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Urban Meyer admits that a Cotton Bowl loss would tarnish Ohio State’s season

The coach also isn’t a fan of expanding the playoffs.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

“Meyer and Helton both expect all of their available players to play in Friday's bowl game, which means neither coach is expecting draft-eligible players to sit out as long as they're healthy.”

-Bill Landis,

In their final media availability before tomorrow night’s game, both Ohio State and USC head coaches Urban Meyer and Clay Helton, respectively, talked about all aspects of the bowl matchup on both macro and micro levels.

From a Buckeye perspective, Meyer discussed how happy he was that fifth-year senior quarterback J.T. Barrett won a Big Ten title as a starting quarterback, and how much he respects, and enjoys coaching, Barrett’s three back-ups. The head coach also breaks down what the defense will have to do to contain Trojan signal-caller Sam Darnold, and discussed the process of adding a 10th assistant coach this offseason.

However, the first of the two biggest things that jumped out to me was Meyer admitting that a loss in the Cotton Bowl would significantly taint the memory of this season. Even though this battle of conference champions is a New Year’s Six bowl game, for many around the college football world, the assumption is that for blue-blood programs, anything short of a College Football Playoff berth is meaningless.

For Meyer, that appears to be completely unfounded. Traditional coach-speak would dictate brushing off the question and focusing on the B1G championship win and defeating “our rival” for the sixth straight year. However, Meyer purposely leans into the question here and admits that the loss would “tarnish” the season. An unusually honest answer from a coach who has been struggling to meet expectations for the past few seasons.

Pulling back from this specific game, the other thing that seemed especially noteworthy from the presser was that both Meyer and Helton seem to currently be opposed to expanding the CFP from its current four-team setup. Since both OSU and USC won their respective Power 5 conferences, if the playoff did expand to the popular eight-team model, both would theoretically be in, but neither coach seemed all that excited about the potential move.

“You start extending this thing and you start to talk about adding one more game and it's not just another game. It's two sledgehammers going at each other,” Meyer said. “I don't see where that calendar would work.”

As Meyer has done with road, night games, his emphasis seems to be on the players’ academic and physical well-being, where it should be. But, his follow up to these statements is probably the point that will make a playoff expansion an inevitability.

"I think it's very strong right now,” Meyer said of the CFP. “And a lot of televised sports are kind of going down in certain areas. College football is just hitting on all cylinders right now, so I don't know how much I'd change."

The four-team College Football Playoff makes a lot of money, so it stands to reason that an eight-team playoff would make even more. So it’s probably safe to assume that it will happen sooner rather than later.

“After the analysis of hundreds of pages of data starting with the 2011-12 school year and concluding with 2015-16, a trend emerges. Although resources and budget were never in issue, Ohio State was putting in fewer hours on the recruiting trail while consistently missing out on prospects that could have injected life into the program.”

-Adam Jardy, The Columbus Dispatch

The saying goes that recruiting is the lifeblood of college athletics, and Jardy and the team at the Dispatch have done an incredible job detailing exactly how recruiting went so wrong that athletic director Gene Smith was practically forced to unceremoniously remove the winningest men’s basketball coach in Ohio State history.

Jardy’s article details the process that went into first collecting and then analyzing the OSU men’s basketball recruiting logs from 2011-2016. He concedes that these reports, which are used by OSU coaches to account for money spent while recruiting, are not complete, and only tell part of the story, but it is pretty obvious to spot the trend that coincides with the Buckeyes’ decline in on-the-court production.

In the 2011-2012 academic year, Jardy reports that former head coach Thad Matta went on 32 out-of-town recruiting visits. However, that number significantly and steadily declines to just 13 in 2015-2016. While it has been a part of the story surrounding Matta’s sudden departure over the summer, his deteriorating health has often been only a footnote in the discussion of his recruiting failures, but it seems fairly logical that it is actually the reason for those recruiting failures.

Matta never made a secret about his chronically bad back, but he also didn’t dwell on it publicly. But, when looking at these reports, it is obvious that he just wasn’t able to do the necessary legwork to land the level of recruits that he had in the more successful days of his Columbus tenure.

Likewise, Jardy’s report notes that the basketball staff also spent increasingly less money on recruiting nearly every year. The 2011-2012 year is a bit of an outlier, as the staff spent a considerable amount of money on private planes flying to New York City. In total that school year, they spent $204,548.23.

In subsequent years, Jardy notes that flights of this kind weren’t even listed, which indicates that they took place on planes owned by donors or boosters. However, even with those flights factored out, the amount spent in that season dwarfs the $66,938.11 spent in 2015-2016.

In the article, Smith notes that the decline in spending was not mandated by the university or athletic department, and that “Nothing changed (budget-wise). Operational dollars were always there.”

So, the only conclusion that you can logically make when looking at the report is that Matta and his staff were either unable to, or uninterested in, putting in the work to recruit at the highest levels. For a man as beloved in the OSU community as Matta is, it is disappointing to know that effort, or lack there of, was what ended an era.

"As soon as this game is over I'm going to try to get in the middle of that one and find out, because of our love we have for Eli. I know our players have talked to him, but I don't know the whole thing."

-Urban Meyer via Doug Lesmerises,

I honestly don’t even know what to say about the Eli Apple soap opera in New York. Our friends over at Big Blue View have been doing a great job chronicling the entire debacle, but at the press conference mentioned above, Meyer was asked about the situation, and seemed genuinely concerned.

"As soon as this game is over I'm going to try to get in the middle of that one and find out, because of our love we have for Eli,” Meyer said. “I know our players have talked to him, but I don't know the whole thing."

Between the news of his parents’ messy divorce in May and his mother’s brain surgery last month, it is easy to understand why the former Buckeye might be having a difficult time right now, but it looks like the situation has likely escalated past the point of no return for Apple and the Giants.

So, if the former OSU great is able to reconnect with his Buckeye teammates and coaches, hopefully they will help him refocus on what’s most important and salvage what’s left of his NFL career.

I don’t really have any clever or insightful to say here, other than, “Awwwwwwww.”