The Second Time Around

By Michael Citro on February 15, 2013 at 1:00p
28 Comments
You've been warned, B1G.All signs point to a potential championship run in 2013.

(The second time around)
Ooh, the second time is so much better, baby
(The second time around)
And I'll make it better than the first time
- Shalamar

It’s not easy to improve upon a perfect record, but that’s exactly what Urban Meyer will try to do in 2013. Meyer’s first season in Columbus produced Ohio State’s first undefeated campaign since the beloved 2002 squad went 14-0 under Jim Tressel, winning a national championship over Miami.

Ohio State’s football team has produced 10 undefeated seasons in school history and six perfect (read: unbeaten and untied) campaigns through the ages. Woody Hayes, who would have turned 100 yesterday, posted four seasons without a loss — 1954 (10-0), 1961 (8-0-1), 1968 (10-0), and 1973 (10-0-1).

That’s an average of one undefeated season of Ohio State football every 12 years. It doesn’t happen very often. And yet, some fans and media members seem to expect a repeat performance in 2013, even though history doesn’t support its likelihood. Consecutive undefeated seasons have occurred only once at Ohio State. John Wilce led Ohio State to a 15-0-1 record over two seasons in 1916 and 1917.

So, it’ll be very difficult for Urban Meyer to win every game for a second straight year. Everything must go right. The Buckeyes will have to avoid key injuries and turnovers, grow up quickly on defense, improve in the passing game, and handle tough road games at Cal, Northwestern and Michigan. Even if Meyer can repeat the feat of zero losses, how does one improve upon an undefeated season?

Despite heavy losses to graduation on the defensive side of the ball, the expectations of Ohio State fans for 2013 are higher than Taco from The League. Those expectations are due, in part, to the well-documented second-year phenomenon.

Meyer himself has been a part of that “Year 2” thing. You’ve heard it before. “Everywhere Meyer has been, the team has improved in its second season and blah, blah, blah…” It’s true. It's not limited to Urban Meyer alone; there is often a jump in production in the second year after a coaching change.

Some of that is completing the conversion from one coach’s system to another. Some of it is a staff learning to use its personnel better and recruiting players specifically for the new offense and defense. And probably some of it is simply good fortune. But with Meyer, it has been a habit. He's done it with every team he’s coached so far.

In the game we least enjoy talking about, Meyer won the BCS championship over Ohio State, wrapping up the 2006 college football season. It capped his second season in Gainesville. That night, he joined the likes of Tressel and Bob Stoops in winning a title in his second year at a school.

A Pattern of Second-Year Success

That experience with the Gators wasn’t a unique one for Urban Meyer. In his first stint as a head coach, Meyer improved the Bowling Green Falcons in 2002. The year before Meyer arrived in Bowling Green, the Falcons had suffered through a 2-9 season. In 2001, Meyer and quarterback Josh Harris led the Falcons to an 8-3 overall mark, and a 5-3 record in the MAC. This included wins at Missouri and Northwestern, as well as a season-ending 56-21 drubbing of Toledo, the eventual MAC champion.

#MACtion, Urban style.Meyer began his second-year improvement pattern at BG.

He guided the Falcons to 9-3 (6-2 in conference play) in his second year. That season, his Falcons hung 51 points on Missouri, beating the Tigers for the second straight season. Bowling Green beat Kansas on the road and rolled up 72 points in a huge win over Ohio University.

Although neither season put the Falcons into a bowl game, Meyer had made a name for himself in the coaching ranks. He accepted the Utah job in 2003.

Hiring Meyer again paid immediate dividends. The Utes finished 10-2 in 2003, and went 6-1 in the Mountain West Conference. Meyer was named the MWC Coach of the Year and led his Utes to a 17-0 Liberty Bowl victory over Southern Mississippi. In addition to winning the MWC title, Meyer’s Utes beat California and Oregon, and won at BYU and Air Force.

Undaunted by the bar he himself had raised at Utah, Meyer came out with guns blazing in 2004 and coached his Alex Smith-led team to a 12-0 record (7-0 in MWC play), repeating as conference champions and posting a 35-7 shellacking of No. 20 Pittsburgh in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl.

