DALLAS - Ohio State reaching the national championship game might look like part of an almost-inevitable master plan by Urban Meyer.

DALLAS - Ohio State reaching the national championship game might look like part of an almost-inevitable master plan by Urban Meyer.

But when asked during the final College Football Playoff championship game news conference yesterday if he expected Ohio State to reach this point when he took over as coach three years ago, Meyer demurred.

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"Well, I don't think so," he said. "I think I just was obviously chomping at the bit to get back in it. But to sit there and say I thought that we could somehow get back to the national title … It's everybody's dream and goal, but it's very complicated and everything has to align perfectly for this to happen. So, no, it never really crossed my mind."

It first did when he went to the Bowl Championship Series title game between Notre Dame and Alabama two years ago. The Buckeyes were 12-0 in 2012 but ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA sanctions. Meyer went to that game - an Alabama rout - as an ESPN analyst.

"That's the day that I sent that text out to the entire team, every support staff member: 'The Chase is on,' " Meyer said.

Since then, a huge THE CHASE banner has adorned the practice field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. That banner was recently moved to a wall and signed by Buckeyes players.

The Buckeyes are six-point underdogs (down from seven) to the Ducks, but Ohio State is brimming with confidence after a 59-0 victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game and a 42-35 Sugar Bowl victory over top-ranked Alabama in a playoff semifinal.

Meyer said emotions for this game will be even higher.

"We talk quite often about when you have that opportunity to step into the batter's box, you get one swing," he said. "You step into a prize fight and you get one swing, and the great champions don't miss.

"That's the mentality that we've preached really forever. That's the way we train you; that's to be prepared when that swing, that opportunity arises to make that play, you be ready. So yes, we've really hammered that real hard with our players."

Meyer has been through this twice, winning national titles at Florida in 2006 and 2008. But until arriving in Gainesville, Meyer didn't have an emotional tie to Florida. He does to Ohio as an Ashtabula native who went to college at Cincinnati and served as a graduate assistant at Ohio State.

He spoke with affection about his Ashtabula roots and the friends he still has from there. He spoke of how it would be "everyone's dream" to coach the Buckeyes to a national championship.

"Obviously, when you grow up a Buckeye and you grow up in the great state of Ohio, played high-school football there, played college football there, that is big," he said.

Given the demands of game preparation, he said he hasn't had much time for sentimentality or reflection.

"But it would be great to win one for the state of Ohio," he said.

To win it this year, after all the adversity the Buckeyes have endured on and off the field, would make it even more special, he said.

"If you can hit the storm and come out the other end stronger, that's called a real, real team, and how many of those are out there?" Meyer said. "I've done this 30 years and probably can count them on one hand.

"Some people might think it's the luck of the draw. I think it's leadership and training. We certainly had that this year."

Only one more hurdle remains.

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch