Posted January 02, 2014

Lessons learned: Urban Meyer reflects on ’09 as Ohio State prepares for Orange Bowl

Clemson Tigers, Dabo Swinney, Ohio State Buckeyes, Orange Bowl, Urban Meyer
Urban Meyer

Ohio State will look to bounce back from its first loss under Urban Meyer. (Diamond Images/Getty Images)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — It’s easy to forget that Urban Meyer has been here before. In 2009, Meyer’s Florida team entered the SEC title game with a No. 1 ranking and BCS championship aspirations. Alabama spoiled the Gators’ hopes with a 32-13 upset, an outcome that effectively launched the Crimson Tide’s recent run of dominance. Florida expected to contend for the crystal trophy, but instead landed in the Sugar Bowl opposite third-ranked Cincinnati.

Now at Ohio State, Meyer can relate to that scenario this weekend as his 12-1 Buckeyes face Clemson in the Orange Bowl on Friday night. For the first time since he took over in Columbus before the 2012 campaign, Ohio State will have to bounce back from a loss — the Buckeyes fell to Michigan State 34-24 in the Big Ten title game on Dec. 7. It’s a bitter memory for Ohio State players as they prepare to take on the Tigers.

The Buckeyes became so accustomed to winning that players and coaches have had a difficult time adjusting to the reality of the situation.

“I think the worst part was probably the four days after,” Meyer said on Thursday. “Three or four of us left Indianapolis and went out recruiting. I went back [to Columbus] then went out recruiting and came back. The feeling inside of you the whole three days, when you walk in with a smile, it’s the most phony smile you’ve probably ever seen. Then you get back and you see the players you care about, and the pain on their face. We had a real emotional meeting — I don’t know if emotional is the right word — like you would with any type of family members that are going through a hard time.

“From that point forward, we’ve been fine. And obviously the Orange Bowl has a lot to do with that. This is one of the most premier bowl games in college football.”

The Buckeyes had good reason to be disappointed. Coming off a 24-game winning streak, they were one victory away from setting up a meeting with top-ranked Florida State in Pasadena. Ohio State went 12-0 in 2012, but had no shot at a national championship because of an NCAA bowl ban.

“It really stung, obviously,” Buckeyes center Corey Linsley told reporters of the loss to the Spartans. “I think I can speak for everybody on the team when I say it really stung.”

Meyer said he’s reflected back to the end of that 2009 season while preparing for Clemson over the past month. As Ohio State worked out this week at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Meyer unearthed many of his old practice notes from the weeks leading up to his Gators’ Sugar Bowl appearance on Jan. 1, 2010 — “pretty detailed notes,” he said. One of Meyer’s players from that ’09 Florida team, current Dolphins center Mike Pouncey, even swung by, so the coach picked his brain to recall particulars of that preparation.

Whatever Meyer did then, it worked: the Gators ripped through Cincinnati 52-24 to finish the season 13-1. On Thursday, the coach scoffed at the notion that his players would overlook a BCS game.

“We just missed on playing for the national championship, lost the (SEC) title game, and they came back and responded very well,” Meyer said of the 2009 season. “Once again, because of the quality of bowl, I credit that to the Sugar Bowl. Our players understand that this is big-time football.”

Tigers coach Dabo Swinney similarly understands the importance of bouncing back from a crushing defeat, though in a different sense. Clemson wrapped up an ACC championship season in 2011 with an embarrassing 70-33 loss to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. For most of the ensuing offseason, Swinney heard every type of criticism imaginable. Since then, however, the Tigers are 21-4 — and Swinney is quick to point out that four of those wins came against top-15 teams.

As for the possibility of an Ohio State hangover, Swinney is expecting the Buckeyes’ best shot.

“You don’t luck up and go 24-1,” Swinney said. “This is a team that is truly a few minutes away — you saw a great team in Michigan State [on Wednesday] night [in the Rose Bowl] — but [Ohio State] is a team that [was] a few minutes away from being in the national championship game. So they’re a national championship caliber team. That’s all I know.

“I expect them to play that way, and I expect our guys are going to be ready, and we’re going to have to play and perform to a high level to have a chance to win.”

A handful of noteworthy Buckeyes players will try to close out their college careers on a positive note. This could be the final game for junior quarterback Braxton Miller and junior linebacker Ryan Shazier, who have yet to announce whether they’ll return for their senior seasons. Junior cornerback Bradley Roby, who likely won’t play against Clemson with a bone bruise in his knee, has already announced he’ll bypass his senior year for the 2014 NFL draft. Senior tailback Carlos Hyde will call it a career, too. Fortunately for Ohio State, history is on its side: Meyer is 7-1 all-time in bowl games, including a perfect 4-0 in BCS bowls.

The better news for the Buckeyes, however, might be that Meyer knows a competitive team when he sees one. The results have been encouraging for Ohio State.

