COLUMBUS – Urban Meyer called it his State of the Union address. But unlike those annual presidential messages, his speech avoided soaring rhetoric in favor of calming words and focused on the near term instead of looking forward to all the possibilities of a glittering and glorious future.
He simply told Ohio State’s football team not to spend too much time thinking about the first Bowl Championship Series standings, which were announced Sunday afternoon.
Ohio State (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) was fourth behind Alabama, Florida State and Oregon in the BCS rankings.
“We had our first State of the Union yesterday (Sunday). It was the first time I talked about the polls because they’re going to hear it,” Meyer said at his weekly press conference on Monday.
“This BCS thing came out and my comment was that we are indeed in the mix. In the mix for what, don’t worry about it, but we are in the mix. People think very highly of you, maybe some people don’t. You just have to go out and be the best team on the field on Saturdays,” he said.
Unlike other years when Ohio State was a BCS contender, this was a back burner topic which didn’t come up until almost 15 minutes into Meyer’s press conference, though.
The defensive struggles OSU had in a 34-24 win over Iowa last Saturday and how to avoid a repeat performance when Penn State (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) comes to Ohio Stadium on Saturday night dominated the discussion.
In its last three games against Wisconsin, Northwestern and Iowa, Ohio State has allowed 295, 343 and 245 yards passing. The defensive line and linebackers also struggled in the first half against Iowa.
Meyer, who has used the word “alarming” several times about OSU’s defense in recent weeks, says there are issues with the defense but nothing that can’t be fixed.
“We have good enough players. We have good enough coaches. We just have to play better,” he said.
Defensive lineman Michael Bennett says the defense has gotten the message.
“After watching film, there is no way to get around it. In the first half, they (Iowa) beat the crap out of us. We can’t start a game like that again,” Bennett said. “I don’t think we’ve ever allowed ourselves to be manhandled like that. I don’t think that is going to happen again this season. Players are ratcheting up the intensity.”
TALKING TARGETING: Meyer said he did not think the tackle that caused cornerback Bradley Roby to be ejected from the Iowa game under the new “targeting” enforcement was the kind of play the rule was aimed at.
“That rule was not put in for that play,” he said. “I think that the NCAA and everybody is going to want to re-look at that rule. We at Ohio State are very concerned about player safety. We have gone to the N-th degree. Any rule for the safety of the players, no question, we support it.
“However, that was a game changer. To take one of your better players out of the game, that impacted the game,” he said.
ROBY REGRESSION?: Meyer said that even before the ejection Roby has not played up to the standards he set last season when he considered leaving early for the NFL draft.
The year got off to a bad start when Roby was suspended for the opener against Buffalo for an incident with a bouncer at a Bloomington, Ind., bar. He has appeared to be burned in coverage at times but also has had high points, like blocking a punt for a touchdown against Northwestern.
“He’s not playing at the same level he did a year ago,” Meyer said. “At times he plays fantastic. When there’s a mistake on the corner position, it’s glaring. He’s going to finish the year strong.”
OSU-PURDUE KICKOFF: Ohio State’s game at Purdue on Nov. 2 will start at noon. It will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
ANOTHER SPEECH: With Iowa leading OSU 17-10 at halftime last Saturday, wide receiver Corey Brown asked Meyer if he could talk to the team, something that is not a common occurrence.
It was a memorable speech, wide receiver Devin Smith said.
“We came in and you could kind of tell the locker room was dead. Everybody was really not saying anything, everybody just looking at each other. Right before we went out, Coach Meyer said we needed to step it up.
“Philly (Brown) just stood up and said, ‘This is not how we play.’ He was screaming and he was just saying ‘This is not us and this is now how we play. We need to show them what we’re all about.’ ”