Published November 20, 2014
Terrelle Pryor doesn't read a lot.
Sure, he keeps up with his classwork. But all those preseason magazines on the rack at the book store? He ignores them because off all the good things they're saying about him and his Ohio State teammates.
"Actually I hate magazines," the junior quarterback said. "I don't even want to see that, because I don't want my mind to be distracted."
It's hard to avoid all the praise that's being lavished on the Buckeyes
Almost every poll, pundit and publication has them ranked among the top two or three teams in the land. Many have singled out Pryor as the Heisman Trophy favorite, even though Alabama's Mark Ingram is back after winning it last year. And several media outlets have already picked Ohio State to win the national championship.
Pryor looks at all those nice words as more hurdles to the Buckeyes' hopes. To him, all the compliments in the world won't win games. As a matter of fact, they might make it harder.
"We don't need none of the hype," Pryor said. "There's always going to be the roundup of the top teams. We don't need to read any of that stuff. We just need to focus and to take care of the business we need to take care of."
It's a trap that many teams fall into, or at least blame after the fact. Every single team every year says it is unified and focused, then a loss springs questions about whether players let up or thought they could win without maximum effort.
That was the common refrain from Ohio State players in the wake of their embarrassing, lopsided losses to Florida and LSU in the national championship games at the end of the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Some said the team's stars began to believe their press clippings and didn't work as hard. They said there were schisms on the team.
"You think back to the '06 year where the team was unbelievable," defensive lineman Dexter Larimore said. "We stuck together. Then guys started to kind of think they were better than they were. Then it kind of just all fell apart. In '07 it wasn't as bad as far as the team thinking they were all so good. In '07 we were all humble and stuff, but we just didn't get it done."
The younger players learn from the older ones. They hear the stories of the root problems behind a loss. So players gradually come around to believe that it is best to avoid all the good things that are said about them.
Defensive end Cameron Heyward was asked how he handles the lofty rankings and predictions.
"Just throw it in the trash," Heyward said. "Because if we believe it, we're going to get beat really quick."
Heyward is certainly not alone. Almost every Buckeye believes that to pay attention to the good things being said is the first step in a season spiraling out of control.
"We really just try to shut it out," linebacker Ross Homan said. "It's good being in camp because we really shut out all outside sources, all media sources. We kind of just focus on the team. We come out here and we don't even think about that stuff."
His running mate at linebacker, Brian Rolle, knows it's important to put things into perspective.
"The polls haven't played anybody. So they just go off of what we've done previously," he said. "At the end of the day the way we play is going to determine where we're ranked."
Just as the Buckeyes try not to dwell on the praise, some of the veterans are spurred on by the snickering they heard after the double humiliations to Southeastern Conference opponents in those back-to-back title games.
For instance, even before the next season began, one e-mail looked ahead to the '09 title game: "National championship game prediction: (insert random SEC team here) 49, Ohio State 10," the anonymous jokester wrote on a blog.
Memories of those losses still rankle the older Buckeyes.
"As a player, that kind of stuff lives with you," Larimore said. "So I never kind of think I'm ever too good because all you have to do is think back to those years. It's just unbelievable the things that they said.
"It's just unbelievable that you can do so well and all it takes is one day for four hours and all of a sudden you're the worst thing that ever happened."