COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Don’t look for Jim Tressel with a 3 iron in his hands this week.
Even though his team doesn’t play on Saturday, the Ohio State coach scoffs at the idea that he and his staff could just laze around for a day.
“We could all go out golfing together,” said Tressel, a non-golfer, with more than a hint of sarcasm.
The bye week comes at an ideal time for the eighth-ranked Buckeyes (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten). It gives them a chance to heal bruises and get back some injured players, such as linebacker Ross Homan who has missed the last two games with a foot injury.
It also gives them a chance to get refreshed and regrouped before the final push.
Their next game is Nov. 13 at home against Penn State. Then comes a huge showdown at No. 15 Iowa that is shaping up to be for at least a piece of the Big Ten championship – with the loser possibly falling all the way to fourth place. Then there’s the annual blood-letting with rival Michigan two days after Thanksgiving at Ohio Stadium.
The players don’t hit the practice field again this week until Wednesday. They make no apologies for seeking a respite in a long season.
“On the bye week, we’ve got to cherish that moment because there’s times that you need to get rest,” quarterback Terrelle Pryor said. “We all need to get some rest, maybe sleep in a couple of days and be a little lazy.”
Since losing at Wisconsin on Oct. 16, the Buckeyes have won their two games by a combined score of 101-10 – and dropped a spot in the Bowl Championship Series rankings.
They are eighth in both the human polls used in the BCS – up two spots in each since their only defeat. But they are an average of 16th in the country in the computers which make up the other portion of the BCS formula, a drop of two spots even after the two most recent wins.
But Ohio State is trying not to dwell on such matters. The major objective this week will be recuperating after three months of non-stop hitting in preseason camp and games. The Buckeyes have made dramatic changes, particularly in the secondary, due to costly injuries to Tyler Moeller, C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant. The first two will definitely miss the rest of the season and Bryant was hospitalized last week with a foot infection which may prevent him from returning before a bowl game.
“We’re looking to get some guys back healthy,” defensive end Cameron Heyward said.
Pryor said the aches and pains of a typical season wear down most players.
“Guys are down a little bit,” he said. “I know I’d like to get my legs back a little bit (during the bye week). Also, I’m going to do some working out to get back to some of the technical, sound stuff like dropbacks and keeping the ball up high and just make sure we take care of that. Then Penn State will be coming in and we have to be crisp altogether as a team and individually. I actually can’t wait for (the week off).”
The bye also allows the coaching staff to evaluate where the team stands.
Through the first nine games, the Buckeyes have proven to be a good defensive team with an at-times solid offense centered on Pryor, a threat to run or pass, and tailback Dan “Boom” Herron.
But special teams continues to be a problem.
The Buckeyes are 101st among the nation’s 120 Bowl Subdivision teams in defense against punt returns (allowing 13 yards per return), and 84th in kickoff return yardage allowed (22.5 yards per attempt).
Only four teams in the country have given up more than Ohio State’s one punt return touchdown and only one team (Oklahoma State, with three) has given up more touchdowns on kickoff returns than the Buckeyes’ two.
Tressel, who is just 2-4 in games coming off a bye week at Ohio State, says a bye this late in the season doesn’t allow for a whole lot of changes in scheme or approach.
“We haven’t had a bye week a whole bunch around here. … Sometimes it’s been early. Sometimes it’s been late,” he said of the week away from games. “Your health is first, catching up academically is second – just less time for them in football.”