Next up for Ohio State: Some rest
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The next step in Ohio State’s preparation for the Jan. 12 national championship will be to take no steps at all.
The Buckeyes need a breather, and head coach Urban Meyer will give them one Wednesday.
"We’re going to give our guys a day off of practice, not a day off of preparation, but (off of practice)," Meyer said Tuesday. "You just can’t go the tempo we went the last three days. You just can’t, or you’re going to break them down."
The Buckeyes have been going fast because their opponent at AT&T Stadium, Oregon, goes as fast — if not faster — than any team in the country. Meyer believes in difficult practices and pushing his players, but with the season’s 15th game looming, he’s stressing fresh legs over fast feet.
It’s the first national championship game under the College Football Playoff format, and with Ohio State and Oregon having won conference championship games on the first weekend of December, both are 13-1 on the season. Both won semifinal games on Jan. 1 — Oregon in Pasadena, Calif., and Ohio State in New Orleans — and then returned to their respective campuses.
Ohio State flies to Dallas Friday, meaning all full-speed practices before the game will take place in Columbus.
"My biggest (concern) is the health of the players, the wear and tear that we have to be leery of," Meyer said. "I was kind of worried about outside influences (but) I’m really glad we’re here and not going down a week early and spending a week in Dallas and have to deal with all that nonsense. We are going to get all our hard practices done.
"I think the way they (scheduled) it was perfect. We don’t leave until after our (regular) Wednesday practice which is big. You get down there (to a bowl game) and they kind of tie you down and it’s not this time. We’ve already done the Bowl experience."
Ohio State’s 42-35 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl was what Meyer called a "hammer down" game; physical and draining. He said before that game no one affiliated with the program would look ahead or be allowed to work on a potential title-game opponent, so Ohio State’s coaching staff has put in long hours since returning to Columbus on Jan. 2.
Under orders from Meyer, Ohio State’s strength and conditioning team has been monitoring the players closely since then.
"We use a GPS system. We do hydration; we test their hydration every day," Meyer said. "And that’s where I think this game is changed. It’s on a trajectory where it’s really good for the player because you try to keep them out of harm’s way as far as their bodies.
"That player shouldn’t go out there if (he’s) dehydrated, and there are much better ways to find out now than there was years ago. I’m telling you for a 15-game season, I don’t know if you could do it any other way. (If) you old-school it with 15 games, you’ll go out there with 35 (available) players. So you have to be very cautious."
Oregon’s up-tempo offense averages 75 plays per game; Ohio State is averaging 72. Both teams plan to go fast Monday, which is why Meyer is willing to go slowly now.
"Getting ready for a tempo offense, that means you have to be practicing hard," Meyer said. "That’s a concern.
"Even our players looked at me after the (Sugar Bowl) like, Wow, because Alabama, especially in the trenches…you face a team like Alabama (that has) gigantic human beings. And so we are just watching it like I never have before, I mean, from the amount of contact we’re having, to getting them off their feet."