Urban Meyer is coming for you, SEC. (Photo courtesy: USA Today Sports)
Urban Meyer is operating ahead of schedule in Columbus.
In Meyer’s three previous head coaching stops – Bowling Green, Utah and Florida – his second season was his peak campaign. A 9-3 year with the Falcons gave way to a 12-0 season and a Fiesta Bowl victory with the Utes, which yielded a 13-1 effort and a national championship with the Gators.
The 48 year-old Meyer is not just immune to the sophomore slump; he is the antidote to it.
So how does Meyer, whom Ohio State hired after Jim Tressel resigned two years ago, improve upon an inaugural season in which the Buckeyes, who were ineligible to play in a bowl game, finished 12-0? You already know the answer.
Meyer is poised to lead a team to his personal third national championship in a third different stadium (the Rose Bowl) in just his past seven seasons. The Buckeyes are stacked offensively, and that at least should garner them a berth in Pasadena next January.
Nine offensive starters return, including this writer’s pick to win the Heisman Trophy, quarterback Braxton Miller. In his first season in Meyer’s offense, Miller rushed for 1,271 yards. That’s a school record for Buckeye quarterbacks. In short, Miller, whom we remind you led Ohio State to an undefeated season, had the year that fans always expected out of his predecessor, Terrelle Pryor.
Four starters return for an offensive line that will do more plowing than any farmer in central Ohio, meaning that Carlos Hyde (95 rushing yards per game in ’12) could, like Miller, top the century mark this season in yards per game.
The defense loses its entire front line, including last year’s heart and soul, John Simon. However, linebacker and leading tackler Ryan Shazier returns, and it is a typical Buckeye secondary: fleet of foot and hard-hitting. Cornerback Bradley Roby is an All-American.
You know what? Forget, with the exclusion of Miller, roster spots. Last year Meyer, an Ohio native, inherited a team that went 6-7 the year before under interim head coach Luke Fickell – the school’s first losing season since 1988 – and led them to 12-0. Two of the victories required overtime, but still that is impressive.
The players understand Meyer even better, and in Miller he has a run-first QB in the mode of Tim Tebow. The Big Ten conference overall is weaker this season than last: the most arduous road game is probably in Evanston on Oct. 5, which will lead to a chuckle or three in the bars on High Street.
Urban Meyer will only be 49 years old when the season begins, and ends. In eight months he may be able to say that he won three national championship and retired to spend more time with his family all before his 50th birthday. The only other living coach who can make that claim, at least the first part of it, is Barry Switzer.
Yes, it is Urban Renewal time along the banks of the Olentangy River. Watch out for the Buckeyes this season. And enjoy. After all, if any Big Ten coach is going to dethrone the mighty Southeastern Conference in the final BCS National Championship Game, why not one who won two national titles while coaching in the SEC?