Lost among the latest round of quarterback updates at Urban Meyer's weekly press conference Monday was the Ohio State coach acknowledging the stress the 2015 season has brought upon the entire program.
In other words, 'The Grind' is real.
"I do believe that there's a little bit of tightness, heaviness of expectation, living up to other people's expectation, living up to our own expectation," Meyer said. "Most of the people in that locker room were together in Dallas, Texas and saw stuff falling from the ceiling, and then I feel it. But the good thing is I have experience with it.
"It is a grind, and the whole end point was we all made decisions. You don't have to stay here. You don't have to coach here. Go wherever you want, but you have to embrace the grind because there's only one way we're going to do it, and that's work really hard. That was the whole purpose of it."
To Ohio State fans: have you enjoyed the season? Or have you spent the fall agonizing over the quarterback situation, the defense's ability to stop a straight-ahead run game, or why it's so difficult for one of college football's preeminent programs to locate a decent place-kicker?
In everyday life, it's difficult to simply just enjoy being alive, isn't it? Dealing with the day-to-day minutiae of being a self-sufficient human being can be a tedious existence. That's why we look forward to things that bring us joy.
For Ohio State fans, the entire offseason was geared toward the opener on Labor Day against Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes won that game 42-24, and everything appeared copacetic moving forward. Cardale Jones justified the starting nod at quarterback. J.T. Barrett was excellent in relief. Braxton Miller spun his way back into our nation's college football conscience. And the defense picked up where it left off at the end of last season. 'Twas a joyous night.
Post-Virginia Tech, the expectation was for the Buckeyes to pummel everyone in their path en route to their showdown on Nov. 21 against Michigan State. That hasn't happened. The past two months have been stressful, exasperating, and often decidedly 'meh.' Part of feeling is due to Ohio State's schedule. The record of the Buckeyes' first nine opponents is 38-45, with 5-4 Illinois waiting on Saturday. Not a single one of Ohio State's previous opponents are receiving votes in the Associated Press or Coaches Polls. Add in a steady diet of quarterback drama and up-and-down on-field performances that often seem to indicate boredom, and it's been quite the slog.
And yet, Ohio State remains brimming with individual and collective greatness. The Buckeyes have won 22 games in a row. With a victory Saturday, the Buckeyes will set the record for consecutive regular-season conference triumphs with 30. (I have to admit, that accomplishment rings hollow given Ohio State's loss to Michigan State in the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game.)
Ezekiel Elliott, a legitimate Heisman contender, is chasing the single-season Ohio State rushing record and is a near-lock to finish the 2015 campaign second on the program's career rushing list. In spite of a low sack total, Joey Bosa is arguably college football's most disruptive defender and stands a exceptional chance of becoming the first Buckeye since Orlando Pace in 1997 (and the fourth Ohio State product overall) to be taken with the first pick in the NFL draft. Darron Lee (linebacker) and Vonn Bell (safety) are locked in as transcendent players at their positions.
"I hope he arouses the fire that's dormant in the innermost recesses of my soul. I plan to face him with the zeal of a challenger." -- Ichiro Suzuki
Most believe Ohio State's official march to the postseason begins with Michigan State. In actuality, the Buckeyes' voyage to (possible) history begins Saturday at Illinois, the same outfit the Buckeyes took on (and plastered 55-14) prior to their showdown with Sparty last season. It's game for Ohio State to regain its offensive footing under J.T. Barrett and to make final preparations for the the late-season grind Meyer has been readying his team for since Week 2.
Michigan and Michigan State await. In all likelihood, so does Iowa. Ohio State will probably have to go through Derrick Henry and Alabama and/or Clemson (a two-way beast). Maybe both. The numbers don't favor a repeat for the current kings of college football, but there's a reason most sequels disappoint. (With the exception of The Godfather Part II and the Dark Knight, of course.)
So, place your worries aside. The Grind is real, but try to enjoy the ride.