With Playoff A Pipe Dream, Urban Meyer Coaching For Pride Saturday

One week after playing The Game Of The Year in college football, Ohio State and Penn State both lost on the road this past Saturday.

The similarities end there.

Penn State, which had its playoff hopes all but dashed in Columbus – and endured a nearly three-and-a-half-hour weather delay in East Lansing – played Michigan State tough throughout and carried a 24-21 lead into the fourth quarter before ultimately losing by a field goal. If you’re a Penn State fan, you’re disappointed, but you’re at least proud of the fight your team showed.

Ohio State fans, meanwhile, probably can’t say the same.

Despite having everything to play for, despite having all of their goals within grasp, the Buckeyes laid the biggest of eggs against Iowa at Kinnick. Ohio State couldn’t stop the run, couldn’t pressure the quarterback, and committed four turnovers in a 55-24 loss.

Urban Meyer’s response? Less than inspiring.

Meyer started 61-5 at Ohio State. Combined margin of defeat? Thirty-five points. Ohio State had a chance to tie or win the game late in the fourth quarter in all five of those losses. The Buckeyes didn’t win every game, but they were in every one of them.

Over his last 10 games, however, Meyer is 7-3. Combined margin of defeat? Seventy-seven points. That’s 25.7 points per loss. One of those losses – Clemson – was the first shutout of Meyer’s career. The one this past Saturday – Iowa – was the most points he’s ever allowed.

Losing is one thing; getting embarrassed is another thing altogether. And Meyer, over the last calendar year, has been embarrassed more often than not in big games.

That, as Pat Forde observed, is a problem.

Meyer, to be fair, has had rough patches before – like the 1-3 stretch from the last two games of 2013 and the first two games of 2014. Ohio State responded to that rough stretch by winning the national title.

That won’t be happening this year.

Some Ohio State beat writers wonder whether Meyer has lost his edge. In some ways, that’s a fair question. In other ways, it’s ludicrous.

But the fact that it’s even being asked is telling.

We’ll learn a lot more about Meyer’s psyche – and the psyche of his team – this Saturday in Columbus. With the playoff out of the picture, will the Buckeyes rebound and beat a gritty Michigan State squad? Or will they fold in the face of adversity and stumble to the finish line? Big picture, is this simply a rare rough patch for Meyer? Or is this the new normal?

In college football, it’s easy for a season to get away from you. Just ask Mark Dantonio last year or Jimbo Fisher this year. But something is amiss with Meyer, and he needs to find the fix.

Meyer is coaching for more than just the Big Ten East on Saturday. He’s coaching for his reputation. He’s coaching for his pride.

Week 11 Rankings

Here’s what I think the committee’s top six WILL be:

1) Georgia (9-0)

Georgia’s 24-10 win over South Carolina made up in substance what it lacked in style. The Bulldogs rushed 53 times for 242 yards (4.6 yards per play), while quarterback Jake Fromm threw for 186 yards and two scores. Unless Auburn pulls the upset this Saturday, Georgia is heading to Atlanta unbeaten.

2) Alabama (9-0)

Anything Georgia can do, Alabama can do…the same? The 24-10 win over LSU was never in doubt.

3) Notre Dame (8-1)

The 37 points allowed against Wake Forest were a tad surprising, mainly because Notre Dame hadn’t allowed more than 20 in a game all year, but hey, a win is a win. A showdown with No. 10 Miami (8-0) awaits.

4) Clemson (8-1)

N.C. State gave Clemson all it could handle, but the Tigers’ depth and explosiveness won out in the end. Kelly Bryant isn’t Deshaun Watson, but he doesn’t have to be. Clemson has enough to win the ACC.

5) Oklahoma (8-1)

I credit Baker Mayfield for beating Oklahoma State, but I just can’t take 62-52 seriously. We’re not going to know if the Sooners are elite until the playoff – and that’s if they get there.

6) TCU (8-1)

TCU was No. 8 last week, and teams 6 and 7 lost. Six would make sense, no?

And now, here’s what I think the committee’s top six SHOULD be:

1) Alabama (9-0)

I still give Alabama the nod over Georgia based on track record.

2) Georgia (9-0)

But that doesn’t mean I don’t like Georgia.

3) Notre Dame (8-1)

Same as last week. Nothing to see here.

4) Clemson (8-1)

Three straight playoff appearances would be very Saban-esque for Dabo.

5) Oklahoma (8-1)

The tilt with TCU is basically an elimination game. I’m okay with that.

6) Wisconsin (9-0)

Hate on the schedule all you want. The Badgers are unbeaten. If they stay that way, they’re in the playoff.

Tony Meale is a Chicago-based author, journalist, and content creator who uses words to inform, educate, entertain, and inspire. A Cincinnati native, he has a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Louis University and a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio University. He began his career as a high school sports reporter before writing and publishing 2012’s “The Chosen Ones: The Team That Beat LeBron,” a behind-the-scenes look at the greatest sports story never told. He’s been creating written and spoken content ever since.

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