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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Fresh off of his team's bye week and with an undefeated record still intact, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer met with the media on Monday to provide an update on the Buckeyes. Speaking for more than 20 minutes, Meyer touched on a number of topics, including the health of his team and what he expects out of its upcoming matchup with Wisconsin.
Bye week blues
In what was the latest bye week than any team in the Big Ten received, it wasn't until after Ohio State's 10th game of the season that the Buckeyes were able to enjoy a week off. With Meyer's team compiling an undefeated record in those first 10 weeks, the OSU coach admitted that he was concerned that his team could have potentially lost some momentum during its bye.
"We're very worried about that," Meyer said. "We go real hard. We were full pads today. A lot of coaches bring them out and do short workouts or something like that. We're full pads. Probably our most physical practice of the week will be today."
With several players opting to spend the past weekend in their hometowns with no game to play, Meyer made sure to leave his players with a message that anything that they do in their week off, could affect their final two games of the season.
"The number one thing to worry about is that phone call, everyone driving home to families and doing something ignorant on a Friday or Saturday night," Meyer said. "My comment was, if it's going to help us win our 11th game, do it, and do it a lot. If it's not, don't do it."
One piece of good news that the Buckeyes' bye week brought was that linebacker Etienne Sabino will be healthy enough to play when Ohio State takes the field in Madison on Saturday. Having not played since the first half of the Buckeyes' Oct. 6 win over Nebraska due to a fractured fibula, the fifth-year senior is expected to play with OSU's first-team against the run-heavy Badgers offense.
"I can't tell you what percent he's at, but he's in the starting lineup for the game," Meyer said.
Joining Sabino in the Buckeyes' starting unit will be linebackers Ryan Shazier and Zach Boren. Although Storm Klein will also return from a back injury, Meyer admitted that he'd still like to see his team develop more player capable of playing snaps at those positions.
"Still not near the depth we need," Meyer said. "I think there's ways to stop the run."
Battling the Badgers
Although not currently ranked within the top 25 polls, Wisconsin will likely be one of the more difficult teams that the Buckeyes play all season, especially within the confines of Camp Randall stadium. At 7-3 on the season and fresh off of a 62-14 drubbing on Indiana, the Badgers will represent the Big Ten Leaders Division in the conference championship game, with neither Ohio State or Penn State eligible to play in the game.
"They're a much improved football team," Meyer said of Wisconsin. "Teams either get better or get worse. Obviously, the team we're playing this week has gotten a lot better."
Despite an offseason war of words that saw Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema accuse Meyer of unethical recruiting tactics when it came to the Buckeyes securing the commitment of offensive lineman Kyle Dodson, the OSU coach said that there isn't any bad blood between himself of the Badgers' head man.
"I have a lot of respect for his team," Meyer said. "That was kind of a lot of stuff that was blown up. I've never had any issue other than they're a good team."
One of the main reasons that the Badgers have found such success lately has been the play of senior running back Montee Ball. The 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist is the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, after rushing for 198 yards and three touchdowns in his team's win over the Hoosiers.
"He started slow, but I don't put that on him," Meyer said of Ball. "They had a lot of transition in the coaching staff."
Meyer said what impresses him most about the 212-pound running back is his combination of size and speed, which makes him one of the most talented offensive players that the OSU defense will face all season.
"His strengths are great vision, and he's a really fast player," Meyer said. "He'll be a very good NFL back."
No motivation necessary
Earlier this season, Meyer stated that he wouldn't address what it was that the Buckeyes were playing for this season until the latter part of it. But with that portion here with only two games remaining, the first-year OSU coach said that he hasn't had to, due to the incredible self-motivation that he's witnessed from his team.
"Haven't had to. I kind of like my guys. They're competitors right now," Meyer said. "They've developed. These's some gifted competitors already in the group."
With the Buckeyes current ranked sixth in The Associated Press Top 25, Meyer said that he hasn't even discussed the possibility of a split national championship with his team, as he doesn't feel that it's been necessary to do so.
"I just like our team meetings, man," Meyer said. "We're going and we're talking aout practice, we're talking about how to stop one of the most potent run games in America."
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