During and after the first Big Ten Championship of the Urban Meyer era, Ohio State fans roared “WE WANT BA-MA” as it became abundantly clear the Buckeyes belonged among college football’s elite.
And after earning the fourth and final spot of the College Football Playoff Sunday afternoon, they had their demand met: Ohio State will No. 1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 1.
But be careful what you wish for.
“We have to be on point to beat this team,” head coach Urban Meyer said. “I know how they recruit, I know they way they coach.”
For the Buckeyes, it’s a chance to see how they measure up against a program that’s sat at the top of the sport for the last five years. For Meyer, who’s played the Crimson Tide three times before while at Florida, it’s a rematch with an old nemesis.
“It’s a tough one … I remember every snap,” he said.
- As he walked into the team’s meeting room at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Meyer looked over toward and pointed at a plaque on the wall that lists Ohio State’s outright Big Ten Championships. He joked he was going to pencil the 2014 team in. “I almost brought a magic marker in here … Most-improved team I’ve ever been around.”
- Meyer on making a national statement for the playoff committee after battering Wisconsin, 59-0: “I think everybody got to watch that was probably as good a performance as we’ve had in a while.”
- Now that the first-ever playoff is settled, Meyer said it’s still a flawed system largely because he’s concerned over how families will afford traveling to potentially two bowl games. “I'm gonna meet with Gene and we're gonna talk ... I wanna see how our players' families are gonna be able to afford two bowl games." He added: “I think that’s the positive of the playoff, there’s more inclusion … but once again, inclusion to me goes behind how you treat the players and their families.”
- Meyer gushed over senior defensive tackle Michael Bennett, who perhaps played the best game of his career against the Badgers. “He just finished his best three weeks as a Buckeye — and I’m not talking about how he played.” Meyer added Bennett’s grown into one of the team’s biggest leaders: “(He’s) a guy that doesn’t whine and moan and that’s kind of how he got through it in his younger days.”
- Meyer, who hates saying he's surprised by things, on the performance of backup quarterback Cardale Jones: "I guess I'll use it for the first time: I was a little bit surprised."
- While he publicly maintained faith in Ohio State all season long, Meyer said it wasn’t until last night that he truly thought the Buckeyes were one of the four best teams in the country. "I started seeing it, but I didn't believe it until I saw it Saturday night." He said he expected his squad to have growing pains with or without Braxton Miller, who suffered a season-ending injury 12 days before the season opener.
- With concern over how the Buckeyes might perform without J.T. Barrett, Meyer said Wednesday’s practice offered him a glimpse of what happened at Lucas Oil Stadium: “I started seeing some interesting things … I thought we’d play well on Saturday.”
- Meyer reiterated a new and frantic emphasis on leadership: “We spent an inordinate amount of time on leadership training for our coaches … For two years now, we put our players through leadership training as well and I think it’s paid off.