CHICAGO – Of all the storylines associated with Big Ten football, the rise of Urban Meyer’s empire at Ohio State deserves top billing.
It’s incredible what the 51-year old Meyer has done in just three seasons, taking something that already was great and improving on it.
And he shows no signs of slowing down, considering how well the Buckeyes are recruiting right now. It’s news when Ohio State doesn’t land either a four or a five-star recruit.
We probably should’ve seen this coming when Meyer ended his early retirement to coach the Buckeyes in 2012. He had been a huge winner at Bowling Green, Utah, and especially at Florida, where he won two national titles in 2006 and 2008 before resigning after the 2010 season.
Combine one elite force with another and you have dominance. Ohio State’s 2014 national title, its 38-3 record under Meyer, including 24-0 in Big Ten regular-season games, are testimonies to that.
Meyer fits perfectly at Ohio State, partly because he was born and raised in Ohio, but also because the program has enough prestige and built-in advantages to satisfy him. Ohio State is probably among just a handful of college programs that Meyer would even consider coaching at this stage of his career.
So don’t look for him to leave anytime soon, meaning the other Big Ten teams have some work to do in order to catch up.
Can anybody compete with the defending national champion Buckeyes is a question that is likely to be asked during the Big Ten football meetings on Thursday and Friday in Chicago. Some head coaches might take offense to that question – especially Mark Dantonio and Jim Harbaugh – but it’s a fair question.
Ohio State seems poised under Meyer to turn the Big Ten into the Big One and Little 13.
Michigan State is next in line in the current Big Ten power rankings followed by Wisconsin, but the drop is significant between those two teams and the Buckeyes.
It’s reasonable to think that Michigan will return to glory under Harbaugh, and the same for Penn State under James Franklin, although, glory in both cases seems beyond reach at this early stage.
Or maybe not.
Elite programs can heal quickly under the right circumstances.
Take the Buckeyes for example. They finished 6-7 in 2011 under interim head coach Luke Fickell, but then won a national title just three years later.
Ohio State also finished 12-0 in Meyer’s first season as head coach, proving that his impact was immediate. That team was prohibited from playing in a bowl game because the program was being penalized at the time. But now there is nothing standing in Ohio State’s way.
I recently ranked my top 10 players in the Big Ten and the list very easily could’ve been all Buckeyes because they’re just that talented. Instead, I picked six players from Ohio State, led by all-America defensive end Joey Bosa in the top spot.
Ohio State is so good right now that you’d think it was a team from the Southeastern Conference if you didn’t know better. It’s rare for a Big Ten team to have the kind of speed that Meyer is bringing to Columbus.
Meyer said shortly after being hired at Ohio State that the other Big Ten teams had to recruit better in order to be in the national title hunt. He probably was wrong to say it publicly, but his message came through loud and clear.
The only real concern with Ohio State, besides, of course, injuries, is team chemistry. It could be disrupted if the unique situation at quarterback becomes a distraction.
But Meyer has a knack for pushing the right buttons.
Combine his presence with Ohio State’s immense talent and the Big Ten should have its first back-to-back national champion since Michigan State accomplished that rare feat in 1965 and 1966.
Pat Harty’s 2015 Big Ten regular-season predictions
Ohio State, 12-0, 8-0
Michigan State 10-3, 6-2
Penn State 7-5, 4-4
Michigan 7-5, 4-4
Maryland 3-5, 7-6
Rutgers 3-5, 7-5
Indiana 1-7, 4-8
Wisconsin 10-2, 6-2
Nebraska 8-4, 5-3
Minnesota 8-5, 5-3
Iowa 7-5, 4-4
Northwestern 6-6, 3-5
Illinois 2-6, 5-7
Purdue 1-7, 3-9
Offensive Player of the Year: Ezekiel Elliot, Jr., RB, Ohio State
Defensive Player of the Year: Joey Bosa, Jr., DE, Ohio State