.
Then the Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) went out and rolled over Penn State, 63-14, taking no prisoners and acknowledging that they wanted to win big in order to impress the voters.
"You could say it's a statement in a way," said safety Corey Brown, whose interception in the end zone on the Nittany Lions' first possession helped turn the tide.
But with the teams in front of them — Alabama, Oregon and Florida State — also winning big, the landslide verdict may not have had the desired effect. Ohio State remained No. 4 in both the Associated Press media and USA Today coaches polls. The latter is a component of the BCS rankings.
While No. 5 Missouri lost for the first time and is no longer right behind the Buckeyes, instead, Baylor moved to 7-0 with an equally impressive 59-14 win over Kansas to take Mizzou's place breathing down Ohio State's collective neck.
The victory over Penn State (4-3, 1-2) was historic, beyond extending the nation's longest winning streak to 20 games. It was the Nittany Lions' worst loss and their most points allowed since a 64-5 setback to Duquesne Athletic Club in '99 — 1899, that is.
Some of the numbers were jaw-dropping: The Buckeyes averaged 8 yards per rush and 14 yards per completion, totaling 686 yards while scoring on four plays of at least 25 yards in length.
"We needed a type of game like this," said wide-out Devin Smith, who had five catches for 90 yards. "We work hard every single week. Everything we did today from the time we woke up to kickoff was perfect. We wanted to make a statement. That gives us confidence."
Meyer said he and his team didn't set out to turn any heads with a lopsided score.
"That was certainly not our mindset," he said. "Our mindset is to find a way to win this game against a very talented team."
Some may have questioned why Meyer elected to kick onside after the Buckeyes took a 42-7 lead on Braxton Miller's second of three TD passes with 3 seconds left in the half. But the prevailing logic dictated that Ohio State was merely trying to prevent a long kickoff return with so little time left.
Most of the starters were long gone midway through the third quarter, yet Miller was still on the field in a two-quarterback set when backup Kenny Guiton ran for the first of his two scores with 4 minutes remaining in the third that made it 56-7.
"In the third quarter we started pulling guys out," Meyer said. "Number one, we're trying to be sportsmen, but we also don't want to get guys hurt."
Penn State's Bill O'Brien was gracious after the humiliating defeat. He went out of his way to say that it was the fault of him and his staff that the game got out of hand, and that his team would learn from such a bitter lesson. He praised Ohio State's personnel and called the Buckeyes "a hell of a football team."
The only time he even hinted that he thought the Buckeyes tried too hard to make it a rout — and this required some reading between the lines — was when he said his players would put the loss behind them, then added, "We'll remember some things."
Next up for the Buckeyes is a game at Purdue (1-6, 0-3), last in most statistical categories in the conference. There'll be no need for the Boilermakers, who have lost five in a row, to go to any Halloween horror movies; all they need do is take a gander at Ohio State's game film against Penn State.
The Buckeyes, meanwhile, say they're just playing out the string and hoping for the best.
"We don't worry about it," safety C.J. Barnett said. "Honestly, we just focus on the task at hand and next week that will be Purdue. All the other stuff will take care of itself at the end of the season."
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