Before accepting the Ohio State job, Urban Meyer famously signed a contract with his family vowing to be more than an absentee father and husband during the season. If he was going to coach again, Meyer had to promise things would be different than when he nearly coached himself to death at Florida.
Now that the 12-0 Buckeyes' season is over, how did he do?
Pretty good, according to Meyer. The coach explained that he left the Buckeyes' football facility every Sunday at noon, something that would never would have happened at Florida, to watch his son's football games. Except for one time, when he was late and got two speeding tickets en route to the game.
Urban Meyer's Ohio State team finished its sanction-shortened season at 12-0 on Saturday with a 26-21 win over Michigan on Friday. While the Buckeyes are ineligible for the Big Ten and BCS championships, Meyer's season laid a strong foundation for things to come.
With a roster that returns nine offensive starters and five defensive starters, Meyer knows bigger things could be ahead for Ohio State.
Meyer has been to the mountain top before, and with two national championships at Florida, an undefeated season at Utah and now an undefeated season at Ohio State, he's practically a Sherpa now. For Meyer, the biggest takeaway leading into 2013 was allowing his team to get a taste of winning at the highest level.
"The whole theme this week was go where the air is rare," said Meyer. "The last door is a big one. Open it up, kick it open, do what you have to do to get through that door. Once you're in there, it smells different, it tastes different, it looks different. I'm hoping our guys get that taste and they want to go do it again because once you taste that, it tastes really good."
Well said from a man who knows the trail to the mountain top.
Here are the coaches whose work jumped out to us as the best across college football for Week 13.
Head Coaches of the Week - Brian Kelly, Notre Dame and Urban Meyer, Ohio State: Thirteen weeks ago, 124 FBS teams were unbeaten and now only two are left standing. Each coach led his team to an emotional win and each team showed the mark of a true winner, growing more focused with every step closer it got to the finish line. Meyer's Buckeyes started the day by playing an inspired defensive effort to choke out Michigan, not allowing the Wolverines to cross midfield in the second half. Kelly's Fighting Irish went on the road and played like the better team for all 60 minutes against USC. Notre Dame's offense threw for 217 yards, ran for 222 yards and never turned the ball over. The defense limited USC to a lone field goal in the second half, and its exclamation point, of the game and the season, came in a goal line stand with two minutes left.
Offensive Staff of the Week - Florida: The Florida offense has been far from effective for much of this season but the Gators came up big when it mattered the most on Saturday in defeating Florida State, 37-26. The Seminoles brought in college football's best run defense and Florida ran for 244 yards, its third-best performance of the season. Florida State brought in the nation's best total defense and Florida accumulated 398 yards, more than it gained against Bowling Green, Missouri, Louisiana - Lafayette and Jacksonville State. Brent Pease's group scored 37 points, three times what Florida State normally allows. Florida State led the nation in third down defense, allowing opponents to compete 25 percent of their opportunities. Florida converted over half of its third downs (8-of-15). Florida State allowed the fewest first downs in college football. Florida gained 21, one more than Florida State.
Defensive Staff of the Week - Kent State: No defense filled the box score quite like Jon Heacock's Golden Flashes in topping Ohio 28-6 on Friday. Kent State returned a fumble and interception for touchdowns in building a 21-0 first-quarter lead. The Golden Flashes created a total of four fumbles on the day, sacked Bobcats quarterback Tyler Tettleton eight times and forced Ohio to punt nine times. Kent State held an Ohio offense that has run for 210 yards per game and 4.5 yards per carry to just 107 yards and 2.1 yards per carry. Ohio's 339 yards were its third-fewest of 2012 and, most importantly, its six point output was its worst of the season.
Special Teams Unit of the Week - Notre Dame: On a night when Notre Dame moved the ball everywhere except the red zone, sophomore kicker Kyle Brindza came up huge for the Fighting Irish. He hit 5-of-6 field goals, including a career long 52-yarder, the second longest field goal in school history, just before the half to give Notre Dame a 16-10 lead at the break. Ben Turk boomed three punts for a net average of 44.3 yards, and the Irish coverage units neutralized the explosive Marqise Lee and Robert Woods in the return game. George Atkinson III also returned a kickoff 39 yards, setting up Brindza's fifth field goal to put the Irish up by two scores, 22-13, with 5:58 to play.
Call of the Week - Mark Tommerdahl and Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs didn't win the game, but they do win our Call of the Week with a beautiful fake field goal call of Saturday night's game with San Jose State. Trailing 17-6 in the second quarter, Louisiana Tech lined up for a 33-yard field goal when holder David Gru grabbed the snap and ran left, directly at the oncoming edge rusher. Gru then shoveled it forward to Malon Lee (who had lined up as the right wing), who raced in for a 15-yard touchdown. A bit of a read option type look, nice design.
