COLUMBUS, Ohio — A special teams meeting isn’t the only thing more important to Urban Meyer than the preseason AP poll. It was, though, the first thing that popped into his head.
If the Ohio State football coach had given it more time, he probably could have listed several hundred other priorities before getting around to what voters across the country think about the prospects for the Buckeyes this season.
That’s completely fair, because it’s well established that those rankings don’t mean anything, particularly now that the BCS formula has gone the way of leather helmets.
But whether Meyer is paying attention, the fact that the Buckeyes checked in at No. 2 on Monday helped ensure that he doesn’t have to address the polls with his team before it has even played a game. And that should have counted as a bonus when he walked into the film room to break down his kickers.
Not that Meyer would publicly weigh in on it anyway.
“You know my answer, right? We’ve got kicking meetings here in an hour, have to be ready for that,” Meyer said. “I like our team, I like the fact — I hate to be redundant or, as my wife says, use coach speak — but I really like our players. They’ve shown it throughout training camp.”
“I’m not sure what you’re expecting me to say. Do I think they’re a great team? I don’t think they’re a great team yet. But I like where we’re at.”
Meyer was, for the record, informed of where his team is at in the polls. And while he dismissed that conversation essentially the same way he has every season he’s been in charge at Ohio State, it’s easy to see how being No. 2 has its perks.
Nobody might like to brag about being in second place. In August, though, that might be the perfect spot for a team with national-title aspirations.
There is no burden of going into the season expected to go wire-to-wire and win it all. Ask the 2015 Ohio State team how much fun it is living with that extra pressure and scrutiny every single week. Meyer should’t need to tell his team to keep things in perspective or remind the Buckeyes that they haven’t accomplished anything yet.
Perhaps more important, if he wants a little motivation over the next week or so before the opener at Indiana, Meyer might just mention how many people believe the program still is playing catch-up with Alabama. The Crimson Tide are overwhelming favorites with 52 first-place votes to Ohio State’s three.
There isn’t much that seems to irritate the Buckeyes quite like questions and comparisons to the Crimson Tide. So, maybe Ohio State just got some free fuel to rev up heading into an opening stretch filled with unique challenges.
Then again, they probably don’t need it since expectations for the Buckeyes never change, no matter where they’re ranked. But even veterans who know firsthand how little those polls matter in August still can’t help but notice them, either filing away the slight or embracing what might be the ideal preseason landing spot.
“I mean, yeah, I care,” senior defensive end Tyquan Lewis said. “That means people respect us.
“With that comes a lot of responsibility, but that also means a lot of people respect us.”
Just not quite as much as the team at No. 1 — at least for now.
There’s plenty of time to change some minds — and no burden to live up to the top billing right from the start.
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