Meyer a Magician or Master Technician?

Urban is either a wizard, or the best coach in the game today. 

by Brandon Rush | @BrandonRushtwitter logo | brandon@3psmag.com

There are moments when your own biases can get in the way of seeing what is really happening. For years I have despised Urban Meyer. Not only for his often smug responses, but the pristine image portrayed by the media of the perceived patron saint of college football. But after building Utah to a household name, rebuilding Florida to national prominence, and smashing thru the Big Ten in his first three seasons in Columbus, it is easy to see that Meyer is an architect on the verge of possibly another national title.

After building a monster in Gainesville, Meyer stepped away from the helm of the Florida program to tend to his health and to spend more time with his family. After a short leave of absence and a stint as a broadcaster with ESPN, Urban took over as the head coach for Ohio State and has done nothing short of amazing work.

When you look back at the players Meyer and his staffs have recruited, it is easy to see why they have a pair of national championships. But what has unfolded this season has proven two things, Urban can recruit, and once those recruits are on campus, they are damn well coached.

Ohio State has gone 37-3 in three seasons since Meyer became the head coach, including an unblemished 24-0 regular season record in Big Ten play. If not for probation, the Buckeyes could have played for a national title in 2012 when then-Sophomore Braxton Miller lit up the Big Ten Conference with future NFL running back Carlos Hyde. Meyer’s version of the spread offense took the plodding conference by storm, finishing number 3 in the polls.

Meyer appeared to be on his way to a third national title in 2013 until a heartbreaking loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game derailed their chances.

Fast forward to September 6th, 2014.

Just three weeks after losing Braxton Miller and having to turn the reins to the offense over to backup JT Barrett, the Bucks lost their home opener to Virginia Tech, the first home opening loss for Ohio State in a generation. The loss snapped a 25 game regular season winning streak. After this loss many, myself included, called the Big Ten season DOA, and I gloated in demise of Meyer.

The joke ended up being on me.

Ohio State rebounded from the loss to the Hokies by winning ten straight to round out the regular season. In that run, the Buckeyes had to survive a double-overtime thriller in Happy Valley against Penn State, sleepwalked thru parts of other games, but really faced no other consternation from the rest of the conference, winning seven of those games by double-digits.

Barrett played so well during this stretch, many wondered if Braxton Miller would be transferring after the season ended to play out his senior season elsewhere. JT impressed enough to finish fifth in Heisman voting. Everything was running smoothly for Ohio State, but even going into the last game of the regular season against heated rival Michigan, no one really thought they had a chance at the inaugural College Football Playoff, but all dominoes would fall right for the Scarlet and Grey.

JT Barrett left the Michigan game with an ankle injury meaning that Ohio State would be heading into the 2014 Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin with a third string quarterback. Cardale Jones made his first career start a special one, as the Bucks demolished Wisconsin 59-0. That impressive win with a back up to the back up running the show was enough to earn them a spot in the playoff as the fourth seed, setting them up for a contest against top ranked Alabama.

I think every analyst and writer in the country said or wrote “you give a Nick Saban coached team a month to prepare…” only to see Saban get outcoached, and a talented Crimson Tide team get outplayed as Ohio State won the national semi-final 42-35, punching their ticket to the national title game against Oregon.

The fact that Urban Meyer had his team ready for every hurdle that came their way in 2014 proved to me what a lot of people already knew. This dude can flat out coach.

I even found myself kinda liking Urban Meyer. In the post-game press conference, Meyer’s honest and stunned response to the news that Oregon had beaten previously unbeaten Florida State by 39 points was a rare show of emotion I honestly didn’t know he had.

That said, I don’t see myself hanging out and drinking beer with the guy, but I respect the hell out of what he has been able to do.

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