COLUMBUS – When it was suggested to Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer that coaches always say polls and national rankings don’t mean anything, he quickly replied, “Not this coach.”
Ohio State is No. 8 in The Associated Press poll this week, up four spots from last week after beating Nebraska 63-38 last Saturday night.
It is the Buckeyes’ first appearance in the AP top 10 since 2010. They are ineligible for the coaches poll this season because of being banned from postseason play by the NCAA.
Meyer said he parts ways with most of the coaching fraternity because talking about rankings can motivate a team and because there is no point ignoring the reality of being ranked.
“The thing is they’re going to talk about it when they go home, they’re going to talk about it when they go to class. Why not talk about, ‘Here’s where we’re at.’ We don’t talk about it in September, but once it gets going, absolutely we’ll talk about it,” he said at his weekly press conference on Monday.
“We’re not shy. We have a state of the union every week with the players and they know. We’re not hiding it. You’re a top 10 football team and the stakes are real high.”
Florida was ranked in the top 10 three times in the final polls in Meyer’s six seasons as the Gators’ coach.
Ohio State’s players say they like that Meyer talks about rankings.
“Coach Meyer says if you don’t think statistics are important, you’re lying,” offensive lineman Corey Linsley said.
Defensive lineman John Simon said, “I think it’s important to the team to show where you are right now. You try to get as high as you can. We’re trying to get to No. 1, if possible.”
Ohio State (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) will play at Indiana (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) for an 8 p.m. game on the Big Ten Network.
The Buckeyes will be without senior linebacker Etienne Sabino, who suffered a broken bone in his leg early in the Nebraska game and had surgery to put a plate into it.
Meyer called losing Sabino “a tremendous blow” and said his return is uncertain. “The best case is three weeks, the worst is longer. We hope to get him back,” he said.
Sabino ranks third on the team in tackles with 37 and has two quarterback sacks.
His injury puts a spotlight on one of the issues Ohio State faces – a lack of depth, which is multiplied by having freshmen in backup positions at several positions.
“Our last two games were physical and we lost some players. Are the backups ready? Do they want to be ready? That’s the challenge I have, what I am really concerned about is the backups,” Meyer said.
Freshman Joshua Perry replaced Sabino against Nebraska. Indiana relies mostly on its passing game, so OSU will probably go with two linebackers, Ryan Shazier and Storm Klein, and five defensive backs for most of Saturday’s game.
The linebacker backups are all freshmen, which means their development is especially important now.
“Josh Perry has to step up. He has all the talent,” Meyer said. “David Perkins is a guy that’s helping us on kickoffs but should be further ahead. Jamal Marcus should be further ahead. Cameron Williams has played a little bit. They’re all good kids, they come from good families and have talent. So we’ve just got to accelerate their growth.”
JONES RETURNS: Freshman redshirt quarterback Cardale Jones was not in uniform against Nebraska after saying in his Twitter account that he didn’t know why he had to go to class and Meyer confirmed that he had received a one-game suspension for that.
“Very ignorant comment, but that's a 19-year-old making an ignorant comment, which makes him one of 460 million. So we're moving on. I've moved on already,” Meyer said.
“We've had a good chat. He's very apologetic. He does go to class in case people want to check, and he's actually a hell of a kid. It kind of surprised me. “
INJURY UPDATE: Running back Jordan Hall is out for a second straight week. Safety C.J. Barnett could return after missing the last three games with a high ankle sparin.