Meyer Steadfast in Distaste for National Playoff
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Pardon Urban Meyer if he isn’t ready to give in when it comes to the thought of a national playoff.
Even if it only includes the top four teams in the country.
With a pair of BCS National Championships under his belt over the last decade, Meyer has been one of the great benefactors of the current system, which seems to be staggering in the corner, on the verge of a knockout.
With Big Ten athletic directors meeting in Chicago earlier this week, the momentum for a four-team college football playoff, which could start as early as 2014, is gaining the kind momentum even Meyer cannot get in front of.
“I'll probably get in trouble for saying this, but I think the ideal setup is what we've had the last decade of football,” Meyer said Wednesday.
“I think we’ve had a true national champion.”
The system certainly seemed to work this past season, when Alabama’s rematch with LSU in the title game gave the Crimson Tide a chance to prove themselves as the top college football team in America.
Some were against the idea of Nick Saban getting a rematch with the Tigers after his team lost at home in Tuscaloosa during the regular season, but the 2012 NFL Draft would seem to back the idea Alabama really was the most talented team in the country.
Most talented doesn’t always mean most deserving of a championship. Meyer knows that. In 2004, just his fourth year as a head coach at any level of football, Meyer led Utah to a perfect 11-0 record during the regular season.
The Utes had the eventual No. 1 overall pick at quarterback, and may very well have been the best team in the country. They became the first team from a non-automatically qualifying conference to crash the BCS party, but had to watch as USC thumped Oklahoma in the BCS National Championship game.
“I was hoping for a playoff at that point, because that was the only access we could have,” Meyer admitted without waffling.
“I can understand why (change) is happening, but I was not one of the screamers or yellers saying it was broke before.”
There are plenty of those to make up for Meyer’s silence. The call for reform in college football was once a dull roar, but has recently risen to the decibel levels of a jet engine.
Change is coming. It’s inevitable, but Meyer believes even a four-team playoff will change the way coaches and players prepare for an NCAA semifinal game, whether it’s in a bowl game, neutral site or on-campus.
“You’ll probably prepare for three teams (going in),” Meyer said.
“If I’m in the top four like you said, then I’m going to kill my coaches now. Forget recruiting. We’re going to put that on the side. We’re going to prepare in case we have to play any one of those three teams and that will be exhausting.”
He expects it will lead to a lot of sleepless nights for college coaches, along with some strange situations where players are celebrating a big bowl victory while coaches are trying to figure out how they won the game and how they can win the next one.
After all, that’s the only one that ultimately matters.
“You play in one of the (semifinal) bowl games … then you go play in the championship game,” Meyer said.
“I can only imagine the workload that’s going to be on that coaching staff and their players.”
If change is inevitable, Meyer favors neutral sites over on-campus sites because he doesn’t think teams from the south could handle playing an outdoor game in the snow-covered Midwest come December or January.
“I’m not sure on a nice brisk December day here in Columbus you can have a southern team come up here and play,” he said.
“The southern teams I coached, that would have been a problem.”
The current BCS model will likely change, one way or another, with the 2014 season. That would be Meyer’s third at Ohio State, and his second coaching a bowl-eligible team in Columbus.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany is talking as if a 4-team playoff is already a forgone conclusion. Meyer doesn’t have to like it, but he understands he may have to accept it.
“I think the fans are driving it. They want to see a playoff; we’ve heard that now forever,” Meyer said.
“Is it frustrating? No. I just want to be one of the teams that has to deal with it at some point.”
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