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Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has preparation for bowl games down to an artform

Meyer will be looking for two more bowl wins this year to push his record in bowl games to 12-2.

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NCAA Football: Ohio State at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

“He’s done it, he’s been successful, and I think everybody in the organization gains confidence from that, knowing that the leader knows exactly what he wants to do.”

- Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano on Urban Meyer via Adam Rittenberg, ESPN

There aren’t many coaches out there who can match what Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer does in bowl games. In fact, the only coach who has a better winning percentage in bowl games is Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who took over the Utes after Meyer went to Florida. With three national titles already to his credit, Meyer knows just the right buttons to push to get his players to peak at just the right time during bowl season. While Meyer has an idea each year on how he wants to ready his teams for the bowl games, he knows that each team isn’t exactly the same, so he adapts his bowl preparation plans to best fit each of his teams.

There is a delicate balance of preparation from a coaching standpoint, but also making sure players are properly conditioned for the bowl game. To help with that, Meyer has leaned on strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti since 2005. The two have worked together for so long, and had so much success, that at this point they are almost on the same wavelength. The two coaches were thrown for a bit of a loop when the College Football Playoff was introduced a few years ago, but they adapted quickly, with their planning leading Ohio State to the playoff title in the first year. With bowl games coming during the holiday season, it could be easy for a team to get distracted, but Meyer’s attention to detail allows for his teams to stay focused. Now Meyer will try and channel the magic again as Ohio State looks to take down Clemson on Saturday night.

“They told us yesterday that we’ve had over 750 Clemson snaps or something like that from the scout team. We’ve been going hard.”

- Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard via Austin Ward, ESPN

As evidence by being a Heisman Trophy finalist two years in a row, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is not easy to get a read on. Ahead of Saturday night’s Fiesta Bowl, Ohio State is pulling out all the stops to get their defense prepared to try and slow down the versatile quarterback. Not only has Ohio State had freshman quarterback Dwayne Haskins trying to mimic Watson’s strong arm, but also safety Eric Glover-Williams has also played the role of Watson on the scout team to try and replicate the quarterback’s scrambling ability.

After spending nearly a month getting ready for what Watson might bring to the table in Glendale, the Ohio State defense is ready to see the real thing after logging so many snaps against the scout team. The Buckeyes even brought in a former NFL wide receiver Brian Hartline to try and test the defensive backs. The preparations for Watson could have some effects that stretch further than the Fiesta Bowl. With Haskins taking on the role of Watson, the Buckeyes are hoping it might help the growth of the quarterback since they see some of Watson in Haskins. Right now the Fiesta Bowl is the main priority though, and Ohio State’s defense will certainly be prepared for everything Watson has to throw at them.

“We’re going to be aggressive as hell. We’re not going to give anything easy. We’re going to suffocate offenses in everything that we do, which means at time you’re hanging yourself out.”

- Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell via Ralph D. Russo, Associated Press

Over the last couple years Ohio State has had quite a dominant defense, but had it not been for the loss to Clemson in the 2014 Orange Bowl, the defense might not look like it does today. The loss to Clemson was the last straw for Urban Meyer, who had seen his defense give up at least 30 points in four of the last five games of the 2013 season. After the season, Meyer told co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell to blow up the defense and start over.

Ohio State started their defensive makeover by hiring Chris Ash from Arkansas to join Fickell as co-defensive coordinator. The reason Ash was targeted by Meyer and Fickell was because Ash used press quarters at Wisconsin and Arkansas, and the Buckeyes were looking to implement press quarters because of the success Michigan State had with then-defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi using press quarters. Meyer and Fickell were interested in using press quarters because they were just toasted by Sammy Watkins and the Tigers in the Orange Bowl by quick passes and screens. Now after the defensive overhaul, Ohio State is looking to win their second College Football Playoff title in three years, but to do so they’ll first have to take down the team that made them change their defensive philosophy.

“Clemson is the reason. They’re good. I’m not ashamed to say it. A lot of what we do around here, we studied them.”

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer on Clemson’s content creation via Pete Thamel, Sports Illustrated

Not only will Ohio State and Clemson square off on the field on Saturday night, but they also are squaring off online. Recently Athlon named Ohio State’s Twitter feed as the best in the country, which was a title that Clemson held last year. The Buckeyes know the Tigers are one of the best groups in the country when it comes to online content, which is why over the past two years Ohio State has tried to hire two people from Clemson’s creative team.

These days schools are looking for every possible advantage they can get when it comes to recruiting, which is why direct of player personnel Mark Pantoni leads a daily meeting where the staff comes up with ideas on content they can send to recruits. Since Meyer took over in Columbus, Ohio State has focused more on creative content, adding an estimated $100,000 to their budget. What keeps the creative team working so hard is Meyer’s desire to be best, and if his creative team isn’t the best, they find out what they can do to beat the competition. While the battle between Ohio State and Clemson’s creative teams won’t have any impact of what happens on the field on Saturday night, fans of both schools will definitely be ready for kickoff with the outstanding content both schools prov

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