Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer spoke to the media about the win in the bitter cold over Indiana, as well as the impending rivalry matchup with the team up north.
The Buckeyes held their weekly press conference at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, where head coach Urban Meyer spoke to the media about the 42-14 win over Indiana, as well as "The Game" against Michigan. No assistant coaches were available, as the team has limited media availability throughout the week. Leading up to "The Game", the team is even limiting access to Meyer, as his weekly call-in show will be prerecorded and last only ten minutes.
When recalling this past weekend, Meyer called the win over Indiana a very emotional game. He pointed out that every senior, injured or not, has had a significant impact on the team. Meyer felt the team had their best all-around game of the season on defense, which was a direct correlation of co-defensive coordinators Everett Withers and Luke Fickell setting forth their best gameplan of the season.
Against the Hoosiers, the Buckeyes had 13 players grade out as champions. Quarterback Braxton Miller, running back Carlos Hyde, receivers Devin Smith and Chris Fields, tight end Jeff Heuerman, and linemen Corey Linsley, Andrew Norwell, and Taylor Decker were named offensive champions. Miller, who became the third Buckeye in program history to record 7,000 yards of total offense, and Linsley shared the offensive player of the game honor.
On defense, linebacker Ryan Shazier, linemen Joey Bosa and Michael Bennett, and cornerback Bradley Roby were named champions. Bennett and Shazier, who was named a finalist for the Butkus award and the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Week, were also named the team's co-defensive players of the game.
Meyer, who was a grad assistant when former Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman recorded 20 tackles, said that Shazier played an outstanding game against the Hoosiers. The biggest difference in Shazier's play is the fact that he used to overrun plays. Now, however, Meyer said Shazier falls back and will let the play develop in front of him, as former Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes used to do.
Only one player on special teams, freshman Vonn Bell, was named a champion for his effort in the win.
Since Meyer became the head coach of the Buckeyes, he has made sure to never say the word "Michigan", instead, calling them "that team up north". However, legendary head coach Woody Hayes was probably rolling over in his grave when the "m-word" slipped out of Meyer's mouth. When it was pointed out to him, Meyer quickly apologized for the slip.
"I learned to dislike Michigan at a very young age," said Meyer of that team up north.
Growing up in Ashtabula, Ohio, Meyer quickly learned that the game against Michigan is not just another game on the schedule. Meyer reiterate that today as he spoke of stories as a grad assistant under former head coach Earl Bruce.
"Driving by the stadium, you see the big twin towers with sheets hanging down that say 'Muck Fichigan'," Meyer recalling driving by Morrill and Lincoln Tower.
Unfortunately, the windows on those buildings are unable to be opened today.
Meyer has done a lot of research on the rivalry during his career, referencing the "Ten Year War" between Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler, and pointing out that he applied lessons taught by Hayes in his own coaching methods. When he was at Bowling Green, Meyer referred to rival Toledo as "that team up north". Likewise, when Meyer was at Utah, he referred to Brigham Young as "that team out west". During his tenure in Salt Lake City, Meyer went as far as to quiz his assistants on the rivalry with the Cougars.
With the impending rivalry game, and the Big Ten Championship game against Michigan State the following week, Meyer called the next two weeks brutal, but said his team is up for the challenge. With quarterback Braxton Miller playing the best football of his career, any coach would be confident in his team.
Meyer said that Miller is a completely different quarterback than he was the last time the Buckeyes traveled to the Big House, although Meyer was not the head coach at the time. In the loss, Miller was outplayed by his counterpart, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. Unlike Robinson, however, Meyer feels that the Buckeyes' signal caller has the skill-set to play quarterback in the NFL.
"He has the skill-set to be a pro quarterback. There's no doubt in my mind." - Urban Meyer on Braxton Miller
The biggest difference Meyer sees in his quarterback is that he's having fun. Meyer feels that Miller has all the potential in the world, but he has to continue to improve each week and enjoy the game. In fact, Meyer said that Miller hadn't become a real quarterback until a completion on third down against Indiana. With the snow hitting him in the face and the wind moving every direction, Miller hit Heuerman on a slant on third and 17 for a 25 yard gain, setting up the Buckeyes final score of the day.
When the Buckeyes travel to Ann Arbor, Meyer doesn't expect his team to be intimidated. Meyer simply called the Big House "a big stadium with a lot of people in it". With the Michigan game always being the biggest game of the year, Meyer was asked if his team is peaking at the right time. However, Meyer dismissed that, saying that the Buckeyes just have to to continue to get better each week, and if they do, they'll take care of business.
Despite the fact that the Wolverines have four losses, Meyer pushed aside the notion that his team will have it easy on Saturday. Meyer pointed out that, in a rivalry game, you have to throw the team's record to the side as you'll always get the opponent's best.
The Buckeyes will likely be at full-strength for the tilt, as Meyer said both linebacker Curtis Grant and cornerback Doran Grant, who was injured in the first half against Indiana, practiced yesterday and will play on Saturday.
With it being Thanksgiving week, Meyer pointed out that the team will have a different schedule than usual. The team will have Senior Tackle on Thursday, but then the players are allowed to go home for the holiday. Despite this time away, Meyer doesn't expect it to have any effect on the team's focus for Michigan.