Ohio State Primed to Dominating Big Ten

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Urban Meyer, Ohio State primed to dominate the Big Ten


From College football

The song is called Buckeye Swag, and according to Ohio State trumpet player Todd Fessler, The Best Damn Band in the Land made it up one day last year and the Buckeyes football team fell in love with it. It sounds like hip-hop with brass, like the best Trick Daddy song that never got recorded.

As the band played Buckeye Swag in one corner of Spartan Stadium last Saturday, Ohio State players bounced with the beat. So did their coach. It might not be entirely accurate to suggest that Urban Meyer danced, but it would be wholly accurate to say the Buckeyes’ first-year coach got down. He bobbed between hugs from offensive lineman Marcus Hall, quarterback Braxton Miller and tailback Carlos Hyde. All the while, Meyer smiled like a kid who had just tasted chocolate for the first time.

The last time I saw Meyer that happy, he wasn’t holding a crystal football. The moment came before either of his national championships. It was Oct. 29, 2005. Meyer was in the corner of whatever they’re calling the stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., these days, hugging his players as the band blasted out a tune. That day, Florida had held on for a 14-10 upset of No. 4 Georgia. Two weeks earlier, Meyer had shed tears beneath Tiger Stadium as the realization washed over him that his beloved offense wouldn’t work in the SEC until he had the right players to run it. Over the course of an off week and the Georgia game week, Meyer and his staff had installed a bare-bones, almost pro-style offense that fit the players they had. Florida scored touchdowns on its first two possessions, and the defense did the rest. The wide smiles from Meyer and his coaches after that game said one thing:We can do this. We can win here.

They smiled those same smiles Saturday in East Lansing. As I watched Meyer and strength coach Mickey Marotti celebrate, I realized it might be time to warn the other programs in the Big Ten about what will happen in the next few years. So here it goes:

You are completely screwed.

You might get Meyer this season. His Buckeyes are still fragile and vulnerable at times. Heck, Nebraska might even beat Ohio State in the Horseshoe Saturday. But Meyer will put you through a living nightmare in successive seasons. It won’t last forever, because the same external factors that plagued Meyer at the end of his tenure at Florida exist at Ohio State, but the next few years will be miserable.

You got a taste of the way Meyer recruits this past offseason. Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema complained about Meyer’s aggressiveness, which went right up to the NCAA’s line and might have crossed it. So did Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio. Meyer’s statement to a group of Ohio high school coaches this offseason sums up his philosophy. “You’re [ticked] because we went after a committed guy?” Meyer told the coaches, according to Brandon Castel of “Guess what, we’ve got nine [assistant coaches] who better go do it again. Do it a little harder next time.”

Now Meyer has had a full year to put together his next class. He already has an inherent advantage. When I did the State of Recruiting project in 2009, Ohio was by far the most talent-rich state in the Big Ten, and most of those players grow up wanting to be Buckeyes. Pennsylvania came in second in the Big Ten in that study, and with Penn State mired in its own NCAA hell, Meyer can pillage the Keystone State as well. In the class of 2013, Meyer has plenty of commitments from Ohio, but he also has dipped into Texas, Georgia and South Carolina. Meyer can’t oversign at Ohio State, but Florida didn’t allow him to oversign, either. So recruiting at Ohio State should be easier, because all of Meyer’s conference rivals must play by the same rules. (And if a few of them keep honoring the mocked-by-everyone-else “gentlemen’s agreements” about recruiting committed players, that also makes things easier for Meyer.)

Unlike the rest of the coaches in the Big Ten, Meyer understands what a program must do to win a national championship in this era of college football. In the SEC, Meyer had Les Miles, Steve Spurrier and Mark Richt to keep him in check, but even they couldn’t stop him once he signed a class that included quarterback Tim Tebow, receiver Percy Harvin and linebacker Brandon Spikes. It took Nick Saban building a bigger juggernaut at Alabama to finally topple Meyer. None of the other coaches in the Big Ten have proven they can recruit or coach at the level of Miles, Spurrier, Richt and Saban, but they’ll have to figure it out quickly. Maybe Michigan’s Brady Hoke is that foil — his recruiting in Ohio over the past year is a positive sign for Michigan’s future — but a look at his team combined with a look at Meyer’s team this season suggests Meyer has a big head start.

Ohio State dominated the Big Ten in the first decade of this century, and Jim Tressel left plenty of infrastructure in place even though he also brought on the NCAA sanctions that threatened to wreck the program. Just as Ron Zook left behind a wealth of defensive talent at Florida for Meyer to inherit, Tressel left behind a group of players who understand winning. Those players will help educate the hotshot recruits Meyer brings in on National Signing Days to come. Meanwhile, if Meyer chooses correctly, those recruits will take his offense to another level. On Saturday, someone asked Meyer about the spate of high-scoring games. Meyer smiled. “I like a 70 every once in a while,” he said. If Meyer gets the skill players he wants, he’ll hang 70 points on some Big Ten opponent in the not-too-distant future.

The suffering probably won’t last forever, Big Ten programs. At Florida, the expectations grew too big, and Meyer’s recruiting — at least on the offensive side of the ball — tailed off. The outside stuff Meyer calls “nonsense” is as thick in Columbus as it is in Gainesville, so unless Meyer has truly changed his mindset and work habits, this job will grow just as cumbersome as the Florida job. But while he is fresh and relishing the competition, Meyer will do everything in his power to grind his Big Ten opponents to dust on the field and on the recruiting trail.

As her husband finished jamming with the band last Saturday, Shelley Meyer stepped onto the field to join the celebration. “I don’t know why we’re doing this again,” she joked. Moments before, as he stood next to Miller and made an O with his arms, Urban Meyer had provided the answer. Meanwhile, in the stands, one boisterous Ohio State fan screamed words that echoed across the Big Ten. “We love you, Meyer!” he yelled. “We f—–‘ love you! We are back, baby! We are back!”



Ohio State dominating Big Ten, Week 6 college football preview – Andy Staples –

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