By Rusty Miller
COLUMBUS: It’s a long way away from Oklahoma’s major-college record of 47 consecutive victories.
Still, Ohio State might be feeling the pressure of having the nation’s current longest winning streak — 18 games.
“I can feel sometimes pressure mounting on players when you [are on a] streak,” coach Urban Meyer said. “You start hearing about streaks. And it’s my job as a coach and our coaching staff [to make sure] it’s all about today.”
The fourth-ranked Buckeyes (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) can tie for the second longest streak ever at Ohio State when they host Iowa (4-2, 1-1) on Saturday.
The Buckeyes had won 19 in a row, including a national championship, in 2002, and were ranked No. 3 when they fell at Wisconsin, 17-10. The 2005-06 team was ranked No. 1 when it lost 41-14 to Florida — ironically, coached by Meyer — in the national title game.
The most sustained streak at the school is 22 games, encompassing the 1968 national championship. The top-ranked and unbeaten 1969 team had scored almost as many points (62) in its opener as it had allowed through the first eight games (69). But it still was upended 24-12 at archrival Michigan, kicking off the Ten-Year War between Woody Hayes and his former Ohio State lieutenant, Bo Schembechler.
Long winning skeins don’t come along very often. So it’s only natural that when one does, it draws a lot of attention. Also, it piques the interest of opposing teams who would like nothing better than to quash the streak and steal some headlines.
As much as players talk about focusing on the present, the streak is always on the periphery, a consideration that only a few grudgingly acknowledge.
“It brings a little bit of pressure,” defensive tackle Joel Hale said. “It’s great to be part of something outstanding. What are we 18-0 now? Going for 19-0? But our main goal right now isn’t to win the next four games, it’s to beat Iowa.”
Not everyone around the Buckeyes program considers the streak a 500-pound gorilla in the locker room.
Co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers believes winning several games in a row doesn’t mean a buildup in pressure.
“I really don’t believe it does. Every game is its own entity and you go in and you work on every single game and not look at what’s happened in the past,” he said. “The hardest thing as a coach is you’re always thinking about the next one. As soon as you just finished with Northwestern, boom, we have a bye week but we are all planning on how to stop Iowa.”
There are already enough potential distractions and white noise around a major program. A winning streak almost gets lost among the other possible distractions.
“We don’t really pay too much attention to that,” wide receiver Corey Brown said. “We always emphasize a one-game season. We don’t really talk about the winning streak too much.”
Told that the Buckeyes could match the second-longest streaks ever at the school, Brown said that would be a notable achievement but nothing that would get in Ohio State’s way.
“I mean, it’s a good honor, but that’s not our ultimate goal so we don’t spend much time on that,” he said. “We’re more worried about winning this next game and then winning some more games after that.”