Revisiting Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer's Bowl History

By Eric Seger on December 8, 2016 at 9:00 am
Taking a look at Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer's career performances in bowl games.

You're not going to believe this but Urban Meyer's winning percentage in bowl games is nearly identical to those contests that take place before the end of November.

Meyer is 165-28 all-time as a head coach. He is 10-2 in bowl games. Compare those winning percentages and you get .855 and .833. A two percent difference is negligible considering the topic. Ironically, the only man Meyer's bowl winning percentage trails among coaches with at least 10 bowl appearances is his successor at Utah, Kyle Whittingham, who is 9-1 in postseason affairs.

You already know that Meyer is a remarkable 61-5 at Ohio State, with a Big Ten and National Championship headlining his body of work. As head coach of the Buckeyes, Meyer is 3-1 in bowl games including a 2-0 stint in the College Football Playoff. His program is the only one in the country to say it is unbeaten in the Playoff even though the system is only 2 years old.

The only time Meyer lost a BCS game came in January 2014 when the Buckeyes fell to Clemson 40-35 in the Orange Bowl to wrap up the 2013 season. Meyer is 4-1 BCS contests and is set to face Dabo Swinney's Tigers for a second time this New Year's Eve at the Fiesta Bowl as part of the College Football Playoff.

“It's great to be here,” Meyer said. “I understand how hard it is to make the playoffs.” 

A victory in that game will give Meyer 11 bowl wins in his career and a chance to add a 12th before the 2016 season draws to a close, with the national championship game scheduled nine days later. The winner of Ohio State-Clemson is set to face the winner of the other national semifinal between Alabama and Washington.

Bowl season kicks off on Dec. 17 when North Carolina Central takes on Grambling in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl at noon in the Georgia Dome. With that on tap, it seems pertinent to revisit Meyer's career history in bowl games — namely the fact he has more national titles (three) than losses in them (two).

Bowling Green

Somewhat amazingly, Meyer never received an opportunity to coach the Falcons in a bowl game. He went 8-3 in the 2001 season and followed that with a 9-3 record the next year.

A 17-6 record did not include any bowl trips with the Falcons. Meyer waited until his next job to be a head coach of a bowl team.


Meyer initially tasted bowl success in his first season at Utah, as the Utes scourged Southern Miss with a stout defensive performance to defeat the Golden Eagles 17-0 in the Liberty Bowl on New Year's Day 2004. Utah did not allow a single point over the last 10 quarters of its 2003 season. The victory gave Meyer his first 10-win season as a head coach.

“With all due respect to the '94 football team and Utah, and there have been some great teams at Utah, I think this will go down as the greatest senior class and one of the top football teams ever in the history of this program,” Meyer said after his team forced four turnovers to win. “You won the championship. You won the championship bowl game. And forever they will be remembered for that.”

In Year 2 for Meyer at Utah, the Utes finished the regular season 11-0 and ran rampant through the Mountain West. As a school from a non-BCS conference, though, it did not get a chance to play for the national title. So Meyer led the Utes to the Fiesta Bowl where they trucked Big East Champion Pittsburgh 35-7.

That gave Meyer his first in what is now three victories at the Fiesta Bowl. It also included this wonderfully executed hook and ladder.

Having already agreed to take the Florida job before this game, Meyer co-coached it with Whittingham. The latter still roams the sideline in Salt Lake City.


Meyer led the Gators to a 9-3 record during his first season in Gainesville and outlasted Iowa in the Outback Bowl 31-24. Florida sped out to a 31-7 lead through three quarters and had to withstand a charge led by Hawkeye quarterback Drew Tate to win.

There is a good chance you know what happened the next time Meyer led Florida to a bowl game.

The Gators embarrassed Ohio State and Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith 41-14 in the BCS National Championship Game, giving Meyer his second victory at the Fiesta Bowl in his career. The battery of Tim Tebow and Chris Leak at quarterback and a dominant defensive line gave Meyer his first national title.

Meyer's program took a step back the following year, losing back-to-back games to Auburn and then at No. 1 LSU. Another loss came three weeks later to Georgia and the Gators finished 9-4 after they fell to Michigan in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day, Lloyd Carr's final game as head coach of the Wolverines.

Meyer rebounded in 2008 with one of his best teams ever. The Gators only lost once, a 31-30 decision to Ole Miss but went on to win the head coach his second BCS National Championship with a 10-point win over Oklahoma in Miami.

With a loaded roster back in 2009—similarly to Ohio State in 2015—the Gators were favored to repeat. Also like the Buckeyes last season, they did not. A loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship prevented that but Florida destroyed a Brian Kelly-less Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl 51-24 for Meyer's sixth bowl win in seven tries.

Bowl win No. 7 came in 2010 when after a trying year both on the field and off it with regards to his health, Meyer's team beat Penn State in the Outback Bowl 37-24. That was his last game as head coach of the Gators, as he took a brief hiatus from coaching upon its completion.

Ohio State

Meyer took over at Ohio State prior to the 2012 season after working at ESPN during the same time frame the Buckeyes went 6-7. Ineligible for the postseason due to a bowl ban, Meyer's team went 12-0 anyway in his first season in Columbus.

Year 2 brought Meyer's second and to date last bowl loss as a head coach. Ohio State fell to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship to deny a trip to the national title. As a consolation, the Buckeyes faced Clemson in the Orange Bowl and lost back-to-back games for the first and only time under Meyer. The Tigers won 40-35 behind big nights from Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd.

Two more bowl wins came the following year, however, as part of the first-ever College Football Playoff. Ohio State upset No. 1 Alabama 42-35 in the Sugar Bowl then dispatched Oregon 42-20 for the national championship, Meyer's third title.

Another late-season loss last year prevented Ohio State from a return trip to the Playoff as the Spartans again pulled off the upset. Meyer's group rebounded to thrash Michigan in the regular season finale and then down Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl 44-28 on New Year's Day. That pushed Meyer's bowl record to 10-2.

It isn't surprising that giving one of the best college football coaches of this era more than a month to prepare usually results in victories for him in bowl games. Meyer's teams average 37.9 points per game in bowls while their opponents manage just 25.0.

Ohio State and Meyer have another chance to add to an already stellar body of work in bowl games New Year's Eve in Phoenix. They also have a shot to win the 2016 Fiesta Bowl twice—once on the first day of the year and once on the last.

As Meyer's resumé shows Meyer's chances at winning a bowl game this season are high.

View 43 Comments