FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer has been very successful at every aspect of coaching, with 128 wins and only 24 losses in 12 seasons at OSU, Florida, Utah and Bowling Green.
But Meyer’s greatest success might be in bowl games, where his teams have won seven of eight games and have been crowned national champion twice.
The only loss in those eight games was when Michigan rose up to send retiring coach Lloyd Carr off with a victory over No. 9 Florida in the Capital One Bowl after the 2007 season.
Most years Meyer’s teams haven’t just won their bowl games, they’ve crushed their opponents.
Five of his seven bowl wins have been by 10 points or more and three have been by 27 points or more.
Ohio State fans are very familiar with one of those one-sided bowl triumphs by a Meyer-coached team.
Ohio State went into the BCS national championship after the 2006 season undefeated, ranked No. 1 and favored by eight points. Some people said Florida, with one loss, didn’t even belong in the title game.
But the Gators humbled Ohio State 41-14, and it probably could have been worse. Florida threw only one pass after scoring its final touchdown with just over 10 minutes to play.
“I’d like to thank all those people (who said Florida didn’t belong),” Meyer said after the game. “Our pre-game speech was easy.”
As indelibly as that loss might be burned into the football souls of some Ohio State fans, maybe the Meyer bowl game they should hope the Buckeyes can copy tonight against Clemson in the Orange Bowl is Florida’s 51-24 rampage against Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl after the 2009 season.
That Florida team was similar to this year’s once-beaten Ohio State team.
In 2009, Florida was undefeated and going for a second consecutive national championship when it lost the Southeastern Conference championship game to Alabama.
There was no pouting and no lack of motivation when it took the field the next time. With Tim Tebow completing 17 of his first 18 passes, the Gators made a statement.
“We had a bad game at a crucial moment but we’re still Florida. We’re still here, and we aren’t going anywhere,” offensive lineman Carl Johnson said after the game.
So, can Ohio State make a similar statement tonight against Clemson (ESPN, 8:30 p.m.) after losing the Big Ten championship game 34-24 to Michigan State? Can it quiet the skeptics who say its school-record 24-game winning streak and its frustrated dream of a national title were the product of a weak schedule?
Logic says no.
Quarterbacks whose reputation and statistics rank well below those of Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd have abused Ohio State’s pass defense. His favorite receiver Sammy Watkins will go very high in the NFL draft.
Ohio State’s defense will be without its best cornerback Bradley Roby because of an injury and without its best pass rusher Noah Spence, who was suspended by the Big Ten, reportedly for using a banned dietary supplement.
In the last few games before the Orange Bowl, Ohio State’s offense has become less explosive, with the passing game becoming a concern.
But if you speak Corso, you know what is coming next. Not so fast, my friend.
Clemson (10-2) has lost only twice, but both of those losses have been spectacular.
No. 1 Florida State rolled 51-14 when it came into Clemson. And the Tigers’ biggest rival, South Carolina, won 31-17 when it forced six Clemson turnovers, four of them in the fourth quarter.
It’s not a stretch to believe Michigan State would have beaten Clemson, too, if they had played each other and that the margin of victory might have been bigger than 10 points.
Finally, I have learned not to pick against Urban Meyer. I didn’t think Florida would beat Ohio State in the national championship game after the 2006 season. I was not convinced at first he would take the Ohio State job. I didn’t expect 12-0 last season.
The prediction: Ohio State 35, Clemson 28