COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State's Jack Mewhort revealed a secret the other day, which was probably not the wisest decision at your typical hermetically-sealed, eyes-on-the-prize college football program in late September.
Distractions are definitely frowned upon. But in this case it is known around the Ohio State locker room. The senior offensive lineman gladly offered the information following Saturday's 31-24 win over Wisconsin. The Buckeyes are shooting for a magic number this season: 22. That would be the consecutive games won by their coach Urban Meyer while he was at Florida from 2008-2009.
"He doesn't bring it up often but it's known around the facility," Mewhort said of Meyer. "A lot of us players grew up watching Coach Meyer, what he did.
"I can't speak for everybody but in my mind that's kind of one [number] I'd like to get to."
The benchmark is significant because Ohio State currently sports the nation's longest winning streak, 17. It's also significant because the Buckeyes apparently have been thinking about the goal for a while. Meyer won those 22 in a row by winning the 2008 national championship with Florida. The streak was stopped by Alabama in the 2009 SEC title game.
"You try to think about it [the streak] because you're trying not to get caught up in the stuff," Mewhort said. "It's a special moment. After a big win you can step back and look at it."
The week of a suddenly monster game with No. 16 Northwestern has taken on added significance. One game at a time? Forget that, we now have tangible evidence that the Buckeyes are looking ahead.
Meyer is in the process of building a program in the image of an SEC powerhouse. You can see it in a defense that needs work and in an offense that has some burners. Quarterback Braxton Miller could play anywhere. The almost-sheepish junior silenced any talk about his grip on the job with four touchdown passes against Wisconsin.
"I love playing in big games," he said. "That's what we talk about all the time."
The difference in talent between Ohio State and the rest of the conference is staggering. Meyer is getting ready to run away from the rest of the league like he did in the SEC from 2006 up until that 2009 SEC title game.
Think not? Nebraska is in defensive turmoil. Michigan is improving but hasn't turned the corner until it at least reaches a Big Ten title game. Maryland and Rutgers aren't going to add much to the overall profile.
For now, Northwestern just might be the closest thing to a challenger for the Buckeyes. If not, the streak is going to live on for a while. Michigan is the only remaining ranked left on Ohio State's regular-season schedule.
Brains vs. brawn vs. Big Ten rep?
Any streak has a chance to become a burden. Since 2000, both Miami and USC (34) have crept within 13 games of Oklahoma's all-time streak of 47. In both cases, the streaks ended in BCS championship games -- Miami in 2002, USC in 2005. The next longest streak since Boise State (24, 2009-10).
Meyer himself has quietly won the sixth most consecutive games from the start of a coaching tenure at a school. If you can name even one of the other coaches on that list, consider yourself a mega fan. (Answers below).
If they're talking about it in public at Ohio State, they're aiming for it in private. No doubt the Buckeyes can do it. They're expected to do it. That's what this season is about after "wasting" an undefeated 2012 season by being left of out of the postseason with an NCAA bowl ban.
Why the heck has nobody noticed it? Maybe it's the current Big Ten perception, which isn't good. Only Boise State, Florida and Alabama (19) have had longer streaks since 2009. Bama and Florida won national championships during their streaks. Boise should have at least been given a chance to play for one.
Ohio State? To be determined. Wisconsin was the first ranked team it played this season, and only the fourth during the streak. Northwestern will be the highest-ranked team played during the streak.
"They're your typical Big Ten football team," Mewhort said. "A bunch of tough guys, a dynamic squad. It's going to one of those classic smash-mouth games."
When's the last time anyone said that about an Ohio State-Northwestern game. Answer: At least five years, if ever. The teams last met in 2008. The Buckeyes have won 28 of the past 29 between the two schools.
Funny how these things overlap. The 17-game streak ties for the fourth-longest in school history. Getting to 19 would tie the second-longest streak -- which was actually snapped by Meyer's Gators in the 2007 BCS title game. Ohio State's last loss came on Jan. 2, 2012, in the Gator Bowl to ... Florida. Will Muschamp's Florida.
Consecutive win No. 22 would come Nov. 16 at Illinois, tying the school's and Meyer's longest streak.
"Obviously we know about his records," Mewhort said. "If we're winning that many games, obviously we're doing something right."
(Answer from above: 1, Pop Warner, 30 in a row at San Diego State, and Terry Bowden, Auburn, 20.)