Last season, Ohio State ranked 118th nationally in sacks allowed, allowing nearly 4 per game. As if that weren't bad enough, the Buckeyes ranked 114th in pass attempts with just 245 on the season, which shakes out to roughly 19 attempts per game. Meyer was critical of the body composition of the offensive line when he was hired, and realized that needed to change in order to have the success that him and his staff expected.
Urban's new staff brought in plenty of changes, including hiring a full time nutritionist and giving players healthier choices at meals and have also stationed fridges full of Gatorade all over their training facility.
"In the first six months of Meyer's tenure, the team lost 457 pounds of fat and gained 521 pounds of muscle. The offensive line, a group of just a dozen guys, lost a combined 133 pounds of fat." Thamel notes in his article.
That's very impressive.
One of the more interesting parts of the piece centers around the environment that Marotti has created in the weight room. Not only do they get after it with intensity (with the results to prove it), but he also keeps things entertaining and has created an environment where players want to lift. For example, Marotti has been known to have themed lifting days such as "Harley Davidson day" where guys show up to work out dressed in all black and cut-offs.
"It's not a fun atmosphere, but an entertaining atmosphere. It makes you want to lift." one player noted.
This season, the offensive line has improved tremendously. The daily instruction of offensive line coach Ed Warriner on the field, coupled with Marotti's approach in weight room has payed immediate dividends. Through the ten games of 2012, the Buckeyes are averaging just over 2 sacks allowed per game, and have already thrown the ball nearly as many times this season (242) than they did in all of last season's 13 games (245). Ohio State's ground game has also been dominant, ranking 8th nationally in rushing (256 ypg).
With less than a year in Columbus, Meyer and Marotti have already given the Buckeyes a fresher, faster, and lighter identity. There's no doubt that the weight room environment has a lot to do with their transformation and it's clear to see why Urban noted that Marotti was his "most important hire" after he got him on board.
In case you missed it, the NCAA approved of a new penalty structure earlier this week. In a nutshell, the NCAA has dumped its major and secondary-violation system in favor of a new four-level grouping and, most importantly, holding a head coach accountable for violations committed by an assistant. See the original reporting from USA Today and our write-up about the bylaw changes. Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated does a good job of explaining everything in layman's terms here.
Several Big Ten coaches gave their thoughts on the rules changes to the Chicago Tribune.
"Throughout history," Ohio State's Urban Meyer said, "the only way to keep civilization and to keep things in order is to have very strong rules and enforce them."
"The way coaches act when they are on the road (recruiting) is a direct reflection of the head coach," Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald said. "At the end of the day, the buck stops with the head coach.
"It's been frustrating for a lot of coaches trying to do it the right way," Wisconsin's Bret Bielema said.
The NCAA's changes were well received, but it always helps to have the endorsement of some of the biggest names in college football.
After the Buckeyes scored against Purdue on Saturday with three seconds left, a decision had to be made. Do you give the ball to your 240 pound running back, or throw the ball with your backup quarterback for the two point conversion to send the game into overtime?
The offensive line and running back wanted the game on their shoulders, and told the coaching staff to run behind them for the points. But offensive coordinator Tom Herman was up in the press box with a different perspective, away from the emotion on the sidelines.
“The sterility of the press box allows you not to get caught up in the emotion,” Herman explained after the game."
"It allows you not to get caught up in the moment and how big the moment is and be able to say, ‘Guys, I’ve got (the play call) right here. We’ve been practicing it for three weeks and it’s right here in front of me.’”
Herman added that his ability to pick his battles earlier in the season with head coach Urban Meyer may have led to the approval on the play call.
“Had I been fighting for everything that I had wanted for nine weeks, that one might not have gotten approved. So you pick your battles.”
The perspective from the press box can prove to be beneficial for many coordinators, and for Herman and the Buckeyes, the perspective clearly contributed to the win.
“I think that’s the beauty of being in that sterile environment in the press box is not getting caught up in the emotion and the enormity of the play, and really be able to calmly dissect what needs to happen in order to be successful.” Herman said.
It's hard to believe we're sitting at the halfway point of the 2012 college football season. We could have sworn Labor Day was just a week or two ago. Regardless, 50 percent of the season is already in the books. Here's what we found noteworthy from Week 7 of the college football slate.
1. Move over Ohio, is New Hampshire the new Cradle of Coaches? Probably not, but this stat (courtesy of Bruce Feldman) is astounding: Coaches from the state of New Hampshire, Chip Kelly and Dan Mullen, currently sit at 12-0 so far this season. Not bad for a state with zero FBS programs and just one FBS signee in 2012.
