Urban Meyer: Early series will be crucial for Ohio State, Clemson

Bill Rabinowitz
Former OSU Head Football Coach Urban Meyer [Brooke LaValley/Dispatch]

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Nobody knows better than Urban Meyer what it’ll truly be like for Ohio State and Clemson in a heavyweight battle like Saturday’s College Football Playoff semifinal is expected to be.

Meyer coached the 2014 Buckeyes to the inaugural playoff title before losing 31-0 to Clemson in the 2016 semifinals. Now he’s a television analyst working the game for the Big Ten Network.

“Other than practice, neither team has faced anything close to what they're getting ready to go against,” Meyer said.

He said the game’s first few possessions will be crucial as each team gets a feel for the other. He said that Ohio State and Clemson have become used to being bigger, faster and stronger than their opponents.

“Now I'm looking at someone as big, as fast, as strong as I am,” he said. “We've been in those games, and it takes your breath away for the first several minutes of that game. It's going to be so fast.

“Clemson hasn't seen anything close to Ohio State” and Ohio State hasn’t seen the likes of Clemson, he said.

Meyer said that Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan — of course he called them “the Wolverines” — were “very good” in certain areas, but not complete like Clemson.

Meyer said that field position will be a key. It’ll be important, he said, to get at least a couple of first downs per possession to tilt the field. He advised playing more zone pass coverage until the opponent gets inside the red zone to prevent big plays.

Asked about Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Meyer said, “I think he's one of the best players I've ever seen. And Ryan (Day)'s the best quarterback coach ever been around. But he's not faced a secondary (as good as Clemson’s). Wisconsin's pretty good, but not like this one. This will be a challenge of challenges.”