“The ultimate compliment, or the ultimate player is the competitive person,” Meyer said. “We use the term ‘competitive spirit.’ If there’s a competitive spirit, then they’ll play their heart out. And I would anticipate, with everything I’ve seen from this team, the competitive spirit is there. Now it’s just, are we good enough in certain spots to beat this team?”

36 comments
mcmilch
mcmilch

I'm not interested in watching the new Oregon of the big ten forget defense we can just outscore just about everyone. Not my kind of football. Maybe the SEC gets it. Although they look very middle of the road too. Reading their own press clippings... Nebraska Oklahoma and Wisconsin. Yes Wisconsin ! Everyone knows Wisconsin can never actually win a big game but if they outplay you that's a win ;-)

FanTapSportsACC
FanTapSportsACC

Win by @ClemsonFB tonight and @FSU_Football Monday and you're looking at the ACC as the best football conference this season. Don't recall anyone predicting that at the start of the season.

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

I can't think of anything nice to say about either of these teams so I won't say anything at all.  

d48
d48

After seeing Alerbamer get their @ss whipped last night, I think OSU or Clemson would whip any dumb hillbilly school in the Special Ed Conference.

All the retarded SEC rednecks are mysteriously quiet this morning.   :D

JeffBockert
JeffBockert

We need playoffs. ESPN overhyped the SEC so much that people didn't even question that fact that a one loss Auburn team got the nod to go to the title game over a one loss Michigan State team that had the top rated defense in the nation. I feel bad for the kids playing for Michigan State, they deserve a shot at the title as much as the kids for Auburn.

JPMRaider
JPMRaider

@SInow I think his biggest reflection is to keep putting patsies on his schedule and play 2/3 of their games at home to keep winning.

GT500456
GT500456

@FanTapSportsACC That's comedy gold --- FSU and Clemson are  the ONLY teams in the ACC.  Obviously, it's NOT the best conference.

tneng
tneng

@d48I guess that you didn't see the Clemson - South Carolina game. You might want to check that score before you put your ignorance on display for everyone to see.

tneng
tneng

@JeffBockertMSU had the #56 strength of schedule. They deserve the bowl that they got.

TCUfan
TCUfan

@JPMRaider@SInowDidn't he learn that in the SEC?

ZacharyDean
ZacharyDean

@JPMRaider Navy, VA Tech, and Cincinnati are the non-conference slate for OSU next year. That trumps the NC schedule for Alabama, who just added a neutral site game against the mighty West Virginia Mountaineers; owners of an 11-14 record since moving to the Big 12. Bama's other marquee opponents include the likes of Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss, Western Carolina, and the Westchester Silly Nannies. 

But what about the rest of the SEC? 

Well, in the case of Florida, we have a NC slate that includes Idaho, Eastern Michigan, and Eastern Kentucky.

LSU gets kudos for playing a real team in Wisconsin; the schools have set up two "neutral" site games to be played in Houston and Green Bay between 2014 and 2016, so again, kudos. However, their remaining slate would only be impressive in the AAC, as it includes Louisiana-Monroe, Sam Houston State, and New Mexico State.

South Carolina plays a slate that includes Furman, East Carolina, and South Alabama. Natural rivalries between the SEC and ACC are not included as those are yearly rivalries that are out of the hands of the schedule-makers.

But yes, you are so right; Urban Meyer is the only coach in the country and OSU is the only big-time football program in the country to feast on cupcakes.

mgarofano
mgarofano

@JPMRaider @SInow Must be an SEC fan.  By the way, congrats to Bama - the big preseason, all the way National Champs huh?  Got smoked by who?  Okla-who?  HA HA.  Went to sleep against Auburn and quit last night because they were not playing in the big one.  

tonybot3
tonybot3

@JPMRaider i think you're biggest reflection is hating on a coach for something that the Athletic Director does.

Nine Vegetable
Nine Vegetable

@tneng @JeffBockert If I rank 10 SEC teams in the top 10, and then crow about how many top 10 wins one of those teams has every time they beat one of the others, their strength of schedule will be pretty strong.  I think Oklahoma showed why that whole thing is a crock.  


And by the way, all three of those B1G vs SEC games were competitive.  The B1G teams, ranked much, much lower, were neck in neck with those highly ranked SEC teams.  The whole system is a joke ,and thanks to ESPN for continuing to support it.

Mel
Mel

@ZacharyDean No Ohio State isn't the only one to do it. Problem is, every SEC team you listed, you ignored their very strong in conference schedule. Something Ohio State can't claim to have. 


Over the last 4 years....


Bama has played Florida, LSU, Auburn, (4 combined national titles in the last 7 years), as well as South Carolina and Texas A&M.  And I notice you ignored the fact that Bama played both Penn State and Michigan in the last 3 years during the regular season.