That season included a win over Texas A&M, a road victory over Arizona, and a 30-point stomping of North Carolina. Meyer was in high demand and made his way to Florida for the 2005 season.

Replacing Ron Zook (well, technically he replaced interim head coach Charlie Strong), Meyer improved a team that went 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the SEC. The Gators finished 9-3 (5-3 in the conference) in 2005, finishing in a tie with South Carolina for second in the SEC East. Florida beat rivals Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida State that year, and lost by only four to LSU in Death Valley. All three losses were on the road. The Gators finished the year with a 31-24 win over Drew Tate and the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 2006 Outback Bowl.

In 2006, Meyer once again improved his team. The Gators lost only to No. 11 Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium, beating Alabama and LSU by two scores each. Florida came from behind to win the 2006 SEC Championship Game, 38-28. Many have forgotten that the Razorbacks had momentum and a lead in that game until Reggie Fish tried to field a punt inside his own 5-yard line. Fish muffed the punt and Florida recovered in the end zone to take the lead.

Many were questioning whether there should be a rematch of The Game, after Ohio State and Michigan put on a show in Columbus, decided ultimately by only three points. Voters opted to avoid the rematch and the Gators found themselves headed to the title game to face the Buckeyes. Then that game happened in the Arizona desert.

Turning Past into Present

Meyer’s first season at Ohio State was similar to his previous first stops elsewhere. He immediately improved the team’s record from the previous year. It was his largest turnaround — six games in the win column — since he was at Bowling Green (maybe it just works better in Ohio?).

The Buckeyes went from 6-7 during the zombie-Luke Fickell campaign of 2011, to a perfect 12-0. Along the way, the Buckeyes dispatched Wisconsin and Penn State on the road, and got revenge at home against Nebraska, Purdue, and Michigan. Ohio State also avenged its 2011 loss against Michigan State, winning on the road at East Lansing.

In all, the Buckeyes were 5-0 in revenge games and 2-0 in rivalry games (read: Wisconsin and Michigan).

Looking ahead, it is difficult to see how Meyer could improve the Buckeyes in his second season. The possibility exists only because the postseason ban is over. The 2013 schedule appears very favorable. If the OSU defense comes together into any semblance of what it was in the final quarter of the 2012 season, Ohio State will be favored in every game.

Potential pitfalls exist at California, which will be running an air raid offense in 2013, as well as at Northwestern, inside the negativity vortex known as Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium, and at rival Michigan. The Buckeyes must also play in the wind tunnel of Champaign that has caused so much grief over the years. Potential home land mines include Wisconsin, Penn State, and Indiana (yes, seriously).

Year two is coming. [/GameOfThrones'd]The second season has been good to Meyer so far.

If Meyer can pull off the rare feat of back-to-back undefeated regular seasons, the Buckeyes will be rewarded with a trip to the B1G title game. A win there could, and probably should, propel Ohio State on a collision course with Alabama or (probably) another SEC team. And that’s how 2013 could be better than 2012 — with a season-ending win in the title game.

Consecutive undefeated seasons aren’t unheard of in college football, but they are extremely rare. Tom Osborne has done it. Barry Switzer has done it. That’s more or less it since Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma from 1954-56.

If not for a seemingly light regular season schedule, the odds against a reoccurrence of perfection would be extremely high. As it is, the competition level itself might just cost Ohio State in the bowl game. It’s unlikely even an undefeated Buckeye team would be as battle-tested as any team it would oppose.

Still…Urban Meyer. The OSU coach has already posted undefeated regular season campaigns in 2004, 2009, and 2012. (Meyer’s Gators lost only the SEC title game in 2009.)

Turning the trick again in 2013 would put Ohio State in position for a potential championship and put Meyer’s name in the history books alongside Wilce, a man who died 14 months before Urban was born.

Wilce is enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Meyer will be there too, someday. To pull off consecutive unbeaten seasons at Ohio State almost 100 years apart would be terrific symmetry.

