Love is in the air Buckeye fans. Can you feel it?
No I’m not talking about the person you met at Callahan's on Saturday, this is much bigger. This is coach love. What some are dubbing (i.e. no one is dubbing) the Urban Meyer Heat Index. It’s sweeping through Ohio with reckless disregard and, like most relationships, it’s an affair that can be traced back to a nasty break-up.
Nearly a year ago, OSU’s fan-base was reeling from losing long-time lover Jim Tressel and was looking to fill the void. Hurting and on the rebound, OSU quickly started dating Luke Fickell, a young ex-footballer who you could bring home to mom. It seemed perfect at first, but as time went on it was clear he was just an interim anesthesia for the horrific pain felt in the Heart of It All.
OSU started hitting the bars, flirting with anything it could get its hands on. From Gruden to Pelini and from Dantonio back to late night meet-ups with Fickell, Buckeye Nation was a mess.
Just when the good people of Ohio thought all was lost and were about to turn to Friday nights of Häagen Dazs and OK Cupid...
In walked Urban.
The courtship was a blur, it all happened so (SEC) fast that no one can quite remember how he proposed, but when he walked in with not one but TWO rings all OSU could say was…YES.
Ever since that November day, Urban could do no wrong. He’s made standup friends at work (Herman, Withers, and Coombs) even going so far as to befriend ex-flame Fickell. He’s infused a passion back into the relationship that seemed to be lost throughout all of last season, and best of all, he’s stolen the thunder of that wanna-be power couple up North.
Yes this union is certainly blossoming so it’s easy to be blinded by bling bling and Friday Night Lights but there are sure to be bumps in the road ahead. The earliest of which will most likely be Meyer’s first loss as the main squeeze of the program.
So the real question is how will Buckeye Nation react?
As is true with most things in life, one must look back in history to predict the future. In this case, as painful as it may be for the heart, one is forced to look back to a time with Buckeye fans’ 2,000s pin-up, Jimmy T.
In 2001 when OSU fired Cooper and hired Tressel, no one was seen drawing hearts around Jim’s head on the front of their notebook. A relative unknown from Youngstown State, he seemed not quite ready for big-time and just a little too vanilla.
He certainly talked the talk but could he deliver? All indications early on would point to no. He lost four of his first ten games including a loss to Illinois at the Shoe heading into his first Michigan game AT MICHIGAN.
But then something happened. Tressel went into that hellhole and came out alive, something John Cooper was never able to do. Instantly fans’ pumpers were aflutter and the rest is history.
Tressel was able to swoop in and steal fans’ hearts despite a 7-5 season, and he did it all without the messiah status Urban has acquired. Some would argue Tressel's hire as a relative unknown put less pressure on him because of lowered expectations. Therefore a loss in only his second game (against UCLA) and a 5-loss first season were taken in stride. But those people don’t understand Buckeye football. If you’re a ball-boy at the Shoe, there’s pressure to perform. What Tressel understood better than anyone is: if you beat Michigan, the fans will love you. It’s what allowed him to lose 5 games in his first season, it’s what allowed him to keep Jim Bollman employed for 10 years and its ultimately what allowed him to lie to the NCAA and remain a saint in Columbus.
So that takes us back to the flavor of the next 6 years. It’s no secret there will be the immediate pressure to perform coupled with the expectations that only two previous national championships can provide. However, those two rings along with the implementation of a new offense without “his guys” should allow Buckeye Nation to digest his first loss relatively painlessly (as long as it’s not Michigan).
But, a quick glance at the upcoming schedule reveals Michigan may be the only real threat. If Urban gets past Cal, he’s got to play a down MSU, a Nebraska team at home that OSU would have beaten had Braxton stayed in the game, a PSU program that’s a mess, and Wisconsin without Russell Wilson, which brings us to Michigan in Columbus.
If that is Urban’s first loss, make no mistake, some will fall from the love wagon. Losing to Michigan is a sin that not even the most Meyer smitten fan can tolerate. There will be questions, some of them ridiculous, there will be chest thumping from UM fans (all of it ridiculous) and Brady Hoke will continue to call OSU “Ohio” as he reaches into his bellybutton for hoagie crumbs.
The good news is this year is a run-through of sorts (except of course for the seniors, who did very little if anything to deserve this). With no post-season to play for, a loss in Urban’s first season even if it is Michigan, is slightly more palatable (did I just say that?). Talk radio would go wild and Brady Hoke would probably eat 54 cheeseburgers in celebration, but it wouldn’t change the fact that this season the team is playing for pride not Big Ten Championships. Now if a loss to Michigan happens in his second season…
Let’s cross that bridge when/if we come to it. HAPPY THOUGHTS!
So slobber on Buckeye Nation. For now you’ve got the dreamiest coach on the block. When that first loss does happen, learn from your past relationship and don’t overreact. Behind every bump in the road (7-5 season) lies a potential honeymoon.