Auburn?  Florida, LSU, Bama (and their 6 combined national titles in the last 7 years) as well as A&M etc. 


Tennessee has played UCLA, in a home/road series, have a game scheduled for Oklahoma on the road for 2014. Also played Oregon this year. On top of playing the likes of A&M, Bama, Auburn, etc. 


Florida plays Florida State annually. You know, that team playing for the National Title this year.....on top LSU, South Carolina and A&M over the last 2 years. 


LSU?  Wisconsin, Oregon (who they beat the hell out of), on top of divisional games against Bama and Auburn (you know those 2 teams that have the last 4 national title trophies?)


So do those schools play some patsies like Ohio State does? Absolutely. Does Ohio State play multiple games each regular season against the kind of competition ANY of these teams do? Not even close.


So yeah it's just so very unfair, blah blah blah. Ohio State has a weak conference. That is why they can't afford patsy out of conference games.


tneng
tneng

@ZacharyDeanPlease note that my beloved Tennessee has volunteered (see what I did there?) to go on the road and get their brains beat in again next year. After playing at Oregon in 2013, we travel to Norman to play Oklahoma next fall.

UleNotknow
UleNotknow

@mgarofano @SInow  Okla-who? The Okla-who that has more conference championships, regular season and bowl wins than 99% of the teams in the country? The Okla-who whose coach is the only coach in college football to win ALL of the BCS bowls at one time or another? The Okla-who listed in the top 25 for uncountable seasons? That Okla-who?

Bama didn't quit. No way. They were roght in the game until that last fatal sack of AJ. You're the one who went to sleep.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@tonybot3 

So the football coach at a big football school has NO input whatsoever into what teams they play.

Riiiiiight.  What color is the sky in your world?

tneng
tneng

@Nine Vegetable@tneng@JeffBockertany conference that has as lame a name/logo as "B1G" is a lost cause anyway.  Maybe you are right and every college commentator on every network is wrong.  May the BoneG is the best conference and is disguising with seasons of uninspiring, weak play

Mel
Mel

@Nine Vegetable Funny because you Big Ten homers are the first ones to scream about how the Big Ten is better than the SEC after the conference's best team gets trounced....cause the conference as a whole had a better record in bowl games. Funny how the tides have turned. 

ZacharyDean
ZacharyDean

@Mel I love how poor your reading comprehension skills are. Conference schedules were not the topic being dealt with; it was discussing the ineptitude of many of those future non-conference schedules for the upper-tier of the SEC. Also, I provided a disclaimer regarding those ACC-SEC rivalries, but good job overlooking it.

We're not discussing the past, we're discussing the future. Do you see me mentioning how OSU has played Texas, USC, etc. in the past in non-conference play? No, because those games already happened. Just like the games you brought up.

I'm not indicting past SEC non-confernece schedules, although that seems to be the angle you're shooting at and it is one that could be easily argued in my favor; I'm assaulting their schedules for the next year. I don't see what is so difficult for you to grasp about that.

ZacharyDean
ZacharyDean

@tnengI thought only folks in Austin and Stillwater got to make that joke.

ZacharyDean
ZacharyDean

@Mel@MichaelBauerI wouldn't say that UM and PSU were patsy games for Alabama, but how do you expect to get credit for beating them when you turn around and call out OSU for being in a "weak" conference and those two teams are routinely beaten by the Buckeyes? That whole paragraph defies multiple levels of logic.


The "ranked teams" one has been torn down by too many fans from other teams and conferences recently that I'm not going to even bother with it.

Mel
Mel

@MichaelBauer I'm not blaming Meyer for the schedule at all. That said, OSU's schedule was incredibly weak. they played all of...TWO ranked teams. Think about that for a moment. 13 games. ELEVEN unranked opponents. Eleven. And you are seriously going to question anybody else's schedule?

You Big Ten homers are the first to talk about how conference schedule doesn't matter, but out of conference games do.....so you can bash the SEC. Problem there is, Ohio State has patsy's schedule for BOTH conference and non-conference games. At least Michigan and Penn State had the balls to play 'Bama in the regular season the last couple years. Or are we counting those as patsy games for Bama? LOL 

The last quality team that OSU scheduled regularly was USC...and had a losing record in that serious. Talk your $hit all day long. It ain't gonna win ya ball games. 

MichaelBauer
MichaelBauer

@MidwestGolfFan @tonybot3 The Cal games were scheduled in 2002. So by your calculations, the OSU athletic director called Urban Meyer at Bowling Green to see who they should schedule in 2013? And FYI the SD State game was added late after Vandy chickened out of this seasons game in January.


Scheduling patsies and playing 2/3 of their games at home. You must be thinking of the SEC...


Stick to golf, Skippy, because you clearly don't know jack about football.