Can it be done? Yes, it’s possible. Is it likely? Well, history says no, but Meyer probably doesn’t care about that.

28 Comments

Comments

cinserious's picture

Love the 'zombie-like' Luke Fickell campaign of 2011.

The fact that we have a weak schedule this year, a pissed off team who was robbed of a bowl game last year, Meyer's 2nd year success, and a sudden influx of playmakers at skill positions gives me a good feeling about going undefeated. The final game (possibly NC) would be the only possible barrier.

Gone ham, be back soon...

TMac's picture

I imagine you meant the line, the campaign not so much.....

cinserious's picture

Consecutive undefeated seasons aren’t unheard of in college football, but they are extremely rare. Tom Osborne has done it. Barry Switzer has done it. That’s more or less it since Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma from 1954-56.

HAHA, Miami almost did it...

Gone ham, be back soon...

BuckeyeSouth's picture

Wait, wasn't Miami 34-0 coming in to the NC game?  That's almost 3 full undefeated seasons.

Embrace it.

Michael Citro's picture

Miami was 11-1 in 2000, 12-0 in 2001 and 12-1 (courtesy of Ohio State) in 2002. The Canes had won 34 in a row (their loss in 2000 at Washington was in their second game of the year) before meeting the Buckeyes. But there were no consecutive undefeated seasons in there, and if a team that good didn't do it, that says a lot about how hard it is.

Still, losing two games in three years is nothing to sneeze at.

Doc's picture

26-0, that's how I see it.  This is going to be any angry pissed off team with a mission to destroy every team they face.  I think the offense this season will be nuclear explosion good, we just need the defense to be Silver Bullets.

"Say my name."

3technique's picture

I also think undefeated is very much a possibility. The above mentioned playmakers will really open up this offense. I also think the Oline will be dominant.. ( I really do) The Dline, while young will have depth,and athletes everywhere. I think the Lber's will take time to develop, but by the end of the year will be improved from 2012... I also think Hyde wants to be the guy that gets Urban his first 1,000 yard rusher.. I am also ready to see Xbrax's new "chaos mechanics".. It is going to be a great year. I would also love to be the team that stops the annoying S-E-C chants!
 

AirForceNUT's picture

Wasn't Braxton his first 1,000 yard rusher?  Or do you mean running back? lol

MindTwinMedia's picture

I hope it happens. It will make my documentary a million times better!

3technique's picture

Yeah, sorry, I meant running back. I don't think Brax will need to rush as much with the new guys..

dlb72osu's picture

I like the thought of another undefeated season; I hate all of the talk about it. It's borderline arrogance and smacks of SECism.

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
- Invictus

kdogg72's picture

I think this is a tough year to run the table. I believe our stats will be better, our offense improved, but ultimately we drop a game. It is a big deal to replace your front 7(6 with shazier). I believe 2014 is our banner year but only if Braxton stays.  We have great recruits but they need time to develop. We are not far away, but 26-0 is almost impossible no matter who coaches the team. If anyone could do it, it is Urban Meyer, I just want our expectations to match reality

BamBamBuck's picture

^^^^^ well done Sir!

BamBamBuck

SilverBulletNYC's picture

I am standing up and applauding. 

The South will NOT rise again!

cjkanski's picture

This is magnificent! UFM !!

MediBuck's picture

Totally doable. I think the trap game on our schedule is Cal though, as they'll be at home full of new regime excitement and a new Bear Raid offense the likes of which we've never seen before (which sadly is not our strength, namely defensing the flat and perimeters). Also, that Zach Kline kid they have on roster is supposed to be pretty good...

