Urban Meyer, Ohio State as Underdogs Should Worry Alabama

David Regimbal@davidreg412Featured ColumnistDecember 12, 2014

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 6:  Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes rallies his team before a game against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Ohio Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

When No. 1 Alabama faces off against No. 4 Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day, Nick Saban's Crimson Tide shouldn't have a problem rolling over Urban Meyer's Buckeyes.

At least, that's what Vegas is predicting.

Moments after the College Football Playoff selection committee announced their four semifinalists, Alabama was projected as a heavy nine-point favorite over Ohio State, according to Odds Shark. That will give Meyer and the Buckeyes three weeks to settle into their role as underdogs.

That should worry Saban and the Tide. 

The us-against-the-world mentality is a popular mantra for underdogs, but that particular motivational tactic has worked well for Meyer in the past. He's turned good teams that were slighted by media and oddsmakers into angry, unstoppable forces.

Ohio State fans became very aware of that in January 2007, when the Buckeyes faced a Meyer-led Florida team in the BCS national title game. With Heisman Trophy quarterback Troy Smith at the helm, unbeaten and top-ranked Ohio State was a 7.5-point favorite over the Gators.

Much of the pregame talk focused on the unblemished Buckeyes and whether Florida even deserved a shot. There were some, such as ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski, who thought Michigan had earned the right to a rematch against Ohio State.

Florida eventually got the nod, but all the while, Meyer was keeping tabs on the detractors. He used the negativity to fuel his team, which went on to blast the Buckeyes in a 41-14 rout.

Ohio State came in as favorites, but that didn't matter to an angry Florida team.
Ohio State came in as favorites, but that didn't matter to an angry Florida team.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

"I'd like to thank all those people," Meyer said to Florida's critics, according to Ben Walker of the Associated Press (via The Washington Post). "Our pregame speech was easy."

Now at Ohio State, Meyer has his team embracing that underdog role. The Buckeyes have been projected to lose four times in Meyer's three years in Columbus, according to Bill Livingston of The Plain DealerThey're a perfect 4-0 in those games.

Two of those wins came in tough spots for the Buckeyes this season. Ohio State hit the road for a prime-time matchup against Michigan State on November 8, looking to avenge last year's loss in the Big Ten title game. The Buckeyes did just that, piling up 568 total yards in a 49-37 victory over the favored Spartans.

The other happened last Saturday when Ohio State entered the conference title game as four-point underdogs to Wisconsin. Meyer perked up when he was told the Badgers were favored earlier in the week.

So did the Buckeyes.

Despite facing a Wisconsin team that boasted the nation's top rusher in Melvin Gordon and the second-ranked defense, Ohio State flexed its muscle in a 59-0 blowout victory. 

Chris Emma @CEmma670

Ohio State's 59-point win was the largest margin of victory by an underdog in college football history. Wisconsin was a four-point favorite.

But the Buckeyes are facing longer odds against Alabama. Ohio State hasn't faced a favorite this big in three years, and Meyer knows his team will need to be at its best to come out with a victory.

“We have to be on point to beat this team,” Meyer said, according to Patrick Maks of Eleven Warriors. “I know how they recruit, I know the way they coach.”

But Saban and the Tide need to be aware of how dangerous Ohio State can be as underdogs.

All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.


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