69F Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN
Urban Meyer doesn't mind his Ohio State Buckeyes discussing their rise in the AP poll.
In fact, he encourages it.
The eighth-ranked Buckeyes so far have proven to be the best in the Big Ten and look to continue making their case as one of the nation's top teams with an 18th straight victory over the host Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday night.
Ohio State (6-0, 2-0) won't end its season in a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions, but it has used that as motivation to prove it's as good - if not better - than other highly touted squads eligible for the BCS championship.
"We're not shy," Meyer said. "(This is a) top-10 football team, and the stakes are real high."
The Buckeyes won't play in the Big Ten championship game, either, but the conference said it will still recognize them as Leaders Division champions. They also can't appear in the coaches' poll due to the sanctions, though the AP poll doesn't take the bans into account for its rankings.
"I definitely think it's important to us," center Corey Linsley said. "Like coach Meyer says, `If you don't think that statistics are important, you're kind of lying.' It's what we play for. We play for these polls, we play to be No. 1 in the country, for there to be no doubt."
John Simon, considered one of the top defensive ends in the country, said the Buckeyes aren't discounting a possible AP national title if they can run the table.
"(The AP poll) is important to the team to kind of show where we are right now," Simon said. "We'll try to get to No. 1 if at all possible. We're doing everything we can."
Ohio State won at then-No. 20 Michigan State 17-16 on Sept. 29 before trouncing then-No. 21 Nebraska 63-38 last week. Braxton Miller ran for 186 yards and a touchdown while throwing for another score against the Cornhuskers.
He ranks third in the Big Ten in rushing, averaging 127.2 yards.
"When it's my chance to get the ball, I'm going to try to make something happen with it," Miller said.
Carlos Hyde set career highs in carries (28), yards (140) and touchdowns (four) as the Buckeyes racked up their most points in a conference game since beating Minnesota 69-18 in 1983.
Ohio State hasn't lost to Indiana in 24 years and has won 17 straight meetings - counting the vacated 2010 victory - since the teams played to a 27-all tie Oct. 13, 1990.
There's little reason to believe the Buckeyes won't extend that streak over a Hoosiers squad which has dropped 10 straight and 22 of 23 Big Ten contests.
Indiana (2-3, 0-2) led Michigan State 17-0 in the first quarter last Saturday, but it mustered only 37 total yards and two first downs in a scoreless second half and fell 31-27.
Cameron Coffman - making his third start after Tre Robinson was lost for the season to a broken left leg Sept. 8 - finished 33 of 48 for 282 yards and three touchdowns, with Shane Wynn catching 12 passes for 70 yards and a score.
"Each season, each year, each week, if you're a good team you get a little tougher and more physical," coach Kevin Wilson said. "We're going to play another tremendously talented and physical team this week on both sides of the ball, so we need to keep building."
Indiana faced one of the more talented running backs in the conference last Saturday in Le'Veon Bell, giving up 121 yards, but Wilson said his squad is preparing for a different type of attack from the Buckeyes' offense.
"(Ohio State uses) a lot more spread, a lot more quarterback runs," Wilson said. "It'll be a different challenge this week."
Miller and Hyde each ran for 105 yards and combined for three touchdowns in the Buckeyes' 34-20 victory over Indiana on Nov. 5. No meeting has been decided by fewer than 10 points since 1993.