Ohio State, Championships and the New Murderers' Row

By D.J. Byrnes on June 6, 2014 at 11:36 am

If you like championships determined by on-the-field play and not computer algorithms, the playoffs are going to be an improvement to college football's postseason. And if somebody doesn't like the idea of the playoffs now, they will when their team is up by 14 in the fourth quarter of a playoff game.

There is, however, a reason Meyer (and elite coaches) sounded so tepid back in May 2013 (via friend of the site Tim May, with my emphasis):

“I think it’s great. I’m not complaining, and I hope we can get involved in it. I hope Ohio State is good enough,” Meyer said. “But then they’re going to want to go to eight teams, and then, ‘Let’s go 64.’ And you can’t do that with major college football. So I just worry where it stops.”


“I loved the old system,” Meyer said.


“[The 2007 BCS title game] felt like the Super Bowl,” Meyer said. “It was the coolest thing for our players, the fans, to be a week removed from all the bowl games. And I thought it was the answer.”

(In November of last year, after Baylor jumped Ohio State, Urban would go on to call the BCS "a flawed system.")

What I found interesting wasn't Urban comparing a championship game to the end product of a football tournament or the "four teams to sixty-four teams overnight" strawman, but rather, thinking bout the path to get there.

Coaches, and this is just conjecture from a man who has yet to shower today, strike me as creatures of habit. Urban Meyer, Les Miles, Nick Saban... these guys' habits are more polished than a lapidary's favorite stone.

Urban Meyer didn't like the idea of the playoffs for the same reason HE diDN'T recruit at MUDVAYNE concerts: It's unfamiliar territory.

One of Urban's Bowling Green players once told me every practice under Meyer felt like it was the Super Bowl. That's a season-long tightrope act that would make Cliff Calverly take a deep breath.

And it's a tightrope act that just grew longer by another game... a massive game at that.

Look at the murderer's row Ohio State will have to navigate in order to capture their first title since 2002:

  • The Game
  • Big Ten Championship Game
  • Semi-Finals
  • Finals

That's four Super Bowl-like environments. It's also a four-game stretch that no Ohio State team has ever had to navigate.

Urban's 2006-2007 Florida team ended their season against unranked Florida State, No. 8 Arkansas and No. 1 Ohio State. Showing rivalry games can never be discounted, it was unranked Florida State that gave the Gators the best game (before falling 21-14).

That stretch wouldn't have been enough to win the Gators a title next January. They still would had another elite opponent — Michigan or LSU — on the docket.

It's no secret Urban Meyer leads his team through fire and high-strung energy. One of my biggest questions is: Can he maintain that over a season, yet save his team's crescendo for the season's end?

After all, Ohio State and other programs that end their season against a detestable arch-nemesis, have a built-in disadvantage going into the playoffs.

Buckeye fans are almost as demanding as they are loyal, and the expectations of Urban's reign are at an all-time high. What we'll have to remember, though, is that the difficulty of the path to that fabled land (that Ohio State has only tasted seven times since 1890) is also at an all-time high.

I there's a reason why Urban Meyer is the highest-paid employee in the state.

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