COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - It only seems as if No. 13 Ohio State has been out of action more than it’s been in action the past few Saturdays.
After two bye weeks in the last month, the Buckeyes play on the next seven Saturdays to complete the regular season. How things turn out will determine if they’re busy an eighth consecutive weekend at the Big Ten championship game.
The Buckeyes (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) are tired of sitting around and watching other teams play.
“Oh, yeah, man. I’m glad it’s here,” wide receiver Evan Spencer said of this week’s game at home against Rutgers (5-1, 1-1). “Going through the bye week and having bye-week practices, it’s always good to refine some skills. But game weeks are always different. Everybody’s excited to kind of get going and get back in the groove.”
Since coach Urban Meyer has never had so many byes so early in a season, he’ll challenge his team - today and for the days to follow.
“If you have a bad team and guys that don’t quite listen to you, then you have to create things,” Meyer said on Monday. “(But) I’m going to talk to (our players) like grown men, and I’ll say, ‘This is where we’re at, this is what we have to do, you’ve had three days off, let’s pick up and go.’ I’m anticipating that they’ll answer.”
The teams have a lot in common, even though the Scarlet Knights are a novelty in their first year in the Big Ten. They also are coming off a bye week and have also won their last three games.
Coach Kyle Flood said his team benefited in the classroom by the Saturday off.
“The biggest advantage we got from the bye week was when it fell academically into our calendar. Last week was a very academically intensive part of our semester,” he said.
He added, “You always get a little bit healthier on the bye week. I think we handled that part of it well.”
Meyer isn’t happy that his young team - riding a three-game winning streak with an average score of 56-17 - didn’t have a game again last week. It had been on such a roll.
But he feels the Buckeyes made the most of the time, working on some problem areas while taking a deep breath before the trials that await.
“Once again, I like our team,” Meyer said. “We’re certainly nowhere near where we’ll end up, in my opinion. We’re still growing and getting better. We’re a much better team than we were two weeks ago and that’s because you get in the game and gain experience.”
The Buckeyes were clicking on offense, scoring at least 50 points in their last three games, before taking off last week.
Offensive coordinator Tom Herman said a break can disrupt a team’s rhythm and timing and also cause it to lose concentration.
“We need to do a good job of refocusing the team today and understanding that what lies ahead is as stiff a challenge as we’ll face on defense,” Herman said. “These guys throughout the season kind of handle themselves as pros and I don’t think that’s going to be an issue, although we’ll certainly address it with them and harp on the fact that we do need to now refocus since we’re in game week.”
AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed from East Rutherford, N.J.
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