Lonely at the Top?
Buckeyes Uneasy About Being No. 1
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS — In his play “Henry IV” Shakespeare wrote “Heavy is the head that wears the crown”.
Nearly four centuries later, an American rock band named Three Dog Night told us that one is the loneliest number, worse than two.
If there’s anything we’ve learned about being No. 1 from these great wordsmiths, it’s that it can be awfully lonely at the top.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“No one expects No. 2 to do everything, but when you're at No. 1, everyone's looking for you to fall,” Ohio State senior Cam Heyward said Tuesday, one day after the Buckeyes took over the top spot in both the Associated Press and USA Today coaches Poll.
Just about everyone wants to see the No. 1 team in the country go down, but never more so than when that spot is occupied by the Buckeyes, who still showed up at No. 2 on the Rivals.com and Sports Illustrated power rankings.
“All the ranking does is put a target on your chest. You’re No. 1, everyone wants to beat you,” senior guard Justin Boren said.
“We’re Ohio State; everyone wants to beat us every week anyway. No one wants us to win the Big Ten anymore.”
Whether it’s Jim Tressel, the two BCS Championship game losses, their lack of success against the SEC or their dominance of the Big Ten, Ohio State seems to be the school everyone likes to root against.
“And we know everybody does and we look forward to just proving them wrong,” said Heyward, one of the OSU’s six captains.
The Buckeyes took over as the new No. 1 after South Carolina put an end to Alabama’s 19-game winning streak over the weekend. Heyward and some of his teammates might have been happier to see the Crimson Tide stay unbeaten a little longer.
“We always just want to be No. 2, then we just go under the radar, but we know since we're No. 1 we're going to have the bulls-eye on our back even more,” Heyward said Tuesday.
“But I don't think anyone's complaining about it. We know we have great responsibility. We have to take care of business on and off the field and it says a lot about our guys that we have to focus even more.”
Immediately following Alabama’s loss, Ohio State safety Jermale Hines was among a handful of Buckeyes who used their personal Twitter accounts to make it clear they preferred not to be the No. 1 team in the country.
“I don’t want to be #1,” Hines Tweeted on Saturday, but the senior out of Glenville backpedalled on those comments Tuesday.
“I didn’t want to be No. 1 at first, but at the end of the day it’s mid season, you have to start somewhere,” he said when asked about his Tweet.
One Buckeye who didn’t back down from his feelings on holding the top spot in the rankings after six games was junior wide receiver DeVier Posey.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Definitely, you want to have it,” Posey said of the No. 1 ranking.
“I didn't do those sprints for nothing. I don't play football to be No. 2. That’s not my goal. I don’t put on my pads and my helmet to go out there and lose and be No. 2 to anybody.”
Posey and classmates like Terrelle Pryor, Michael Brewster and J.B. Shugarts had goals of becoming the best in the team in the country when they got to Columbus more than two years ago. The game Saturday against Wisconsin will be their first ever as the No. 1-ranked team in college football, but they aren’t shying away from the challenge.
“There's no fear in me, no fear in the guys around me. We’ll take it and embrace it and increase our focus and just get better that way,” Posey added.
“I don’t feel like I’m second to anyone, and the guys in the locker room feel that way too. That’s just our goal, and if it happens now or January, it’s bound to happen at some point this year.”
It just so happens that it came on the eve of what might be Ohio State’s biggest road trip of the season. The Buckeyes will take their new ranking into unruly Camp Randall Stadium Saturday night, and they expect the place will be even more boisterous with the nation’s No. 1 team coming in.
“I think the opponent gets more fired up,” Hines said.
“The atmosphere will probably be a little bit more fired up playing the No. 1 team in the nation.”
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor called a players-only meeting on Sunday before the regularly-scheduled team meeting to address the new ranking. He told the team to stay focused and to think about how Alabama must feel right now, because they will feel the same way on Sunday if they don’t take care of business in Madison.
“We understand they put us with a one-tag, but we have to understand that doesn’t make us any better,” Posey said.
“We’re the same team that we were on Saturday night, and on Sunday when we had the No. 1 tag it doesn’t make a difference.”
It will if they are still wearing that tag come January.
“If we’re ranked No. 1 after the season, then come talk to me,” Boren said.
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