On the morning after Ohio State's win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, athletic director Gene Smith's breakfast came with a side of concern.

On the morning after Ohio State's win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, athletic director Gene Smith's breakfast came with a side of concern.

Smith was in New Orleans with the Buckeyes as they were getting their bags ready to be put on the plane, and as players were milling about in a nearby breakfast area, he had a question for each of them.

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"One of the first things I was asking the guys (was), 'How's your body?' " Smith said on Monday. "I know what that's like. It's a grind."

Smith spent four years as a defensive end for Notre Dame and was part of the 1973 team that won the national championship with an 11-0 record. On Monday in Arlington, Texas, Ohio State and Oregon will become the first Football Bowl Subdivision teams to play a 15th game when they meet for the national championship.

Although Smith might have an idea what it is like, the fact is that no FBS player does. It's why Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has altered the practice plan leading up to the game. After three tough days earlier this week - one that featured no contact - Meyer gave the Buckeyes Wednesday off.

They will have four practices in shoulder pads leading up to the biggest game of the season.

"You just can't go the tempo we went the last three days," Meyer said on Monday. "You just can't. You're going to break them down. I'm telling you for a 15-game season, I don't know if you could do it any other way. You 'old-school' it with 15 games (and you'll) go jog out there with 35 (healthy) players."

As a senior at Ridgeland High School in Rossville, Ga., sophomore safety Vonn Bell led the Panthers to the state title game in 2012 - a task that required 15 games.

"It takes heart and character," he said. "If you really want it bad enough, you don't worry about the nicks and bruises. You get your job done."

Yesterday on The Dan Patrick Show, Meyer said he is opposed to expanding the playoffs to eight games because of the implications of adding even more games to the schedule. In addition to saying that coaches and student-athletes would have to be on a committee debating any expansion, Meyer said the number of scholarship athletes would need to be increased.

"You better give us 110 scholarships then," he said. "When they (went to) 85 scholarships, there were 12 games. Now there are 15, and the last three games they've added are heavyweight prize fights. You just can't do it."

In that aspect, Bell said a change in playing style is beneficial for the Buckeyes because the up-tempo style of Oregon's offense is slightly less physical than Alabama's.

Still, junior offensive lineman Taylor Decker said the bumps and bruises add up.

"You are going to be worn out and you're not going to feel like you did in game one," he said. "It's a grind, and it's hard on your body - those extra games, all those extra reps, all those extra practices, all those extra hits on your body. Our coaches are trying to do a good job of taking care of us, giving us rest.

"We also can't change the way we've prepared to get here because there's a reason we are where we're at, and that's because of how we do things."

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy