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Big Ten championship has huge implications for Ohio State

November 25, 2018
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Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer signals to his team during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State beat Michigan 62-39. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Urban Meyer contends that nobody around Ohio State will be talking about the College Football Playoff this week, even though the Buckeyes inserted themselves back into the national championship conversation with a blowout of Michigan.

Ohio State won the Big Ten East on Saturday with the 62-39 rout over the Wolverines and has a chance for a second consecutive Big Ten title if it can beat No. 21 Northwestern in the conference championship Saturday.

A spot in the playoff could still come, but the Buckeyes have to win big in Indianapolis.

“I don’t believe other than kids staring at their phones that there will be a lot of conversation about it,” Meyer said about the potential for a playoff spot. “You get a ring when you win this championship, and that’s always the conversation around here.”

Asked on a conference call with reporters Sunday whether Ohio State is worthy of being in the playoff discussion right now, Meyer said, “I don’t think we are yet.”

“Certain parts of our team certainly are,” he said. “And certain parts are not. But I would imagine that there are probably other teams in that same boat.”

A month ago it seemed like a stretch that Ohio State (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) would be preparing for the trip to Indianapolis.

The Buckeyes were blown out by unranked Purdue on Oct. 20, didn’t look great in the next three games and were underdogs entering the regular-season finale against No. 4 Michigan and the nation’s best defense.

Then came a complete thumping of the Wolverines that suddenly brought all of the Buckeyes’ goals back into focus. They jumped four spots in the AP Top 25 to No. 6 and should move from No. 10 up to around Nos. 5 or 6 when the new playoff rankings come out Tuesday.

“I’m going to be very hard on everybody this week,” Meyer promised.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said he won’t have any problem keeping the focus on the game. This is a pretty big deal.

No. 21 Northwestern started 1-3, losing early season games to Duke, Akron and Michigan. But the Wildcats swept every other Big Ten West team and clinched a berth in the title game with two games left.

The Wildcats are worthy, Fitzgerald said.

“If you go back and watch, especially the Akron and Duke games, we beat ourselves,” he said. “We didn’t play very well, we didn’t coach very well, and it was very disappointing. I think our leadership really stepped up, kept grinding, kept working to get better and the credit all goes to our players.”

The Wildcats (8-4, 8-1 Big Ten) are in the Big Ten championship for the first time since the conference was divided and the game created in 2011. They haven’t won a conference crown since 2000. He said he can see a day where the title game might even mean more for a team known more for its graduation rate than consistently competing with the big boys.

“I think it’s great right now that every game matters in college football,” Fitzgerald said. “I think these conference championships obviously will have a huge influence on who makes the final four. And from a school that maybe is a historical ‘(have)-not’ compared with a historical ‘have,’ I like that you have every opportunity to win your way into the discussion.”

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