No. 1 spot won't be distraction, Buckeyes say

Bill Rabinowitz

A day after the College Football Playoff committee judged Ohio State to be the best team in the country, the Buckeyes maintained their business-as-usual approach.

Hours before the first rankings were released Tuesday, coach Ryan Day and quarterback Justin Fields dismissed the Buckeyes’ status as irrelevant. All that mattered, they said, was how Ohio State finished its season.

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Not much changed after the Buckeyes got the top spot over LSU and Alabama heading into Saturday’s game against visiting Maryland.

Senior safety Jordan Fuller said he didn’t watch the announcement show.

“It's nice that they respect us enough to put us in the No. 1 spot,” he said, “but it doesn't matter if we don't beat Maryland.”

Fuller said Ohio State’s coaches mentioned the ranking, but in the context of using it as motivation.

“Just knowing how far we've come and how much work has been put in to get to this point, it would really suck to have it slip through your fingers,” Fuller said.

He doesn’t believe that will be an issue.

“I know the way I'm wired and the way I know a lot of my teammates are wired,” Fuller said. “We see a bunch of mistakes that we've made on film and other teams see that. We're just really focused on getting our stuff right. We don't think we're that good yet.”

Added linebacker Justin Hilliard, “It’s an honor to be the No. 1 team in the country, but we're not going to let that change anything about our preparation.”

Seeking another year?

Hilliard, a fifth-year senior who returned from a torn Achilles tendon this year after missing two seasons because of biceps injuries, said he has applied for a sixth year of eligibility with the NCAA.

“It is something I want to look into,” Hilliard said. “But it's not something that I know what I want to do yet.”

Hilliard said he needs to discuss the matter with Day and head strength coach Mickey Marotti. He said he talked with former coach Urban Meyer last year about the possibility of seeking another season.

Hilliard was a five-star prospect out of Cincinnati. He started against Wisconsin when the Buckeyes used a 4-4 defensive alignment designed to slow the Badgers’ run game.

“I tell people all the time that just because I've been injured my expectations aren’t lower,” Hilliard said. “I still shoot to try to be the best linebacker in the country.”

Penn State at noon

Ohio State’s game against Penn State on Nov. 23 will have a noon kickoff, Fox announced.

The network will feature Ohio State for the second time this season as part of its Big Noon Saturday package. The Buckeyes defeated Wisconsin 38-7 on Oct. 26 in its Big Noon debut.

Fox will bring its pregame show to town. It will start at 10 a.m. outside Ohio Stadium and move inside the stadium the next hour.

Penn State is No. 4 in the playoff rankings. The Nittany Lions play at unbeaten Minnesota on Saturday.


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