When Urban Meyer's famous pizza picture became an internet superstar after his Ohio State Buckeyes' championship hopes were squashed by Michigan State, my thoughts for the man became a shell of themselves. Growing up an Alabama fan and rooting for Nick Saban in his early years, I relished the wins over Meyer's Florida Gators. I saw Tebow as enemy, I saw Meyer as the rival, and at the moment he chose to leave the Gators, I saw him as a quitter. Good thing for him, he hopped right on the Ohio State train and has been a spectacular conductor of it ever since.
Urban Meyer is 37-3 at Ohio State. I'm not 37-3 in anything, nor will I ever be. He took a team under sanctions, those left by Tressell's regime, and went 12-0 his first year. They barely beat a California team, they barely beat a UAB team, they squeaked past an Indiana team and they beat Purdue in overtime. But even at 12-0, regardless of their strength of schedule, no bowl game was there.
Fast forward to August 2014, to the AP Poll, where Ohio State was ranked as the fifth-best team in the nation. Why? Because they've had a top-four recruiting class over the previous four seasons, because they're a perennial program that -- regardless of conference -- gains national recognition, and because, yes, they have Urban Meyer.
You know the drill: They begin the season with Braxton Miller -- a Heisman candidate. Or not. Miller needs season-ending surgery to repair an injured shoulder. So, what now? J.T. Barrett. Coming out of Wichita Falls, Tex., Barrett was the No. 7 best dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school with offers from Baylor, LSU, Ole Miss and Nebraska, among many others. His ability to simply play the game became apparent as he went 11-1, throwing for 34 touchdowns and even rushing for 938 yards.
Sure, he lost to Virginia Tech. Sure, his team needed overtime to defeat Penn State. But J.T. Barrett had thrown himself into Heisman contention, and I commend Urban Meyer for that. Not only does it attest to his coaching but also his ability to recruit a backup with the ability to perform like he did. And then you know what happened: Barrett fractured his ankle going into the Big 10 Championship -- which, oh by the way, featured a team in Wisconsin that knocked off Auburn yesterday -- leaving Ohio State in the dust. Or not.
Cardale Jones is his name, and he's the third-string quarterback at Ohio State University. He's actually the first string now, but you don't hear about that very often. Jones, like Barrett, was highly recruited out of high school -- go figure. Ranked the 12th-best pro-style quarterback in the nation by Rivals, Jones had offers from Penn State, Cincinnati, Michigan and West Virginia. He chose Ohio State, of course. Living and growing up in Cleveland made him a fan, and found himself third on the depth chart. That was, until Wisconsin.
Ohio State beat the Badgers, 59-0. That's pretty much all you need to know about the game. Jones threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns but that third-string mantra remained as his team waltzed into "The Big Easy."
Watching the playoff game, I was stunned at his ability to run. He was a bulldozer, a runner that Dak Prescott dreams to be and one that Tebow marvels at. He's an Urban Meyer-type quarterback, and he propelled his once-doubted Buckeyes to a national championship.
Can I give Urban Meyer some credit here?
How many coaches out-scheme Saban with weeks to prepare? How many coaches can essentially -- and I'd say they did this, although Amari Cooper caught two touchdowns -- lock up the best receiver in the country? How many coaches can chunk a headset and still beat the No. 1 team in the country? Urban can. And the way he did it was astonishing but, now, understandable.
Urban Meyer defeated Nick Saban on Saturday and is now 2-2 against him all-time. Colin Cowherd called Gus Malzahn a better coach than Saban, but I'd take Meyer and be okay with it.