No. 2 Ranking Puts Bulls-Eye on Buckeyes
By Rob Ogden
Preseason polls are an interesting thing. As much as the general fan claims to hate their existence, many wait anxiously for them to be released, wondering where their team will rank.
The players claim not to care about them either, but they're not oblivious. As much as they might try to ignore the rankings, they generally know where they stand.
This isn't news to the average fan, but the Associated Press Top 25 poll was released Saturday, and Ohio State came in at No. 2, behind only two-time defending champion Alabama. The Crimson Tide received all but two first-place votes, one of which went to the Buckeyes.
When asked about the rankings, a few Buckeyes pleaded ignorance.
Photo by Dan Harker
"I don't follow that kind of stuff but I guess it feels good," junior defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. "I don't think it matters too much because you can be a preseason All-American and not do anything. You've just got to come out and play."
This marks the fourth time the Buckeyes have been ranked No. 2 in the preseason AP poll since 2002.
In the previous three years, Ohio State has never lived up to that billing, but has finished in the top 10 in each of those three seasons.
The Buckeyes' best finish as preseason No. 2 came in 2003 when they defeated Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl and ended the year at No. 4.
A Sugar Bowl victory at the conclusion of the 2010 season left the Buckeyes at No. 5 in the final AP poll.
The 2008 squad finished just inside the top 10 at No. 9 after being ranked No. 2 in the preseason.
Whether or not he wants to acknowledge the poll, Bennett knows expectations for the Buckeyes are high.
"The country's gunning for us," he said. "We're not just a small team that goes out there and expects to go 5-7 or something like that. Especially now after last year, we're expected to be the best. We've always had that expectation but it's good now to have more people pushing you for it."
Since 2002, the preseason No. 2-ranked team has won the national championship four times. Alabama was ranked preseason No. 2 in each of its last two championship seasons.
LSU was AP preseason No. 2 when it beat Ohio State for the championship following the 2007 season and Texas was preseason No. 2 when it claimed the national title following the 2005 season.
While a national championship is undoubtedly the ultimate goal of any team, sophomore linebacker Josh Perry isn't willing to talk about that, either.
Photo by Dan Harker
"Everyone else is talking about that. We're not," Perry said. "We're just trying to win a Big Ten championship. We've got other goals, we're just trying to take it one game at a time."
However Perry wouldn't deny the bulls-eye on the Buckeyes' back.
"Everyone in the Big Ten is going to be coming after us, which is what we expect," he said. "We've gotta expect their best shot from all those guys. People are gonna be turning on the TV all around America, whether or not they like the Buckeyes they're probably gonna be watching so there's definitely a target, that spotlight on us, so we gotta be able to handle that."
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