Once No. 4 Ohio State and No. 1 Georgia kick off in the Peach Bowl on Saturday, it will have been 35 days since the Buckeyes last took the field in a 45-23 loss to Michigan on Nov. 26.
It’s been a painful waiting period for Ohio State, one in which several Buckeyes all admitted that they’re tired of hearing about the loss to the Wolverines. But there will be an opportunity to redeem that loss, and it begins with the Bulldogs in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff.
“We’re anxious,” defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said. “I mean the guys, they have an edge. I know they’re grateful for the opportunity to be playing on the biggest stage and really just want to go out and play their best.
“They’re just hard working, determined, have fun with it, but really focused,” he continued. “I can sense that in our players.”
Linebacker Steele Chambers – who has experienced somewhat of a homecoming preparing to play again in Georgia – acknowledged the long layoff since the loss to Michigan, but said that everyone in practice is playing with a chip on their shoulder.
Like many others, Chambers cited a speech from defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau – one that helped pull Ohio State out of the uncertainty as the Buckeyes awaited their playoff fate – as a big reason Ohio State was able to move on and begin looking ahead, and it was one that Chambers said gave him “goose bumps.”
“From then on, everyone’s been really serious as to what we plan on doing,” Chambers said. “So the last month of practice everyone’s been going at it full tilt. And I think you can really see this on Saturday.”
For his part, Tuimoloau – other than his speech, at least – is quietly waiting in the wings to take the field.
“Just being motivated, staying patient, patiently waiting for Saturday to come,” he said, “but in the meantime, just got to continue working.”