COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State’s indoor games during the Urban Meyer era read like a list of the program’s greatest hits.
The Buckeyes most recently played indoors at the 2016 Fiesta Bowl, a 44-28 win against No. 8 Notre Dame at University of Phoenix Stadium. The previous season featured even more success. A 59-0 beating of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium led to a College Football Playoff berth. The Buckeyes went to the Superdome and beat Alabama 42-35 in the Sugar Bowl. Ohio State capped off its magical run with a 42-20 win against Oregon in the CFP National Championship at AT&T Stadium.
The lone blemish indoors came in Meyer’s first loss at Ohio State. In 2013, the Buckeyes lost to Michigan State 34-24 to end a streak of 24 consecutive wins.
Other than that, it’s been a healthy dose of domination.
Ohio State will get another chance to play elements-free football in the College Football Playoff. One year after polishing off Notre Dame, the No. 3 Buckeyes will return to University of Phoenix Stadium to face No. 2 Clemson. A spot in the CFP National Championship is at stake. Furthermore, Meyer can add to his legacy with a win.
So is the Buckeyes’ high-powered offense better suited to playing indoors? It’s possible. Barrett threw the ball really well against Notre Dame. He averaged 133 yards in four regular-season starts but hit the Irish for 211 yards. Cardale Jones also dominated in all three 2014 starts, throwing for 742 yards and five touchdowns.
However, the results and environment also might be unrelated. First, it’s not always possible to draw conclusions from a sample size of five games. Additionally, it’s important to consider the timing. Ohio State hasn’t played a regular season game since 2007 against Minnesota at the now-defunct Metrodome.
It’s hard to compare outdoors vs. indoors when the indoor games are exclusively played in the postseason. After all, it’s possible that the Buckeyes just happen to be peaking when the time comes to play indoors.
“I think one of the things is preparation,” quarterback J.T. Barrett said. “Our coaches do a great job of having us prepared in order to play in big games. I think in that case, it just so happens that the big games were indoors.”
Even if the setting doesn’t necessarily raise Ohio State’s ceiling, it could raise the Buckeyes’ floor by taking the worst-case scenario out of play. Their worst offensive games this season — especially from a passing standpoint — came in less than ideal conditions. In steady rain and 20 mph winds, Barrett completed 14 of 22 passes for 144 yards against Tulsa. A 15 mph wind against Indiana led to a stat line of 9 of 21 completions for 93 yards. Lastly, with snow flurries and 20 mph winds at Michigan State, Barrett finished 10 of 22 for 86 yards.
University of Phoenix Stadium has no snow. It has no wind. The temperature will sit somewhere around 70 degrees. Those conditions don’t guarantee success, but they’ll likely remove a nightmare showing from the equation.