FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The Buckeyes have made it to South Florida after catching an early morning flight for the Orange Bowl and have less than a week before their game against Clemson. The big news of the day was not as much about who made the trip, rather who did not make it for the Buckeyes. Defensive end and team leader in sacks Noah Spence did not join his teammates in South Florida and his status remains in the air somewhat.
"Noah didn't fly down with us," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said at the airport in a quick press briefing. "He's working through some personal issues at home. I hope [he will be here]."
At this point the team can only focus on what it can control and that is how they prepare for the game against Clemson. Ohio State has been the betting favorite from the onset but that doesn't ensure anything when it comes time to play the game.
"I think the fact that we're playing Clemson in a BCS bowl game wakes up everybody up real fast," Meyer added. "You worry as a coach that fundamentally that you're not in shape and fundamentally behind a little bit. That's what we worked on yesterday and I'm going to run them pretty good today and get Christmas out of them."
Ohio State will hold practices for the next several days and Meyer said it would be a chance for the team to get used to the humidity of South Florida, something that the Buckeyes are not used to dealing with at this time of the year in Ohio.
There will be multiple subplots to this game, one that most people want to talk about is the matchup at quarterback between Braxton Miller and Clemson's Tajh Boyd. While the two players will not be on the field at the same time, Miller is well aware of the challenge going against one of the best passers in the game.
"I love competition," Miller said. "It makes me bring my game up a level. It brings competition to all the teammates. When they play a little bit harder, I like it. It's going to big a big game."
Another focal point will be how the Ohio State defense will fare and if there will be any personnel changes. It has been rumored that Vonn Bell could see time as the starting nickelback and that Tyvis Powell could see an increased role as well.
"I think we're going to a lot better job for this game coming up," linebacker Ryan Shazier said. "We've been really on the fundamentals and everything we have to do and the little things that we were messing up on-communication type things. So we're just going to try get everything together and we're focused on that."
The Clemson offense has Shazier's full focus.
"I feel like we'll be up for the challenge, but they have a lot of speed and a lot of playmakers," Shazier added. "They hurry the ball and try to get guys out of position and out of rhythm. So we just have to try to slow the game down and play at our pace."
Both Ohio State and Clemson will have challenges on the defensive side of the ball with two explosive offenses looking to atone for difficult losses.
"Our defense the last two games didn't play the way we were expected to play, but during the year we played pretty good," Meyer said. "Clemson's defense other than a couple of games played not good but very good. I think you see two highly ranked offenses and some personnel that's going to be moving on to the next level on both offenses too and that's what fans expect. I'm not sure that's what they will see."
Friday's game could be Miller's last game as a Buckeye and having to answer the questions about his decision are becoming commonplace. Miller is not ready to answer any questions about that however with teams goals left on the table to be achieved. >
"My main focus is really on the team right now, especially on the game plan," Miller said. "I've been watching a lot of film - that's pretty much my main focus. To make sure we go out there strong in preparedness. But [once we] leave the field with no doubt I'll make my decision after I'm done."