COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Even after the longest consecutive grind Urban Meyer has dealt with as a coach, there was no guarantee a rest was coming for his team.
After cruising to its 10th win in as many weeks without a breather, Ohio State obviously had earned a reprieve for at least a day.
Given the roll the Buckeyes have been on, they might not want to wait too long to get back to work with the possibility of an unbeaten season now more realistic than ever after dismantling Illinois 52-22 on Saturday. So they'll take the practice off Sunday and they'll use most of Monday to help rejuvenate some tired bodies. But after that, business as usual resumes in the middle of the week and all eyes will be on Wisconsin to start a two-game swing that will determine the legacy of Meyer's first team at Ohio State.
"I told them and explained to them with bye weeks, there's no rights around here," Meyer said. "That's earned time. If we didn't play well, we'd have been in here tomorrow working and going all week like a normal workweek. Those guys earned it, and I'm proud of them.
"Two big ones left."
That's where the Buckeyes are after destroying the Illini with perhaps their most complete performance of the season. OSU hardly showed any signs of fatigue and again made it look like its only gaining strength as the season wears on.
But while the only team in the country with 10 wins to its credit might like to keep the momentum going and just roll right through the schedule, Ohio State certainly stands to benefit from the break. For starters, the banged-up defense is likely to get back Etienne Sabino after the senior missed four games with a fractured bone in his leg. His return would restore some depth and experience to a thin group of linebackers.
But even the guys who haven't missed any playing time have been nursing minor injuries while maintaining the perfect record, from cornerback Bradley Roby's sore shoulders to the collective physical toll quarterback Braxton Miller's rushing style has taken on his body.
And with a flawless record now so close, there's obviously not much harm in being as fresh as possible for the homestretch.
"When you're on a roll, a winning streak, you definitely want to keep it going," cornerback Travis Howard said. "At the same time, there are a lot of guys who have nicks and bruises.
"Coming into a bye week, there's definitely a great chance to rest our bodies and get ready for that following week."
The Buckeyes are certainly aware of the big week that will follow that trip to Wisconsin and what it would mean to wrap up the season with one last victory over Michigan to springboard into next year when there won't be any NCAA sanctions hanging over their heads.
But if they're going to add even more importance to their rivalry game, the Buckeyes have to take care of business against the Badgers. And before they can do that, they're under orders from the boss to do a little healing before returning to the practice field on Tuesday.
"We've got to un-hit the wall," Meyer said. "Take care of things academically, get our body weights back up, get the body right. Usually you get that about week six or seven.
"This is the first time for [strength] coach Mick [Marotti] and me. We were going through our history and we've never had a 10-week run, straight through. We're going to get them healthy."
The chances of going undefeated, though, have never been been in better shape.