COLUMBUS, Ohio — In the moments following Ohio State’s 30-27 double-overtime win against Michigan two Saturdays ago, Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer took stock of all that was going on around him.
“It’s a weird life, man,” the Buckeyes head coach said.
It was about to get a whole lot weirder.
Eight days later, Meyer would see his team make the College Football Playoff — while he watched the selection show from the maternity ward at Riverside Hospital. His daughter, Nicki, had just given birth to his first grandchild 7 hours earlier.
“I understand these are all gifts,” Meyer said.
Personally, his life had just been turned upside down.
Professionally, it was getting pretty weird, as well.
With his team still alive in the hunt for the College Football Playoff championship, Meyer has an opportunity to enter rarefied air as a head coach. With three national championships to his credit, Meyer has already established his status as one of the best head coaches in college football history. Ohio State could lose to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal or either Alabama or Washington in the title game and no one would dispute that.
But a fourth national championship? That would be a game-changer. Only six head coaches in college football history have ever won more than three titles. With two more wins this season, Meyer could be the seventh, tying John McKay and Frank Leahy with four.
At the moment, Meyer is hardly harping on his legacy. “I’m going to send a text out to my players and staff right now that we receive this opportunity with incredible humility and class,” he said. “Because I can name six, seven teams right now that are that quality of teams.”
But that doesn’t change the fact that with two more wins, Meyer will have done what only one other coach since 1979 — Nick Saban — has done by winning a fourth national title.
And if the Buckeyes do go on to win their second College Football Playoff championship in three seasons, one could argue this will have been his best coaching job yet.
That might seem crazy, considering all Ohio State went through to win the first College Football Playoff championship in 2014. By the time the Buckeyes had reached the postseason, they were down to their third-string quarterback in Cardale Jones due to injuries to Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett. Ohio State won anyway, besting three Heisman Trophy finalists in three consecutive games.
Immediately, many considered it one of the best coaching jobs in college football history.
This one might be better.
Meyer’s never entered a season with a team as inexperienced as the one he entered this season with. The Buckeyes lost 16 starters from a season ago, including 12 NFL draft picks and 5 first-rounders. Of Ohio State’s 85 scholarship players, nearly half (42) are freshmen.
The Buckeyes didn’t just go 11-1 and make the College Football Playoff — they did it against the toughest schedule in the nation, per TeamRankings.com. He may not have admitted it at the time, but even Meyer had his concerns at the start of the year.
“When I first saw the schedule, I wasn’t all jacked up about taking our team — a young team — on the road to Oklahoma,” Meyer said. “That was our first road trip.”
But the Buckeyes won, beating the now-No. 7 Sooners 45-24. And then they won some more. Even Ohio State’s lone loss of the year was understandable — a 3-point defeat at the hands of now-No. 5 Penn State on the backend of consecutive road games at night against top-10 teams coming off of bye weeks.
Ohio State won big this season, including consecutive 62-3 victories at the start of November. And it also won close in overtime triumphs against Wisconsin and Michigan.
Somewhere in between all the winning, the Young Bucks grew up.
“You don’t really think that far ahead because you don’t really have time,” Meyer said. “But now I could reflect upon the season. Very proud of their progress.”
And yet, there’s still room for the Buckeyes to get better.
“We’re so young,” Meyer said. “There’s so much improvement (left).”
How much Ohio State continues to progress in the coming month could determine where its head coach ranks on the pantheon of college football coaches in history. And yet, regardless of how this winter plays out, Meyer is well aware he’s a part of something special.
“This is the golden years of college football, man,” he said.
Meyer should know. He’s been as big a part of it as almost anyone.