OSU's Hartline hopes to gain insight into LSU's play
Ohio State sophomore Brian Hartline has a unique insight into the Southeastern Conference.
His younger brother, Mike, is the backup quarterback at Kentucky. The Wildcats beat LSU earlier this year, and the Buckeyes wide receiver has been picking the Wildcats’ heads about the Tigers.
But there is only so much Kentucky players can, or will, share about LSU. After all, Brian Hartline plays for Ohio State. And outside Ohio, at least it is perceived in the OSU locker room, there isn’t a lot of love for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State returned to practice Wednesday, and Head Coach Jim Tressel didn’t send his players home empty-handed. Every player received a DVD containing just about every negative comment the OSU coaching staff could uncover regarding the Buckeyes’ Jan. 7 national title game against LSU. The basic message: These guys don’t think you have a chance.
“I don’t know if they hate us. Maybe a strong dislike,” Hartline said of college football fans in general. “I’m a Cowboys fan, so I hate the San Francisco fans. If people do dislike us, and I don’t know that’s the whole truth, the biggest thing is because we win.”
The Buckeyes are trying to wipe the taste of a 41-14 loss to Florida in last year’s national championship. The roles were reversed then. Pundits said the Gators didn’t have a chance against OSU’s steamroller of an offense with Heisman Trophy quarterback Troy Smith.
Last year’s loss is this year’s motivation. Earlier this year, Tressel set the workout complex pass code to 4114.
“We didn’t play as good as we were capable, and it was on that stage. You would think it would be fresh in your mind,” Tressel said. “But that’s not going to win the game for you. If you’re counting on that to win the game for you, I think you’re a little shortsighted.”
Florida was just the last SEC team to beat Ohio State in a bowl game. In fact, OSU doesn’t have a postseason win against the SEC in eight attempts.
“That’s a big stat,” Hartline said.
Experts say it’s because Ohio State and the Big Ten in general play slow, power football, while the SEC is a talent-rich conference that leaves schools such as OSU in the dust.
“I’ve talked to guys in the SEC, and they don’t think that. ... Our 11 will play their 11, and we’ll determine it that way,” Hartline said. “I’ve watched the tape, and I’m not saying they’re slow and we’re fast or anything like that. It’s a very close comparison. It’s college football.”
The Buckeyes go to New Orleans with the same No. 1 ranking but with a vastly different luster. They went from unbeaten last year to unproven this year.
“Definitely,” Hartline said. “Between last year and all the talk about how we shouldn’t be there, it’s not just for national reputations. It’s for you guys (the media), our parents, for everybody who once played here or wants to play here. It’s not all about just our team. There’s a bigger picture. I think a lot of guys realize that.”
Ohio State plays No. 2 LSU, but the Buckeyes are the underdog. Most say both teams backed into the national title game. OSU advanced through the rankings without playing a game in the final two weeks. LSU jumped from No. 7 to No. 2 in the final week.
“I like being the underdog,” Hartline said. “Week in and week out, the experts have been saying how we’ll squeak by, that sort of thing. We’ve played very well away. It’s a so-called home game for LSU, so I guess we’re the away team. ... When you’re away, you’re more alert. You don’t get that lazy feeling you do at home.”
The 6-foot-3 GlenOak High School graduate has had a breakout season, particularly in the second half.
Brian Robiskie was the go-to target at the start of the year, but defenses began to focus on him. Since Oct. 20 vs. Michigan State, Hartline has been the Buckeyes leading receiver with 20 receptions for 300 yards. Robiskie has 15 catches for 249 yards during that span.
“In this day and age, you can’t have just one receiver,” Hartline said. “You can shut down one receiver easily. Between having a handful of running backs and a handful of receivers, it provides a lot of weapons.”
Reach Repository sports writer Todd Porter at (330) 580-8340 or e-mail email@example.com