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

sir rickithda3rd's picture

if somehow the buckeyes can manage to go undefeated yet again, the recruiting momentum will be unbelievable.

mark may wins douchebag of the year... again

buckeye76BHop's picture

If OSU had Nebraska at Lincoln or MSU at East Lansing again...then I'd say there could be a lose coming in 2013.  But with away games at Cal (which could be a close one as stated above), N'western, Illinois, Purdue (which is the upset scare game if you ask me) and tTUN...with two bye weeks....it's more than plausible for another 12-0 season.  It's almost a forgone conclusion for a game against MSU (or Neb/tTUN again) in Indiana to go 13-0 IMO.  You plug in whomever you want for the NC game....it doesn't seem like an expectation...it seems like destiny if you ask me (Bring on the Dumbos in Red).

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

81Alum's picture

And people say that those expecting another 12-0 regular season are drinking Kool Aid. Yes, the schedule sets us up nicely for at least the regular season and I don't see anyone beating us in the BIG championship game. Questions: 1. Will our SOS knock us from playing in the NCG? 2. Will our defense be able to hold Bama or TAMU if one of those will be the NCG opponent? 3. Will we have sufficient intermediate/deep vertical threats in our passing game to win the NCG (IMHO, our offense will sputter if we are become limited to running or short passing, especially against Bama)?

cinserious's picture

Great questions you pose.
To answer Q 3: I feel we will have dangerous medium to deep vertical threats by the time we face a team like that in the NCG. Between D. Smith, Cory Smith, Philly, James Clark, Jalin Marshall, Micheal Thomas we should be dangerous and/or sustain drives.
Q 2: Our defense will do a helluva lot better than ND's.
Q 1: This is the question I'm most concerned about. Fair or not, an undefeated OSU team will ALWAYS be in the discussion even when there are other undefeateds with better SOS. The SEC will produce only one (max) undefeated, its the next couple SEC'ers and possibly a couple others around the country we have to worry about. Thats why we don't only go undefeated but we crush almost every opponent we face by 3 TDs or more. Should put us over the top.

Gone ham, be back soon...

81Alum's picture

Agree: We need to put up points (show dominance) to overcome SOS. We've got the receivers, but can't have dropped passes on critical third down plays, which IMHO was our problem in 2012.
On defense, we lose Simon, Hankins, and Williams but Washington will be a beast and Schutt will develop. Hope we can get better LB play, as of now MLB is still a weakness - hope Grant and/or Mitchell step up big time. Secondary loses Howard, someone needs to take over. Safeties need to improve. Hopefully, by the end of the year, we'll have a great defense, once the young guys develop.

DefendYoungstown's picture

Destination January 1st or 6th, either one works for me.

What we can't do in the air we'll do on the ground.

Poison nuts's picture

Great article! Touches on something I have thought/worried about since the undefeated season happened...Repeating that success is so, so tough in CFB. Can it be done? For all the talent this team possesses, for all the play-makers (including at least 1 - but possibly as many as 3 Heisman candidates), as favorable as the schedule seems, and as potent as the offense could be with another year under everyone's belts, winning every game in 2 consecutive seasons is just plain hard to do. As noted in the article, history is not in the teams corner...
However, and I believe this wholeheartedly, there is one coach in America who I feel comfortable can motivate his team to pull it off & that's Urban Meyer. I believe this team will be ready to play every game & I believe UFM wants nothing more than to bring an NC to Columbus. His track record is one of consistently winning & consistently defying the odds in doing so. If I step back and try to view the situation objectively, without my Scarlet colored glasses, I can only come up with this: I wouldn't bet against that man. Ever.

"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill" - Detective Rustin Cohle.

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

JUICE!!!  Is it August yet?  I cannot wait to see this year's version of Urban's offense with Braxton now fully immersed in the system!  New weapons, a bunch of time to game plan - oh, I think it is going to be a spectacle!!!  The defense is going to be fun to watch as well! 

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

Buckeye_TilIdie's picture

I think it's very difficult but very do-able a lot of things have to improve as mentioned but I it can be done I think Fickell now understands that the bend don't break method was hurting more than helpingwe also didn't have a MLB until boren stepped in. I hope Braxton is improved this yr I'm hopingTroy like passing ability call me optimistic.

Punks jump up to get beat down.

osubuckeye4life's picture

Definitely, not going to be easy but if anyone can pull it off it is Urban Assault.