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 COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -It's a thought that occasionally shakes Ohio State assistant coach John Peterson out of a deep slumber.
The Buckeyes play an in-state opponent once or twice per season. What if they lost?
``I've had that nightmare. I didn't sleep,'' Peterson said.
Peterson lettered four years for the Buckeyes, but has also been on the other side of David and Goliath matchups, coaching at the University of Cincinnati, Akron and Miami (Ohio).
``I've been at a lot of different places and been underdogs in a lot of different games,'' he said. ``You go into each game coaching just as hard and preaching to your players, 'Hey, you've got a chance. It's 0-0 at the beginning.'''
That's what Youngstown State's coaches have been telling their charges all week. The Penguins are prohibitive underdogs against the second-ranked Buckeyes heading into their game on Saturday. The Buckeyes have 18 starters back from last year's team that played in the national championship game. They have a Heisman Trophy contender in tailback Chris Wells, a Butkus Award winner in linebacker James Laurinaitis, and several others who will soon be playing for pay in the pros.
But what would it be like if Ohio State somehow lost?
``Probably not comfortable,'' Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel deadpanned. ``What would happen? I don't know. I'm sure in some ways, good things would come from it. But I'd rather not learn lessons that way.''
Youngstown State is nationally ranked - in the Football Championship Subdivision. It has a proud history, mostly stemming from the four national titles won in Tressel's 15 years as head coach there before he took the Ohio State job in 2001.
The Penguins' current coach, Jon Heacock, is trying to get his players to concentrate on doing their jobs and not on the 100,000-plus fans, the traditions and the hype at Ohio Stadium.
``I expect our guys to go down there and block, tackle and not jump offsides and do the fundamental things that a good football team does,'' said Heacock, whose brother Jim is Ohio State's defensive coordinator. ``Who we are playing doesn't have anything to do with us taking care of the football on Saturday.''
Ohio State's schedule this year brings in Youngstown State and Ohio before a nationally televised tilt with Southern California Sept. 13.
Sooner or later, the odds point to one of those Ohio teams pulling off an almost unfathomable upset.
The Buckeyes think they know what that dark day would look, sound and feel like because they've looked north of the border.
``Any team can win on any day. That was proven last year,'' tackle Alex Boone said. ``If we come out and we're lollygagging and everybody's kind of like, 'USC, USC,' that's what's going to happen. We're going to have a Michigan-Appalachian State.''
Wide receiver Brian Hartline said he and his teammates will never forget last Sept. 1 when they heard that the Wolverines had been rocked 34-32 at home by the Mountaineers.
Appalachian State was in the FCS. So is Youngstown State. Michigan had bigger, more important opponents coming up. So does Ohio State.
``(When) this game is over, I'll feel better then,'' Hartline said. ``If anything they have an advantage because if anything is going to happen we're going to sleep on them. Which I don't think is going to happen. Again, everybody refers back to Appalachian State and it's a valid point.''

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