COLUMBUS – It’s like it’s not officially an Ohio State football coach’s press conference the week of the Michigan game until he’s asked about Woody Hayes and Earle Bruce, and Urban Meyer talked about both of them on Monday, Nov. 19.
He said he met Hayes several times in 1986 after being hired by Earle Bruce as a graduate assistant.
“I met him several times and talked, but I didn’t really get to sit down and talk to him. I grew up admiring him. And you see in my office all kinds of Woody Hayes stuff,” Meyer said.
However, Meyer said there is “zero chance” a college football coach could use all of Hayes’ coaching methods today.
“But guys like Woody Hayes, I’m sure would have adapted. If you would have said in 1972 that the way he coached you would have been able to do that today, no chance. But he was a brilliant person who would have adapted.”
Meyer was much closer to Bruce, who gave him his first college coach job and was one of his mentors for most of his career.
“Obviously very close to him,” Meyer said about Bruce. “In 1986 that was the first time that I experienced it (the Ohio State-Michigan game) with him. And then, obviously, the 1987 game up in Ann Arbor, that was his last game as a coach (at Ohio State). So I think about that quite often,” he said.
No. 10 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan both go into Saturday’s Nov. 24 game at Ohio Stadium with 10-1 records. But the Buckeyes’ 49-20 loss at Purdue puts them behind Michigan in the Big Ten East Division standings.
Ohio State has dominated the rivalry game since 2001. It has won all six games with Meyer as coach and 13 of the last 14, and 15 of the last 17.
The gambling lines opened with Michigan as a 3.5 point favorite this year. The last time the Wolverines were favored was in 2011 and the last time they were favored against a ranked Ohio State team was in 2003.
The last time Ohio State was not favored in any game was the national championship game against Oregon at the end of the 2014 season.
Asked if this could be used as incentive, Meyer said, “We don’t talk about those things. It’s really about the game. We have a saying around here: ‘The most prepared team will win the game.’ It’s not about who is favored and who is not.
“I didn’t know that and I don’t imagine our team really does. If they do, they’re looking at the wrong stuff,” he said.
Probably the biggest impediment to Ohio State continuing its winning streak, other than Michigan’s talent level, is the Buckeyes’ much-criticized defense.
When Maryland gained 535 yards total offense in OSU’s 52-51 overtime win Nov. 17m it became the fifth team to gain 450 yards or more this season against the Buckeyes. And the Terrapins’ five plays of 52 yards or more were part of a season-long pattern of OSU’s defense giving up big plays.
“A bunch of things happened. Obviously, it was very alarming to see. I thought we started to crack the rock the last few weeks as far as playing good defense and eliminating big plays. Obviously it was not good,” Meyer said.
He said there have been “uncomfortable and direct” discussions in the coaches staff meetings about how to fix the defense. A saying around here is ‘Win the moment.’ The moment is to get ready for the next one, not what happened against Oregon State or even last week. That is hard to do,” Meyer said.
INJURY UPDATE: Left tackle Thayer Munford, who suffered a leg injury in the first quarter at Maryland, is “probable” for Saturday’s game.
Running back Mike Weber, who sat out last week’s game with a bruised quadriceps, is ready to play against Michigan. “He’s good,” Meyer said.
NO JOB FOR THE TIMID: Playing quarterback takes toughness and Meyer liked what he saw from Dwayne Haskins in that department when he ran the ball 15 times for a season-high 59 yards and three touchdowns.
“The quarterback position is the most unique position, in my opinion, in really all of sports. Everybody is looking at you. You have a responsibility for what the other 10 guys are doing. You have to make all kinds of decisions in 1.8 to 2.5 seconds. And you have to be a tough guy. Dwayne took a step. He really took a step,” Meyer said.
ALABI, BOWEN PROVIDE DEPTH: Junior offensive lineman Joshua Alabi replaced Munford after his injury and played well.
“That’s been coming,” Meyer said. “You heard me talk about him getting better each week. There was a time five weeks ago that there was no (offensive line) depth. Branden Bowen was there, ready to go, too. So we have a little bit of depth there.”
Jim Naveau covers the Ohio State Buckeyes college football team for AIM Media Midwest affiliate The Lima News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .