There has been a lot of talk around Columbus lately about Urban Meyer and his commitment to Ohio State. Is he really a Buckeye? Does he really care about Ohio State, or is being the head coach of the Buckeyes just a stepping stone for him? There are those who believe that Meyer will be the head Buckeye for, at most, 5 years. This writer on this website has even brought up the topic, comparing Meyer's handling of the press to that of previous coach Jim Tressell.
So what's going on around Columbus?
Well, it appears that some people in Columbus just can't seem to let go of our previous coach. Sure, he had his haters as well. But the majority of the people around Columbus had a great deal of admiration for Tressell and what he was able to accomplish with the Buckeyes during his 10 years at the helm – regardless of how it ended.
The situation is not so different as what happens in any other hard-core college sports town. Let's take Meyer's previous stomping ground, Florida, as a good example. Three coaches prior to Meyer, Steve Spurrier was the head coach of the Gators. He was so successful and so well admired by the Gator fans, that the fans launched a campaign to remove his successor, Ron Zook, in hopes that Spurrier would return to his old position. The plan to remove Zook worked so well that after only two years he was gone. It didn't work so well as far as getting Spurrier back, who opted to go to South Carolina. That whole mess is what eventually opened the door for Meyer to get the job and work his magic.
So it's not unusual for fans to show overwhelming loyalty to a previous coach, especially one who's had a measure of success. That's especially true at Ohio State when the old coach identifies well with being a Buckeye. Tressell was born and raised in Ohio, and his coaching job before coming to Ohio State was in Ohio at Youngstown State. Everyone knew he was a Buckeye. Since Meyer's previous coaching job was at Florida, it's easy for many Buckeye fans to make the mistake of placing him in the role of an "outsider".
Let's make one thing clear - Urban Meyer is no outsider. He was born in Ohio, raised in Ohio, went to college in Ohio, and was even a graduate assistant coach at Ohio State. Urban Meyer is a Buckeye. The fact that he coached for a while outside the state of Ohio doesn't change that. In fact, it most likely added a great deal of emotion to his decision to return home.
As commented on here previously, Urban Meyer isn't the best at conveying himself in the press. His extreme focus to task and dedication to his work often comes across as distracted when answering questions, and that can give the wrong impression. He's gotten a bit better lately, most likely because the success of the Buckeyes has enabled him to relax just a trifle.
Normally a game preview puts focus on the players and how they will match up during the game. There's certainly some things to talk about In that regard for this game. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller has not had great performances in the last couple of games, as other teams have started to figure him out a bit. Will he be able to break loose against a solid Michigan defense, or will Michigan's Jake Ryan make his afternoon miserable?
By contrast Michigan's junior quarterback Devin Gardner has been lighting up the boards the past couple weeks. In each of the last two weeks Gardner has been named both B1G co-offensive player of the week AND Manning Award player of the week. Last week he scored 6 touchdowns against Iowa. Will Ohio State's increasingly tough defensive secondary be able to contain Gardner? Will Buckeye running back-turned-linebacker Zach Boren spend the afternoon showing Gardner close-ups of the grass?
All of these are good questions that normally we would compare here and answer – usually to the advantage of the Buckeyes. Today is different. Today there is more going on here than the typical rivalry game. Today is Urban Meyer's first game against Michigan in the Shoe.
Even more so that usual, this game will be driven by emotion.
Expect that today, Urban Meyer will give the pre-game speech of his life. He'll get the team fired up in a way that only the Head Buckeye can. Then, he'll turn it over to the seniors. Since there is no post-season this year, this will be their last game. These seniors stayed with the program to kick off something special, and their goal was to leave their mark on the University. That they have done, but it is incomplete until they get the victory today. This team is going to be fired up in a way that doesn't happen very often. They're going to come out to win.
And there's little that Brady Hoke or his players will be able to do about it.
Add your opinion to the list. Take the poll on the lower left hand side of the page to tell us who you think will win today.
Tags: Braxton Miller, Buckeyes, Devin Gardner, Jim Tressell, Michigan, NCAA, Ohio State, Urban Meyer, Wolverines, Zach Boren