By Rusty Miller
COLUMBUS: Bring on ’Bama. Florida State, too.
Ohio State wide receiver Evan Spencer made it clear Monday that he believes the Buckeyes are better than No. 3. Spencer had a chance to watch two-time defending national champion Alabama and second-ranked Florida State last weekend while the Buckeyes had an open date.
“I guess I’m a little biased but I think we’d wipe the field with both of them,” said Spencer with a chuckle. The junior, who is the son of former Ohio State and NFL player and coach Tim Spencer, added, “That’s just my bias speaking.”
Actually, Spencer didn’t mention Florida State. Asked if he was referring to the Seminoles, he said, “Whoever.”
Urban Meyer took a very different approach to making it known that he thinks the Buckeyes deserve a chance to play for the national title.
Meyer said he voted the Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) No. 2 on his USA Today coaches’ poll ballot — behind Alabama but ahead of Florida State.
“I believe we have Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State,” Meyer said of his ballot. He couldn’t remember the order of the next two teams, between Stanford and Baylor.
Asked for his rationale in voting that way, Meyer said, “I had us [No.] 2 all year. I just think we’re playing like one of the top teams in the country right now.”
The coaches’ poll is used in the BCS standings formula.
The Buckeyes are clearly a confident group, going into a game at Illinois on Saturday. The Illini (3-6, 0-5) have lost 19 consecutive Big Ten games, and Ohio State has the nation’s longest winning streak at 21 in a row.
Ohio State has dominated the Big Ten the past two years, winning close games and winning blow-outs alike. That has worked against the Buckeyes, since many voters — both in media and among the coaches — believe the Big Ten has fallen on hard times in terms of talent.
For much of this season, the Buckeyes have been the only Big Ten team ranked among the top 15 in the polls.
The Southeastern Conference, meanwhile, has won the last seven national championships, with Alabama winning three of the last four. The Crimson Tide and Florida State, which has powered its way back to national prominence this season, are both unbeaten. The top two teams in the Bowl Championship Series rankings will play in the national championship game at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 6.
The off week enabled Ohio State’s players and coaches to watch most of the other top teams in action. On Thursday night, they watched then-No. 2 Oregon lose to No. 5 Stanford 26-20 and undefeated and fifth-ranked Baylor pound No. 12 Oklahoma 41-12.
On Saturday, most of the Buckeyes were watching as Alabama broke free in the second half to take a convincing 38-17 win over No. 10 LSU and Florida State, which is second in the BCS standings behind Alabama, roll over Wake Forest 59-3.
“We’re football junkies,” Ohio State assistant coach Kerry Coombs said. “That was enjoyable. You do watch those guys. You want to watch good teams play and see how their kids stack up against your kids.”
Coombs declined to say if he felt Ohio State could hold its own against the likes of the Crimson Tide and Seminoles.
“I’m not in a place to evaluate that,” he said. “I’d like to think we could hold our own against anybody. We’re looking forward to playing anybody and everybody that shows up.”
The Buckeyes’ remaining schedule after Illinois is home against Indiana (4-5, 2-3) and then the annual late-November feud with rival Michigan (6-3, 2-3) at the Big House.
After that will likely come the Big Ten championship game — the Buckeyes have the inside track at winning the Leaders Division title and the same goes for Michigan State in the Legends — before the final BCS rankings come out along with the bowl bids.
Meyer said the bar is raised as the season builds to a crescendo.
“The message is you have to play great,” he said. “You’re held to [a higher standard] to be even mentioned with those other teams. Be careful what you wish for — that means you have to practice and play at a certain level.
“We practiced at a very, very high level today. And we all expect them to play at a very high level, because you’re in the same breath with some very, very good teams.”