Fourth-ranked Ohio State's not perfect - except for its record.
"We don't want to lose," linebacker Ryan Shazier said after a closer-than-expected 34-24 win over Iowa last Saturday. "We know someone might make a mistake but we've got his back."
Mistakes were made, but the bottom line is no matter how they play or who they play, the Buckeyes just keep winning under coach Urban Meyer.
They have all kinds of streaks going: three tight conference wins in a row, a 7-0 mark this season and a nation-best 19 consecutive victories.
At the same time, they haven't been overpowering in Big Ten play - their three wins are by seven points, 10 (with a last-second touchdown) and 10 - and that's not enough to convert poll-voting doubters or the computers that analyze teams in the Bowl Championship Series.
That's the biggest reason why the Buckeyes remain No. 4 in The Associated Press media poll and the USA Today coaches poll. The latter factors into the BCS rankings, which determine the two teams who will play in the national championship game.
For now, Meyer isn't worrying about any of that. He knows that even though few have much regard for the Big Ten or Ohio State's non-conference schedule, it'll be hard to turn away the Buckeyes at the end of the season if they have a zero in the loss column.
"I try to stay away from that," Meyer said of all the peripheral talk. "I want us to be one step closer to where we want to go. Where we want to go is to beat Penn State."
The Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0) host the Nittany Lions (4-2, 1-1), who were idle last week, on Saturday.
After that the Buckeyes have only one remaining home game, playing three of their final four on the road with another bye week thrown in.
This week the coaching staff will undoubtedly be cranky about the defensive effort and another plodding start.
Iowa led 10-3 after a quarter and 17-10 at the half last Saturday. By that point, the Hawkeyes had outgained the Buckeyes 222-189, had a 17-9 bulge in first downs and controlled the ball 6 minutes longer.
Then came halftime.
"I'm more of a yeller and screamer," Meyer said. "(Then I) let the defensive coaches make their adjustments."
After barely slowing the Hawkeyes down in the first half, the defense did make some critical plays afterward even though it was gashed for an 85-yard touchdown from Jake Rudock to Jake Duzey that tied the game at 24 heading into the fourth quarter.
Ohio State's offense suddenly started controlling the line of scrimmage and running at will - Carlos Hyde had 106 of his 143 yards after the break and both of his touchdown runs. At the same time, the defense stiffened. Iowa's four second-half possessions ended with two punts and Tyvis Powell's interception in addition to Duzey's touchdown.
The Buckeyes had started extraordinarily fast in each of their four non-conference games, which, granted, were played against teams that were lopsided underdogs. Since then, however, the Buckeyes have taken a while to get going in conference games.
"We have to start fast," linebacker Curtis Grant said. "The defense is at our best when we start fast, and we feed off the momentum. We didn't do that today and we didn't put it all together until the second half - and that can't happen."
Luckily, the offense dominated the second half.
"You know, sometimes it isn't going to go as you want it to go," quarterback Braxton Miller said after passing for two touchdowns and rushing for 102 yards. "That's why you've got two sides of the ball. They (defenders) lean on us. We picked it up for them."
Meyer will be harping on a quicker start.
"I want to make sure there's no noise in the system, because for some reason we're not starting as fast as we used to," he said. "So I'm going to address that real hard (all week) in practice. Because some day it's not going to turn out that way (that we make a big comeback)."
Ohio State may need to come out strong against a Penn State team that won a thrilling four-overtime game at Happy Valley prior to its bye, beating then-No. 18 Michigan 43-40 on Oct. 12 in the longest game in Big Ten history. The Wolverines came in unbeaten, but the Nittany Lions scored 10 points in the final 6:35 to force the extra periods.
''Nothing should amaze you,'' coach Bill O'Brien said after a wild celebration. ''There's going to be twists and turns. These are tough kids. They love Penn State. They love playing for each other. The locker room is such a great scene right now because these kids really believe in each other.''
Bill Belton ran for a 2-yard touchdown in the fourth OT shortly after he bulled his way to a 3-yard gain when the Nittany Lions went for it on fourth-and-1.
Penn State has won only two of the last five meetings with the Buckeyes, but both victories have come in Columbus.
The most recent of those contests at Ohio Stadium was the Lions' first win since the firing of longtime coach Joe Paterno, as they held Ohio State scoreless in the second half of a 20-14 victory Nov. 19, 2011.
The Buckeyes own a 15-13 edge in the all-time series.
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