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Playing For Nothing

Finding purpose one game at a time.
Finding purpose one game at a time.

Motivating a group of people can be tricky.

It’s hard to find a handful of things in life that are more complex than motivation. It’s a personal experience that becomes almost indefinable when you need to grasp it the most. When people are pushed past their limit and still have a mountain to climb, the urge to succumb can be overwhelming.

What pushes one person over their mountain won’t necessarily push the next person over theirs. You can call me fat and it would likely motivate me to search the darkest corners of my wallet for that old gym membership card. Do the same thing to a person with serious self-image issues and you’ll probably push them even further down the self-destructive road their traveling on.

That’s the challenge Urban Meyer is facing at Ohio State this year. Over 100 individuals populate the roster he’s in control of, and each one of them will approach this season differently.

What’s worse for Meyer, he has to motivate his team despite the fact that their mountain top -- the one thing they work so hard for -- has been taken away. Ohio State’s postseason ban disables the Buckeyes from competing for a Big Ten championship or a bowl game on any level.

It’s like running a marathon with no finish line. Ohio State will be playing for nothing this year.

So how do you motivate a team when their mountain top is taken away? It’s something that Meyer has struggled with since Ohio State’s sanctions were announced. The two-time National Championship coach uses competitiveness and the possibility of playing for it all to push his teams over the hump, and half of his formula has been taken away.

As fall camp progresses -- the team’s motivation is becoming clearer.

Ohio State can’t win a championship this year, but they can get back on track. The 2011 campaign was so void of passion that you could almost see the apathy on the field. The Buckeyes lost one of the best motivators in college football when Jim Tressel resigned and it showed. The team hit rock bottom.

Meyer wants 2012 to be the year Ohio State rights the ship. You can see it very clearly in the way he talks to the team:

"I want a hungry team. I want a team that can’t wait to get out there," Meyer said. "Most importantly... I want an angry team. I want a pissed off football team. I want a team that has a little chip on their shoulder. Maybe something has been taken from you. Are you a team that’s gonna go get it? You’re the Ohio State Buckeyes, and you’re an angry football team."

He’s right. Something was taken from the Buckeyes last year. A decade of dominance came to an abrupt halt as the losses piled up. The fear Ohio State used to see in their opponents eyes was replaced by a haunting confidence.

In 2012, Meyer wants his team to get that back. Technically speaking, the Buckeyes are playing for nothing this year. When the team looks at the top of the mountain in front of them, there isn’t a conference championship or bowl game. What they’ll see is everything that was taken from them in 2011, and Meyer wants his team to climb that mountain -- one pissed off step at a time -- to reclaim what belongs to them.

It appears as though the message has been received, "This is our redemption year," sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby said. "We're going to come out and show everybody why we're Ohio State."