2. Speaking of the Buckeye State, Ohio stands as the top state in college football right now. Urban Meyer is 7-0 and ranked No. 7 in the AP poll in his first season at Ohio State. Butch Jones is 5-0 and ranked No. 21 at Cincinnati. Frank Solich has Ohio at 7-0 and No. 25 in the AP. In fact, the MAC East standings read Ohio, Kent State (5-1, 3-0), Bowling Green (4-3, 2-1) and Miami of Ohio (3-4, 2-1) while Toledo also sits atop the MAC West at 6-1 and 4-0 in the league. Ohio's seven FBS teams are a combined 38-14. Oh yeah, and Mount Union is also 5-0 and has allowed only seven points all season.
3. Arkansas seems to have put the wheels back on the wagon. One week after handling Auburn 24-7, the Razorbacks again looked like the top 10 team many expected to see in a 49-7 dismantling of Kentucky. No coach in the country could use a two-game winning streak more than the embattled John L. Smith. Yes, the wins came against teams that are a combined 0-8 in the SEC. But when you are 1-4, a two-game winning streak is a two-game winning streak.
4. Duke missed its first chance at bowl eligibility. David Cutcliffe's team jumped out in front of Virginia Tech 20-0 only to see the Hokies reel off the game's final 41 points. Duke's next three opponents (North Carolina, Clemson and Florida State) are a combined 16-4 until a date with 2-4 Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Nov. 17.
#Duke's David Cutcliffe reiterates Tuesday statement that #Hokies' Frank Beamer is the top coach in the country
5. Congrats to James Franklin and Vanderbilt for finally cracking the code to Florida's fourth quarter defense. After not allowing a point in any fourth quarter this season, Vanderbilt managed to register 10 points in the final frame on Saturday night. It wasn't enough to pull the upset as Will Muschamp's team improved to 6-0 with a 31-17 win. After being outscored 72-22 in fourth quarters last season, the Gators hold a 54-10 fourth quarter edge this season. Florida also claims come-from-behind wins over Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Vanderbilt. Conditioning was clearly an emphasis of Muschamp in the off-season, and strength coach Jeff Dillman has definitely succeeded in transforming his team.
6. We're glad to see that Jerry Kill plans to coach again this Saturday. Kill suffered a seizure in his private locker room less than an hour after Minnesota's 21-13 loss to Northwestern on Saturday. Coach Kill was released from a Minneapolis hospital on Sunday morning.
7. Wisconsin has returned to form after a shaky start to the season. New offensive coordinator Matt Canada and interim offensive line coach Bart Miller have found their footing, and the Badgers' offense is back to its old ways. In a 38-14 win over Purdue, the Wisconsin offense rushed 57 times for 467 yards and four touchdowns. Starting tailback Montee Ball contributed 247 yards and three touchdowns on 29 rushes. After rushing for just 3.3 yards per carry over their first five games, Wisconsin is churning out 7.1 yards per attempt over its last two games. The Badgers are 5-2 and 2-1 in the Big Ten, a full two wins ahead of the pack of bowl-eligible teams in the Leaders Division.
8. Oregon will face an interesting challenge at Arizona State on Thursday night. In his first season in Tempe, Todd Graham has the Sun Devils sitting at 5-1 and ranked No. 24 in the Coaches Poll. Paul Randolph's defense is far and away the best unit in the Pac-12 on paper. Arizona State leads the league in total defense by nearly 60 yards per game over second place USC. The Sun Devils is giving up just 3.92 yards per play, nearly a full yard better than the rest of the conference. Randolph's unit also leads the conference in pass efficiency defense (4.86 yards per attempt), and its 3.23 yards per carry allowed is over a full yard better than Oregon's Pac-12 opposition to date. And then there's this: the last time Oregon traveled to the Grand Canyon State on a Thursday night was in 2007 when the No. 2 ranked Ducks lost to Arizona, 34-24. Chip Kelly and co. will hope history doesn't repeat itself this week. Scott and Zach from our staff will be at this game. More on this to come later in the week.
9. Notre Dame trailed for the first time this season on Saturday. The Fighting Irish actually trailed for a full quarter against Stanford after falling behind 10-3 at halftime; they didn't tie the game until a 24-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter. Brian Kelly's team trailed again 13-10 before scoring the game's final 10 points in a 20-13 overtime win. Bob Diaco's defense still has not (officially) surrendered an offensive touchdown in four full games.
10. Midweek action begins this week in college football. Starting with Louisiana - Lafayette at North Texas tomorrow night, we will have Tuesday or Wednesday night football all but one week through Thanksgiving.