Buckeyes Have Things To Prove Against Illini

Buckeyes Have Things To Prove Against Illini

Urban Meyer has been nothing if not honest during his first season as head coach at Ohio State. Wednesday night was no different when the topic of the Buckeyes' readiness to face a struggling Illinois team this weekend at Ohio Stadium.

Urban Meyer seemed to understand why the question came up, and he had an answer ready.

The Buckeyes are ranked No. 6 in the nation and 9-0 heading into their home game against Illinois on Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium, but their play has not been as perfect as their record.

They began the season by trouncing Miami (Ohio) 56-10, but their dominating periods have been offset by doldrums throughout the season. There was a rousing win at then-No. 20 Michigan State to start Big Ten play, and electric night atmospheres seemed to get the Buckeyes' juices going at home against Nebraska the following week and at Penn State last week.

In between the big wins over the Cornhuskers and Nittany Lions, though, the Buckeyes nearly tripped up against both Indiana and Purdue, lower-regarded foes similar to the 2-6 Fighting Illini.

When someone asked Wednesday night how dangerous Illinois is, Meyer responded with a question of his own.

"Here's the thing: How good are we? That's the question you want to ask yourself," Meyer said. "At times, we're really good. At other times, we're not. I think Illinois has got every bit as much talent as we do. I think if we execute we'll be OK, and if we don't, we'll look like we have in the first quarter against Penn State and some other games.

"We're in no position to start worrying about down the road or who we're playing."

That does prevent people – fans, reporters and even players – from talking about what kinds of things could happen for the Buckeyes as the wins mount, however. Although they are not eligible for the Big Ten championship game or a bowl at the end of the season, they could leave a mark in history by posting a 12-0 record.

The Buckeyes are three games from a perfect season, and they could clinch a share of the Big Ten Legends Division championship with a win and some help on Saturday.

Meyer wants the goals to be more immediate, though.

"What 9-0 means to us – you hear me say it, but we all believe it – the best thing about being 9-0 is the chance to go win one more. Don't look back, look forward. We're the only team in America that can line up and go for 10 wins this week. That means a lot to us."

Meyer also repeated an earlier statement from earlier in the week that the struggling Illini – losers of five straight and winless in the conference – are not bereft of talent in their first season under head coach Tim Beckman.

"I'm not sure why things aren't happening for them, but there are a bunch of good players running around on that team.

"I'm glad this is a 3:30 game and an ESPN game. I'm kind of telling our guys to grow up and perform and not worry about prime time or not."

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