INDIANAPOLIS – With just over 24 hours to go until the Big Ten Championship Game, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer met with the media for one final time at the Big Ten Championship Game coaches' press teleconference at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald spoke with the media first, followed by Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, but we'll start with a recap of what Meyer had to say since that's probably what you're most interested in.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer:
- On Wyatt Davis, who is set to make his first start at right guard on Saturday: "If this was a year ago, we'd have a problem. We're excited. He's earned playing time. We were trying to find a way without disrupting the cohesiveness of the offensive line. That's why we put him in at tight end ... but he's ready to go."
- Meyer said he was pleased to see Scot Loeffler, one of his former assistant coaches at Florida, get the head coaching job at Bowling Green, where he was previously head coach. "I've got a great feel for that one. I'm glad he got it."
- Meyer on today's report by Football Scoop that 2019 would be his last season at Ohio State: "No comment on that."
- On Dwayne Haskins receiving the Silver Football: "I know Dwayne is very honored, and so are we."
- On Baron Browning: "Exceptional talent. I thought he would be a little further advanced right now." But said Browning is in line for some playing time tomorrow, and excited to see how he performs.
- Meyer says the reports speculating about his future haven't been a distraction to him. "Just trying to do the best that we can."
- Meyer said he loves Dwayne Haskins' family and considers them to be family to him as well.
- Meyer said it will be tough to hit big plays against Northwestern's defense: "They don't give up many big hits. They just don't."
- On Ryan Day and his prospects to potentially become a head coach: "Ryan Day is elite. I've said that many, many times." Said there will be a time and a place for Day to discuss head coaching opportunities, but it's not right now as the Buckeyes prepare to play Northwestern.
- Meyer said he is honored to be a part of the Big Ten Championship Game again this year, and while other conferences also have championship games, "I'd put ours against anybody."
- Asked about a matchup that he thinks will be important to tomorrow's game, Meyer starts with the kicking game.
- Meyer described Northwestern as "very disciplined."
- On the notion that Ohio State needs to win big and not just win: "I only think about it when you ask for me."
- Meyer said he feels good about the way the Buckeyes practiced this week: "The foot hits the ball at 8:00 tomorrow night, so we still have a lot of time, but I like where we're at."
- On contenders in the Big Ten West, Meyer said Nebraska is going to be very good and Purdue is "outstanding."
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald:
- Fitzgerald said the Wildcats arrived at Lucas Oil Stadium just about 20 minutes before the press conference. No surprises yet, but says he and his team are excited to be here.
- Fitzgerald reiterates that he would have voted for Dwayne Haskins if he had a Heisman vote. Said he is not surprised that Haskins won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and the Silver Football, and praised the Ohio State quarterback's poise and accuracy.
- On reaching the Big Ten Championship Game: "This was the next hurdle for our program to get over ... Tomorrow night represents the next hurdle in that process, and that's winning the Big Ten championship."
- On Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson: "He's our leader. He's the guy that stirs the drink, so to speak."
- Fitzgerald said that while the Wildcats haven't played in the Big Ten championship game, he believed their bowl games – as well as big games earlier this year against Michigan and Notre Dame – provided similar environments to help prepare them for this game.
- On Northwestern's ability to compete with the best in the Big Ten West: "I have 100 percent confidence that this is going to be a consistent theme of our program."
- How much has Urban Meyer changed the Big Ten? "I think when coach Meyer came in, he brought in national championship pedigree ... now you look at his record, and it speaks for itself." Said Meyer talked the talk when he came into the Big Ten and has backed it up with his actions. "I tip my hat to him, he just does a wonderful job."
- Fitzgerald says being able to recruit student-athletes from the state of Ohio is "critically important to the success of our program." Northwestern currently has 18 players from Ohio on its roster, but Fitzgerald said he is "absolutely 0-fer" in recruiting battles with Meyer.
- On Northwestern linebacker Nate Hall, a Toledo native: "He's a very talented player. Plays multiple positions for us ... and now, just has tremendous position flexibility." Said Hall actually knew more about how to coach the linebackers than the linebackers coach himself when he made his last hire to that role.
- Defensive tackle Jordan Thompson, a Cincinnati native, is an "unsung hero" of Northwestern's team.
- On running back Isaiah Bowser, a native of Sidney, Ohio: "He's moved forward each week, getting stronger and stronger. Another Ohio young man that I think has got a bright future ahead of him."
- Fitzgerald said his team wanted to "change the narrative" about Northwestern football over the last few weeks.
- On Ohio State's performance against Michigan: "To see the way that they executed was flawless ... The good news is we don't have to play them twice, last Saturday and this Saturday, we just have to play them this Saturday."
- Are you going to be playing up the underdog angle? "I don't think I really have to. Everyone's done a pretty good job of that for us." Said his sisters, who he joked might not pick Northwestern earlier in the week, texted him and said they would pick his team.
- Fitzgerald said he hopes conference championship games never go away. Understands the appetite of fans for an expanded College Football Playoff, but is a big fan of the Big Ten Championship Game. Said Northwestern has 15 buses full of fans coming to Indianapolis for Saturday's game, and that he got a bunch of text messages from former players this week who are appreciative to see their alma mater playing for a conference title. Hopes that any future decisions to change the college football system are made with the players' best interests in mind.
- On Northwestern's defensive backs who have been injured (Montre Hartage, Trae Williams, Jared McGee): "They're doing great. Everybody's doing awesome, and they're getting ready to play tomorrow night."
- On reaching the Big Ten Championship Game: "We're not anywhere close to being satisfied ... but this was again the next hurdle for us to get over to get our program where we wanted to be."
- Fitzgerald said he believes Ohio State's Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson are "both near the top of the offensive coordinator chart." He also said he is good friends with Greg Schiano and has a lot of respect for all three of them as coaches.
- On the gap between Northwestern and Ohio State: "We're nowhere close to Ohio State. We're never going to be close to Ohio State. We just want to be the best us. We know who we are. We just want to be the best Northwestern that we can be."
Stay tuned with Eleven Warriors for additional coverage from Friday afternoon's press conference.