COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -Every time Ohio State's coaches and players used a keypad to get into their reconstructed practice facility, they were reminded of their biggest humiliation.
Coach Jim Tressel confirmed in a roundabout way Tuesday that 41-14, the score by which Florida whipped the Buckeyes in the national championship game last January, used to be part of the code the team used to get into the building for workouts and conditioning.
That lopsided loss - and the lingering reminders of it - has been used as motivation by the top-ranked Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten), who face Michigan State (5-2, 1-2) on Saturday as the No. 1 team in the country for the first time this season.
``Anytime you come up short in anything it helps you,'' Tressel said. ``We don't start every team meeting with, 'Now don't forget!' because you don't have to. Now, if you thought there was ever a point in time where someone forgot, then it would be a good time to remind them.''
The Buckeyes, who were No. 11 in the preseason after losing many of their offensive stars, have benefited from a steady series of upsets in front of them.
Having lived through a humiliating upset of their own - they were solid favorites to knock off the once-beaten Gators - they've learned to take nothing for granted.
``Oh, definitely. Just watching college football and how it has been these last couple of weeks, you never know what to expect,'' quarterback Todd Boeckman said. ``Teams are going to give everybody their best shot. Every team that was ranked in the preseason top 10 has at least one loss. There are so many good teams out here now.''
Many still doubt the Buckeyes. Ohio State has rolled over a schedule that includes three overmatched in-state opponents and only one team that's been ranked at any point this season.
There is a simple solution to answer any questions, defensive lineman Dexter Larimore said.
``There might be a couple of people out there who doubt us. But nobody's going to doubt us if we can keep winning. That's the biggest thing,'' he said. ``If you can get a W every week, then that's all that really matters.''
Boeckman, a first-year starter who is completing 66 percent of his passes with 16 TDs and six interceptions, said the current Buckeyes' success stems from last year's biggest failure.
``We use that for a motivational factor,'' Boeckman said. ``We went out there through the winter and the spring and the summer and we used that to push ourselves because we don't want to have that feeling again.''
Tressel and his staff have tried to downplay the Buckeyes' ascent to No. 1.
``I don't know if there's any euphoria; I hope not,'' Tressel said. ``The only euphoria about being No. 1 is if you're that in the middle of January.''
Before coming to Ohio State seven years ago, Tressel spent 15 years as the head coach at Youngstown State, then a member of Division I-AA. He guided four of his teams to national championships. Some were not comfortable being No. 1, while others basked in that glow.
``I had a team in '94, that just (said), 'Hey, we're No. 1, we're the best team, don't worry about it, coach,''' Tressel said with a grin. ``I heard that 10 times a day from those guys: 'Relax, coach. You know, we'll be fine.' That's about the only team that probably legitimately could feel that way that I've been around.''
The 1994 Penguins went 14-0-1. Tressel was never reassured.
``I was petrified, just so you know,'' he said.
Larimore believes one thing the Buckeyes learned from last year's team was how much work it took to reach a national championship game. They also learned that it only takes one bad game to fritter all that hard work away.
``We have to look it as we can't let any opportunity go to waste,'' he said. ``If we get to the national championship, we can't squander that. And we can't squander this week. We've got a great team coming up and we can't let this opportunity pass us by.''
Asked if he was comfortable how his team is handling being No. 1, Tressel said he wasn't.
``You know I'm never comfortable,'' he said, shrugging his shoulders. ``When was the last time you saw me comfortable?

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