Urban Meyer’s Retirement at Ohio State Potentially Creates Window of Opportunity in Big Ten

Since Ohio State hired Urban Meyer in 2012, the ACC has almost as many wins against the Buckeyes (three) as the rest of the teams in the Big Ten (five). That’s how dominant Ohio State has been in one of college football’s premier conferences.

Meyer’s retirement after the season could potentially create a window of opportunity — even if it’s a brief one — for the balance of power to shift in the Big Ten, if Ohio State’s trajectory drops even slightly under Meyer’s successor, Ryan Day.

Ohio State is 58-5 against the Big Ten since the start of the 2012 season and Michigan State is the only team in the conference that has beaten the Buckeyes more than once during that stretch.

The Buckeyes are undefeated against nine of the other 13 teams in the Big Ten since Meyer’s arrival, including Michigan (7-0) and Wisconsin (5-0) — two of the Big Ten’s premier programs.

School Record Against Ohio State Since 2012
Michigan State 2-5
Iowa 1-1
Purdue 1-2
Penn State 1-6
Minnesota 0-3
Northwestern 0-3
Nebraska 0-4
Illinois 0-5
Maryland 0-5
Rutgers 0-5
Wisconsin 0-5
Indiana 0-7
Michigan 0-7

 

Michigan State beat Ohio State twice since 2012 and those were a pair of crucial wins. The Spartans won 34-24 in the 2013 Big Ten Championship and 17-14 at Ohio State on a last-second field goal in 2015 that helped send Michigan State to the College Football Playoff.

However, the Buckeyes still own a 5-2 record against the Spartans during Meyer’s tenure, so you can argue that Ohio State’s biggest “kryptonite” in the Big Ten in recent years is a school that only had a 28 percent winning percentage against the Buckeyes during that time span.

Given the (recently one-sided) Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, including the Buckeyes’ latest 62-39 win in Week 13 of this season, you could argue that no program has been more directly affected by the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State than the Wolverines.

Michigan has had potential trips to the College Football Playoff ruined by Ohio State twice in the last three years.

The Wolverines were ranked No. 3 in the CFP rankings entering Week 13 of the 2016 season, when Ohio State won 30-27 in double overtime in Ann Arbor.

Michigan was ranked No. 4 when it traveled to Columbus this year. If the Wolverines had beaten the Buckeyes, then Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship, they likely would have made the playoff.

That’s life in the Big Ten East, which is home to four schools that can reasonably hope — if not expect — to finish in the top 15 on an annual basis. Each school has done so multiple times in the playoff era, as has Wisconsin.

School 2014 Final CFP Ranking 2015 Final CFP Ranking 2016 Final CFP Ranking 2017 Final CFP Ranking 2018 Final CFP Ranking
Ohio State No. 4 No. 7 No. 3 No. 5 No. 6
Michigan NR No. 14 No. 6 NR No. 7
Penn State NR NR No. 5 No. 9 No. 12
Michigan State No. 8 No. 3 NR No. 16 NR
Wisconsin No. 18 NR No. 8 No. 6 NR

 

The Badgers, who have been the class of the Big Ten West during the playoff era, have been frustrated almost annually by Ohio State.

They lost to OSU by seven points in 2012, 2013 and 2016.

Wisconsin was also crushed by Ohio State to the tune of 59-0 in the 2014 Big Ten Championship, which secured Ohio State’s first playoff berth. A 27-21 loss to Ohio State in the 2016 Big Ten Championship spoiled a potential 13-0 start and a playoff berth for Wisconsin.

Those four Big Ten schools — Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin — and their fan bases can all point to at least one of the last five seasons where they could make a case that their team would’ve made the playoff had it not been for Ohio State.

Well, here’s their chance.

Ohio State will have a first-time head coach and potentially another first-year starting quarterback if Heisman Trophy finalist Dwayne Haskins declares for the NFL Draft.

Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State all play at the Buckeyes’ Ohio Stadium next fall. Michigan will host Ohio State in Week 13.

Nebraska and Northwestern, a pair of Big Ten West schools that pushed the Buckeyes this season, will also get the chance to play Ohio State at home.

Looking ahead to 2020, Ohio State will host Iowa, which is one of the few Big Ten schools that has beaten the Buckeyes in the last seven seasons, then travel to Michigan State and Penn State in a three-week stretch.

There have been mixed results of former Ohio State coaches in their first season. Urban Meyer went 12-0 in 2012 and Earle Bruce went 11-1 in 1979, but John Cooper went 4-6-1 in 1988, Luke Fickell went 6-7 in 2011 and Jim Tressel went 7-5 in 2001.

If there’s an opportunity, even a short-lived one, for another Big Ten contender to make a run at the Big Ten Championship and the College Football Playoff, the rest of the conference will hope that Day’s first full season in charge goes in a similar direction as Fickell, Tressel and Cooper’s debut seasons in Columbus.

That window of opportunity, if it even presents itself, could close quickly. Tressel went 14-0 and won a national championship in his second season. Cooper went 8-4 in his second year.

To some degree, Ohio State is likely “coach-proof,” meaning the program has excelled almost regardless of who the coach is — although the school has also consistently had great coaches. Day already has a taste of what it’s like to be Ohio State’s head coach from when he served as the team’s interim coach for the first three games of this season, but the 39-year-old will learn on the job as he takes over one of the biggest programs in the sport.

Meyer’s retirement and any fallout that comes from it — affects on recruiting, staff changes or game management — could allow another one of the Big Ten’s top programs to break through and make the College Football Playoff. But if Day, who was promoted internally without the university conducting a national search, is as talented of a coach as Ohio State AD Gene Smith and the university’s brass thinks he is, then there might be another decade or two of the rest of the Big Ten playing for second place more times than not.