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Buckeyes hoping to avoid a haunting



Published: Sat, October 21, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Ohio State's 11-1 team in 1998 is remembered for its shocking loss.

COLUMBUS (AP) -- As much as No. 1 Ohio State is driven to keep winning, the Buckeyes also are motivated to keep from losing.

"This is for the rest of our life, this season," offensive tackle Kirk Barton said as the Buckeyes prepared for today's game against Indiana. "A season like this, if you drop one, that's what your season is going to be defined as."

Barton has a ready reference. Several members of the 1998 Buckeyes have visited practice over the past few weeks. They tell a sad tale about the one that got away, a blown big lead against Michigan State that resulted in a crippling 28-24 loss.

Those Buckeyes went on to complete an 11-1 season and finished No. 2 in the rankings -- yet are haunted by the one game they didn't win.

"If you drop one, you remember it forever. Just like the '98 team," Barton said. "They dropped that game to Michigan State and that's what they're known for. No one knows that they beat Michigan and beat Texas A & amp;M in the Sugar Bowl. Everyone knows that they lost to Michigan State."

Rejuvenated Hoosiers

So Ohio State (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) finds itself trying to avoid a slip as much as trying to add to its win total when it takes on the rejuvenated Hoosiers (4-3, 2-1).

"Handling success is just as important if not more important than handling adversity because when you've got people telling you how good you are and how you've earned it, to us we really haven't earned it," defensive end Jay Richardson said. "We're still not what we want to be as a team.

"We have our meetings and we always tell the guys, 'Don't believe the hype. Don't believe what all the people are saying. Because nothing means anything besides proving it on Saturday.' "

The Buckeyes have won their last 14 games, the longest streak in the nation. They've also reeled off 10 consecutive Big Ten wins and nine straight at home. They're starting a stretch of four games against teams they will be heavily favored to beat leading up to a showdown with rival Michigan on Nov. 18.

Something to prove

Indiana also feels it has something to prove. The Hoosiers have counteracted a three-game home losing skid with back-to-back conference wins at Illinois and at home against Iowa, both on fourth-quarter rallies.

They are 2-0 on the road this year. The last time they won their first three road games was in 1967, also the last time they won at least a share of the Big Ten title and made their only trip to the Rose Bowl.

The Hoosiers think they're ready for their close-up.

"We're excited. We're glad they're ranked No. 1," safety Will Meyers said. "We know all eyes are going to be on us to see how we respond."

The win over Iowa was Indiana's first against a team ranked in the top 15 of the Associated Press poll since winning at Ohio State in 1987.




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