Ohio State--The Coach
Over the past decade, "The" Ohio State University has fielded a football team that 119 other different programs would be envious of—that is, until last year.
Killer tattoos, a spoiled prima donna quarterback, imaginary summer jobs and a coach whose sweater vest came unraveled left the team in the hands of a wet-behind-the-ears interim coach in Luke Fickell.
The result? A year in which the program finished with a lot of "firsts in a while" comments (and not in a good way) as a talented, but young team was strayed like a nomad wandering through a desert full of expectation mirages, bad directions and lost opportunity.
But there is good news. Despite the laundry list of abominations, the program came out the other end of the NCAA root canal with perhaps more promise than before the scarlet and gray ship ran aground.
On November 28th, Urban Meyer stepped to the podium and pointed the proud program right back towards its usual expectations. But what's to say that this thing will go off as planed?
Here's a look at five reasons why Ohio State will be right back with the upper crust of the nation faster than a Terrelle Pryor loaner car.
Look What We Found
Jim Tressel had an unbelievable run at Ohio State. There were multiple Big Ten Championships, a bushel of BCS games and a national title. On top of that, the "senator" used Michigan as his own personal pin cushion.
There aren't many coaches that could have bragging rights over him at the water cooler, yet the OSU administration managed to pull in an even bigger fish in Urban Meyer.
The resume speaks for itself. Meyer has taken every team at which he was top dog, and turned them around—in a hurry.
First there was Bowling Green, a MAC school with little football pedigree that he morphed into one of the MAC's best in just two years. Next on the hit list, Meyer drove the U-haul to Utah where he fashioned Alex Smith into the first pick of the NFL draft, and had the Utes finish with an undefeated season and BCS bowl game win in 2004.
Then, Meyer moved his family to the sunshine of Florida, where he turned a Gator squad into a national power with two national titles in 2006 and 2008.
You'd better believe that if Meyer can win at Bowling Green and Utah, there's a better than fair chance he'll have the same Midas touch at a program like Ohio State.
Ohio State has always gotten players. It's a team with tradition, prestige, recognition and exposure. Woody Hayes got it done, Earl Bruce followed suit, John Cooper fell in line and Jim Tressel rolled out the scarlet carpet. None of them—not a one—was as good of a recruiter as the Urban Legend himself.
Already in his short time, Meyer has flipped some recruits, brought other blue-chippers in the fold and turned a very mediocre 2012 recruiting class into a consensus top five.
And that is without the benefit of the time many of his colleagues had. Given the same clock his colleagues have, there is no doubt that Meyer will keep the Ohio kids and go national to cherry pick other elite talent to put more Buckeye leaves on those silver helmets.
He's already gotten kids out of parts of the country that Ohio State has not traditionally recruited well in—quickly.
There's more on the way, and the snowball of momentum will become an avalanche of talent in the years to come. All things being equal, talent trumps all.
Quick—what's the other big name FBS college football school in the populous state of Ohio? It took you too long to answer, and there's a good reason why. Ohio can boast of being one of the top five richest states for high school football talent almost every year.
There are several substantial metropolitan areas like Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati to draw from. And while the state doesn't have the population it once had because of the great migration to the sun belt, it is still in the top ten of all states in the union.
Now think about where the pro football Hall of Fame resides, where may of the top coaches, players and analysts in the game have roots, and there is no doubt which sport is king in the O-H-I-O.
The ball that bounces funny has always been the leather product of choice, and that means plenty of talented kids to choose from, without much competition.
Ohio State has been a machine when it has locked down its home turf because of this built in advantage that doesn't get talked about much. When it doesn't, teams like Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State fare much better because of the slow leak that trickles out of the sate that can be sopped up with a little effort.
There was a period of time during the tattoo fiasco when Ohio players began to flock to other teams. Now that Meyer is stomping around the 'Shoe and there appears to be stability in the program, that looks to be changing.
As it changes, and Ohio players remain Ohio players, the Buckeye machine will crank out more winning widgets.
Did we mention that Ohio State was a young team last year? Young for sure, but not without talent. During the last couple of years of the Tressel Regime, OSU had some top-five recruiting classes stocked in the back of the pantry, ready for seasoning.
Though last year the talent didn't show because of the storm clouds and mounting uncertainty of the program, there's still a lot of tools in the toolbox for Urban Meyer to tinker with.
The defense returns mostly intact, the stable of running backs is deep and talented, the young wide receiving corps will be a year older and there is a supremely talented QB that will fit more snugly into the Urban Meyer spread offense than spandex does at an 80s rock reunion.
Most coaching changes result in a tearing down and building back up, but Urban Meyer will have a rare luxury of dropping right into a team ready to mature into a solid, if not spectacular unit.
It's no secret the Big Ten has struggled in the public relations department since Ohio State got baked in the desert by the Florida Gators and their current head coach in early 2007. After a larger sample size, Big Ten fans can't excuse it away as an anomaly any longer.
They must come to grips with the realization that the league is simply not what it once was—at least not yet.
College football is a cyclical beast to be sure, but the Big Ten is still trying to climb back to the mountaintop that it has stumbled down in recent years. The conference is still not as strong from top to bottom like it once was, and even the top dogs are still searching for a consistent identity.
Ohio State was at the top of the league under Tressel because it could dominate a conference that was a bit watered down. While Michigan is starting to get its act together, Nebraska brings some street cred and both Wisconsin and Michigan State seem to be pointed in the right direction, the flag of the conference still waits for its bearer to come grab it and wave it proudly for all to SE-Cee.
The profile that is coming for Ohio State fits the form. If Urban Meyer can take a Florida program and make it the model team in the SEC, he can certainly take an Ohio State program that has always been one of, if not the model team of the league, and get it to the top again in a less talented Big Ten.
Maybe, just maybe, the rest of the league will follow where Ohio State is trying to go.