Thursday, November 13, 2014

BUCKEYES' ROAD TO PLAYOFF RUNS THROUGH MINNESOTA

COLUMBUS — It is remarkable how much this Ohio State football team has evolved over the past two months. The upward progression can be compared to a rocket blasting into space.

After looking absolutely putrid in their week two loss against lowly Virginia Tech, the Buckeyes have not only bounced back, they have catapulted themselves into the College Football Playoff discussion by winning their last seven outings by a margin of 30 points per game.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer — who has won two national championships in his illustrious career thus far — said this year's Buckeyes have improved more in one season than any team he has ever coached.

"This is the most improved team that I've been a part of," Meyer said Monday, during his weekly media luncheon in Columbus. "I've been fortunate to be around some championship-level teams.

"They have a common characteristic and they're grinders. And they get better each week. Those are championship-level teams. Once again, this could all be gone if we don't go out and continue to do what we do and that's grind on a Tuesday, Wednesday and a Thursday.

"I do know a championship-level team. A team continues to grow like they are, like this, there's no question this is one of them."

Following their offensive exhibition last Saturday night against one of the best defenses in college football (Michigan State), the Buckeyes (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) have garnered the attention of the playoff committee, something they haven't seemed able to do after beating up on punching bags like Kent State, Cincinnati, Maryland, Rutgers, Penn State and Illinois.

"It was our best performance that we've had since we've been here," Meyer said. "I think we probably had more yards against other teams. But that was against a legitimate top 5 defense in America and a bunch of NFL players on that defense. 

"And it was very well executed."

However, that incredible execution must continue each week for the Buckeyes to remain in contention.

This Saturday (12 p.m., ABC), the Buckeyes head to Minnesota for a battle against the upstart Golden Gophers (7-2, 4-1), who are vying for a West Division title.

Senior tailback David Cobb, who has rushed for more than 180 yards in nearly half of Minnesota's games this season, will be the catalyst in the Golden Gophers' attempt to take down the red-hot Buckeyes.

Meyer said the Minnesota coaching staff, led by head coach Jerry Kill, will have the Golden Gophers gunning for the upset on Saturday.

"I've known Jerry Kill a long time," Meyer said. "And I've always thought he was one of the best football coaches and his coaching staff has been together, I think his defensive corps has been together forever. And his offensive corps for like 15 years.

"He's won at every level. And I admire those guys that do that. I have a lot of admiration for him as a coach. And he knows that ...

"So we have to be done with the celebration part (following the big win over Michigan State). Now we're learning from it. We're moving forward."

Bottom Line

I could go on and on about how each team needs to do this and do that in order to come out victorious. However, I will save the ink.

Ohio State freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett is playing better than any signal caller in the nation right now, and I don't see anything other than continued brilliance this Saturday in Minneapolis.

Lee's Prediction: OSU 50-27