COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s post-bye week record speaks for itself — as do the various ways he’s accomplished it.
The last time he lost after an open date was in 2001, when he was a first-year coach at Bowling Green. A redshirt freshman quarterback named Ben Roethlisberger threw for 305 yards to help hand Meyer and the Falcons a 24-21 loss.
Since that defeat he’s reeled off 20 consecutive wins coming off a bye, and those triumphs have come in just about every way possible. While amassing a 21-1 record, he’s beaten teams ranked as high as No. 4 and teams that finished with two wins. He’s won on the road and at home, in blowouts and in overtime. And the victories have piled up as he’s coached four different teams in four different conferences.
Urban Meyer after bye week
|2001||BG||vs. Temple||W 42-23||4-7|
|2001||BG||vs. Miami (Ohio)||L 24-21||7-5|
|2002||BG||vs. Missouri||W 51-28||5-7|
|2002||BG||vs. Ohio||W 72-21||4-8|
|2003||Utah||at Colorado State||W 28-21||7-6|
|2003||Utah||vs. Wyoming||W 47-17||4-8|
|2004||Utah||vs. North Carolina||W 46-16||6-6|
|2005||UF||vs. No. 4 Georgia||W 14-10||10-3|
|2005||UF||vs. No. 23 Florida State||W 34-7||8-5|
|2006||UF||vs. No. 25 Georgia||W 21-14||9-4|
|2007||UF||at No. 8 Kentucky||W 45-37||8-5|
|2008||UF||at Tennessee||W 30-6||5-7|
|2008||UF||vs. Kentucky||W 63-5||7-6|
|2009||UF||at No. 4 LSU||W 13-3||9-4|
|2010||UF||vs. Georgia||W 34-31 OT||6-7|
|2012||OSU||at Wisconsin||W 21-14 OT||8-6|
|2013||OSU||vs. Iowa||W 34-24||8-5|
|2013||OSU||at Illinois||W 60-35||4-8|
|2014||OSU||vs. Cincinnati||W 50-28||9-4|
|2014||OSU||vs. Rutgers||W 56-17||8-5|
|2015||OSU||vs. Minnesota||W 28-14||6-7|
|2016||OSU||vs. Rutgers||W 58-0||2-10|
|2017||OSU||vs. No. 2 Penn State||TBD||TBD|
Meyer has done it largely the same way he’s compiled the rest of his coaching success — by being flexible and making sure his staff is in alignment. Some coaches find a plan and stick with it, but Meyer has changed his strategies based on team needs as well as the opponent.
“I remember one year we had a really bad team, we went out full pads for five straight days, practiced and got better,” he said. “I’ve had very good teams where we’re very mature and we backed off them a little bit. So there’s no template. It depends on the team.”
This year offers the biggest test of all, and Meyer is handling it differently than he did in 2016 when Ohio State faced a hapless Rutgers squad. Ohio State is maybe the hottest team in the country right now, but No. 2 Penn State is coming off a 42-13 win against Michigan and appears to be rounding into top form, too.
In order to try to keep his team from losing its edge with the time off, Meyer ordered a scrimmage on the Thursday of the off week.
“We have to do a good job practicing the heck out of them, but you have to be fresh,” he said. “The other instance is when you’re playing very well, you’d like to keep rolling. So actually on Thursday we played a game. It was in shells, but we played 55, 60 plays out here, because I want to make sure we keep going in this game mode.”
Some weeks might have focused more on improving Ohio State fundamentals, but this one featured a heavy dose of Penn State. Center Billy Price said he’d already watched four Penn State games midway through the off week, and defensive end Sam Hubbard said the Buckeyes were working on finding ways to slow down explosive Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.
When it comes to player usage, the staff is also flexible. Most starters have had the fourth quarter off in recent weeks, but players with more snaps still get rested. Conversely, the starting defensive ends have averaged about 25 snaps in each of the last three games and need reps instead of rest.
“The neat thing about the defensive staff is that all of them are experienced coaches,” defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said during the off week. “So they understand when to put the pressure on and when to pull it off. It’s been a good week.”
The plan is ever-changing, but the results have stayed the same. And with the biggest game of the regular season on deck, Ohio State has to feel confident about what that means for its chances.
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