COLUMBUS, Ohio — Somebody is keeping score, and that’s all that matters to Urban Meyer.
So, don’t just dismiss those decimal points that look like they could decide Ohio State’s tight head-to-head race against Georgia for the mythical recruiting championship. Don’t accept that there is no significant difference between finishing in the top spot and being the runner-up, even though it probably means both programs are in great shape to keep contending for national titles on the field. And don’t just chalk it up as a victory to maintain that wide margin ahead of rival Michigan, even if that’s generally a safe place for the Buckeyes to start evaluating their success to prepare for future editions of The Game.
Most importantly, don’t do any of that around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, where finishing strong and finally claiming a No. 1 spot in the rankings has been clearly established as the goal since Meyer arrived on campus intent on dominating the recruiting trail.
“Well, I mean, I hear people say it’s not important,” Meyer said way back on signing day in 2014 after Ohio State finished third nationally. “I disagree. As long as you’re keeping score we’re going to try to win. I’m disappointing we weren’t the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. Our staff knows we’re disappointed about that.
“Is that the final end‑all? No … but there is a correlation between how teams do where your team is ranked [and where your] recruiting class is ranked.”
Meyer has admitted just about every year that he pays attention to those rankings, and that will make this closing stretch with the Buckeyes sprinting to a revamped finish line even more interesting than usual.
Much of the uncertainty of the final week before the traditional February signing day is now gone thanks to the early signing period, where Ohio State did much of its work by signing 21 players on Dec. 20. But Georgia’s strong work coupled with a few high-profile decisions that didn’t go Ohio State’s way opened up the possibility that Meyer might not earn that championship he and his relentless recruiting staff have coveted so badly.
Since then, of course, the Buckeyes have gone out and signed 4-star defensive end Tyreke Smith at the close of the early signing period, picked up another 4-star commitment on the defensive line from Tyler Friday and added a pledge from wide receiver Chris Olave on Sunday — and they could still add a couple marquee pieces with an important weekend looming.
Certainly on paper, everything is shaping up the way Meyer envisions it for Ohio State. He obviously has made it no secret that it matters to him, even though it’s also true that the work is really only beginning when the ink dries on those signatures.
“Once again, what’s it really mean? Nothing,” Meyer said two years ago. “You had a skinny-neck kid from New Albany that played quarterback [now NFL linebacker Darron Lee] that ended up being OK and he wasn’t ranked very high. Every year that happens, but we do check those things out. I know I do.
“Rankings are important. As long as you’re keeping score, we like to do the best we can.”
The Buckeyes are on the brink of their best effort yet, which the rankings clearly reflect.
And there is no question Meyer is keeping tabs on them now with a recruiting title well within Ohio State’s reach.