Is Ohio State still mostly Urban Meyer's program?
It's easy to fool yourself into believing that only one season removed from his retirement back to the broadcasting booth - but with 51 players on the roster holding post-departure eligibility, the answer is no.
It's mostly Ryan Day's program, already. That was fast!
And it's not just the roster math, either - Ohio State's 2019 offense did not look like anything what Urban put on the field. Total defense jumped from No.71 to No.1 in a single season. That was with mostly Meyer players on the field, so as long as the elite recruiting continues (so easy!) we could be in for another golden era on top of a golden era on top of a golden era.
Some of us are old enough to remember being told to treasure the Tressel era, because there was no way it would last forever. Well, coaching transitions are about keeping the good parts functioning while tweaking the ones that need improvement. So, how has that worked out over the past 80 years?
We're still about 200 days away from kickoff. We've got plenty of time. Let's look.
|ONE||7-1||2nd (tied)||W 34-0||N/A|
|TWO||7-1||1st (tied)||W 38-0||N/A|
Before the John Cooper/Jim Tressel transition (we'll get to them) there was the Sam Willaman/Francis Schmidt transition. Willaman recruited and developed a cadre of studs, but he had trouble beating Michigan and winning the Big Ten. So he resigned the post and Ohio State hired Schmidt, who beat Michigan in each of his first four seasons (two shutouts in a row! RIP 1935 Revenge Tour!) thanks in part to what Williamson left him.
Schmidt's second season featured the Buckeyes outscoring opponents 237–57. Minnesota, which avoided the Buckeyes in conference play was awarded the natty while Ohio State secured a top five finish. Thank you for inventing Pants, Coach Schmidt.
|ONE||6-1-1||2nd (tied)||T 20-20||N/A|
Brown won the natty in Year Two despite losing at Wisconsin (because half the team had food poisoning - don't argue this, it's been settled for decades).
Ohio State lost out on a coaching dynasty because the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and Brown was required elsewhere. Besides, he was destined to create what has since become the pride of Ohio: those two professional football teams.
Widdoes took Brown's pieces and ran the table in his first season, beating the No.6 Wolverines in Columbus. Les Horvath - now on his third coach - won the Heisman. Despite perfection, Ohio State does not claim the 1944 national title, which is also known as a Reverse Alabama.
Year Two was a step back for Widdoes, with two losses to ranked opponents in a season where the Buckeyes never left the top 10. Ohio State was somehow named national champions by Billingsley that season (also unclaimed by the university, Roll Untide). Billingsley, if you're unfamiliar, was one of the seven measurement tools the BCS used to determine its rankings. This sport is amazing.
Widdoes decided he did not need the pressure or the limelight and left Columbus for Athens (Ohio) after his second season, leaving his OC Paul Bixler in charge. You won't see Bixler next in his list because he lasted only one season before fleeing to Colgate.
|ONE||2-6-1||9th (last)||L 21-0||N/A|
Bixler left Wes Fesler a big ol' mess, the least of which was having to finish off a miserable rebuilding season in Ann Arbor against the No.1 team in the country.
Year Three delivered a Rose Bowl and a tie against the Wolverines. Year Four brought a blocked punt that opened the door for the next 69 years of Ohio State football. Fesler then got the hell out of town, and the school scrambled to find someone to replace him, ending up with Plan B.
Woody got Ohio State over the Michigan hump in Year Two while going 6-3. The university claims national titles in 1954, 1957, 1961, 1968 and 1970 with only the last one being Alabamaish.
Anyway, Woody never left Columbus again, even after he stopped coaching - but in Year Two the only glimpse into what the future held was the Buckeyes not losing to Michigan repeatedly. That's a good future. Let's agree to never let go of that.
|ONE||11-1||1st||W 18-15||Rose L 17-16 USC|
|TWO||9-3||2nd (tie)||L 9-3||Fiesta L 31-19 PSU|
Earle's first season is the closest thing we have on record to Day's first season, from taking over for a legend to winning Big Ten COY to running the table to winning in Ann Arbor to a crushing postseason loss that didn't have to go the way it did.
It's hard to overstate how difficult this was. You can take over for Woody, or you can take over for Paul Bixler. They both come with different challenges. Hopefully Day doesn't get too comfortable going 9-3 every year or ever.
|ONE||4-6-1||7th (tie)||L 34-31||N/A|
|TWO||8-4||3rd (tie)||L 28-18||Hall of Fame L 31-14 Auburn|
The current era of Ohio State football winning games in October each February would not have been possible without Coach Cooper, who completely upgraded the standards and expectations for recruiting.
Never forget that, no matter how much those Novembers still bother you.
|ONE||7-5||3rd||W 26-20||Outback L 31-28 Carolina|
|TWO||14-0||1st (tie)||W 14-9||Fiesta BCS Title W 31-24 2OT Miami|
Tressel didn't win the Big Ten three times in his ten seasons, and in his first season he put a lot of work into un-rotting the apple he inherited. We had no idea 14-0 was even possible until 2002 happened. Ohio State has had only two single-digit win seasons since Tressel's Year Two, which makes it the fulcrum for the current era.
The Buckeyes have won 11 bowl games since 2002, equalling the total from the previous 44 seasons. Congratulations, you're living in the best of times.
|TWO||12-2||2nd||W 42-41||B1G CG L 34-24 MSU|
|Orange L 40-35 Clemson|
Tressel went from five losses to zero in his second season. Meyer went from seven to zero. Two of the biggest single season turnarounds in college football history happened at Ohio State fairly recently, a program where the peaks significantly outnumber the valleys.
As for Day's second season, there's far more room below the expectation set by the 2019 campaign than there is above it. But the program goal remains both unchanged - and tantalizingly within reach.
|ONE||13-1||1st||W 56-27||B1G CG W 34-21 UW|
|Fiesta CFP L 29-23 Clemson|
Is this the highest bar an Ohio State coach has set for himself in Year Two?
It's easy to fool yourself into believing that with the CFP still fresh in our memories, but Day's bar for himself is just about as high as five (!) of his predecessors'. The schedule is manageable, the roster still has the most talent in the conference and the expectations are unchanged.
And this is exactly what he signed up for when he took the job. Year Two is on schedule!