Last year, for the first time in my memory, Ohio State had a season that was all about preparing for the next. After Jim Tressell left it seemed like only a matter of time before young replacement Luke Fickell was ousted for someone the fans desired. When the rumor that Urban Meyer was eyeing the position the dam broke and it was all anyone could talk about.
Well it’s a done deal, so now what?
If you ask any Ohio State fan Urban is like the second coming of Woody Hayes. He is going to win the Buckeyes multiple championships before riding off into the sunset on his golden steed they seem to think. But before we crown Urban as the king of College Football, let’s take a step back and just look at his first year in Columbus.
Coming back he has a good amount of talent, Braxton Miller being the standout but the rest of the roster should be one of the most talented in the Big Ten. He brings in a top 5 recruiting class which includes Noah Spence who should be a day 1 standout at defensive end. All of these things coupled with a new scheme that should fit the talent the Buckeyes have on offense seems to be leaning in the favor of a great start.
But, as with the beginning to any new coaching regime, it will take some time for the team to become accustomed to Urban’s style of coaching. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes they don’t have that kind of time; Cal comes to town in week 3 of the season.
While not as high profile a matchup as the games against Miami and USC in the past few seasons, Cal could mean more to the Buckeyes going ahead. The first two games are really warm-up games that Ohio State can win on talent alone, but Cal is an improving Pac-12 program and should prove a much tougher challenge.
The Golden Bears bring back their top position players including QB Zach Maynard. In his junior year Maynard threw for almost 3000 yards and comes back looking for even more. While Cal won’t win the Pac-12, probably won’t even come close, they could give an unadjusted Ohio State squad a run for their money.
The real story about this game is how it defines the first season for Urban in Columbus. Without a bowl game to attend or a Big Ten championship to win, this season comes down to regular season wins. Big Ten losses can be excused, especially later in the season against the bigger schools like Wisconsin and Michigan. But an early season loss to a middle of the road Pac-12 team? Lose that and lose the support of the fans.
Like other big name programs, Notre Dame comes to mind first, Ohio State fans are quick to sell on a player and coach who doesn’t live up to expectations; and for Urban the expectations couldn’t be higher. My prediction is that Ohio State beats Cal and wins 9 or 10 games this year, but if they can’t learn the new system by that week 3 matchup it could be another long season for Ohio State.
Good luck coach Meyer, you’re going to need it.