COLUMBUS, Ohio — When it comes to games following off weeks, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is nearly impossible to beat.
The fifth-year Buckeyes coach hasn’t lost following a bye week since 2001, when he was at Bowling Green in his first season as a head coach. Since then, he’s reeled off 19 consecutive wins with an extra week to prepare in the middle of the regular season.
He’s won against good teams and bad, ranked and unranked, bowl teams and cellar dwellers. He’s gotten it done at home and on the road and at neutral sites while coaching at four different schools in four different conferences.
Just take a look at this chart listing his post-bye week exploits:
|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|
So why is Meyer so good following a week off? It may just be because he’s nearly that good all the time.
Former Ohio State assistant coach Chris Ash, now the head coach of Rutgers, has the unfortunate task of facing a well-rested Meyer team this week. After spending two years working for Meyer, he thinks the reason Meyer is so successful in this scenario is because he’s successful in pretty much any situation.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with a bye week,” Ash said. “You just look at his record overall. It has nothing to do with a bye week. He’s won a lot of games. He’s won a lot of games at home, a lot of games on the road, a lot of games coming out of bye weeks. So it’s not about a bye week. It’s just about his method, his process, his attention to detail and the preparation and the players that he has. There’s a lot that goes into it. But, I mean, he’s a great coach. He’s been a great coach. He’s proven that year after year, at place after place, and you know, Week 5 of the 2016 season is not going to be any different.”
That’s as compelling an argument as has ever been offered for Meyer’s post-bye success. The Ohio State head coach has often said that there’s nothing different to his bye-week approach other than putting an emphasis on getting healthy and cleaning up errors — “probably boring to most people,” he said Monday.
The numbers do line up similarly enough to make the case that Meyer wins enough to make it harder to differentiate the success. His post-bye record of 20-1 (95.2 winning percentage) is better than his overall record of 157-27 (85.3 winning percentage), but the former is a small enough sample size to leave a margin for error.
The one noticeable difference may come in matchups against ranked teams, although once again sample size comes into play. Five of Meyer’s 21 games following an off week were against ranked opponents, and he’s won all five. His overall record against ranked teams is a noticeably worse 34-13, and he has a 13-3 mark at Ohio State.
It is probably reasonable to conclude, then, that Meyer is definitely better against ranked teams with an extra week than he is against ranked teams overall. However, that situation doesn’t apply this week. Meyer is instead facing a 2-2 Rutgers team, and the numbers are clear: In this case, the off week is nice but probably not even necessary. Meyer wins those games no matter how much time he gets.