The College Football Playoff semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl held a teleconference on Sunday afternoon with the participating head coaches, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer.
Following is a transcript of Meyer’s comments during his portion of the teleconference:
“On behalf of Ohio State football and the Big Ten conference, I’m honored to be back to the Desert again with so many people I know and one of the great bowl experiences I’ve ever been a part of. It’s great to be here, and I understand how hard it is to make the playoffs, and we’re humbled and honored to represent the Ohio State University.”
J.T. Barrett came into the team room after you, and he joked about not being on the scooter for the playoff this time. It’s obvious that having a healthy quarterback is important for this go-round, but with your relationship with J.T., does it mean a little bit more to have him around for this run compared to a couple years ago?
“Yeah. He was an incredible contributor to our playoff run two years ago even when he wasn’t playing. Obviously had a great year as a redshirt freshman, but his leadership skills and his ability to help Cardale (Jones) prepare for those big games was remarkable. So, J.T. is like a son to me. I love him. He knows it, we’re very close and I’m anxious to watch him prepare for this big-time game.”
Talk about your relationship with Dabo Swinney. I know you coached against him at the Orange Bowl a couple years ago (in 2014). What type of coach is he?
“He’s obviously a great coach, a great recruiter and a good friend. His wife and I and Shelley are very close. Every year we get together on one of those Nike trips, and I think we have a lot in common. We have a lot of the same beliefs, and I have a lot of respect for Dabo.”
Congratulations on becoming a grandfather. Did you ever think you would be watching the selection show in a maternity ward? Talk about how crazy and blessed this day has been.
“I’m very strong in my faith and understand it’s an incredible blessing. I never thought I’d be watching the College Football Playoff selection committee picking our school as my daughter gives birth, so once again, I just sit back sometimes and realize how grateful I am and really grateful for my daughter and son-in-law. They’re going to be a great mom and dad.”
Can you talk about how thin the margin of victory and margin for error is for all of these teams that got into the College Football Playoff and what it takes to get over the hump in those close games?
“It’s incredible. I mentioned today at the press conference that Billy Donovan used to tell me what a grind March Madness was, and football coaches at this level, it’s March Madness every week. We had a couple close calls, and I know Clemson had a few close calls. There were some very deserving teams out there that it could go either way, so it’s razor-thin, and the good thing is everybody appreciates that. When I hear people interviewed, there’s a great appreciation. I have appreciation for what that committee went through. I was thinking about it last night — imagine the decision they have to make. It impacts so many people. So, it’s razor-thin, and we all appreciate it.”
What’s your take on the Big Ten champion not making the playoff, and do you have a little bit of sympathy or empathy for Penn State? Do you think there’s a way to get to a system where all five champions have a spot in the playoff?
“I do. I watch the game much differently now than I did when I was younger. I always watched the players, and you couldn’t have asked for a greater game yesterday. I know Penn State very well. I have tremendous respect for them. You wake up every day to become a champion of the conference, but people wanted a College Football Playoff, and I wish there was a way. There’s five conference champions, and there’s a whole regular season before your conference season that you have to play, too, so I’m not sure there’s an easy answer. I was a part of the BCS twice, too, and I remember 2006, it was a dogfight to get into that game, and there was a lot of controversy about that as well. So, I’m not sure there’s an easy answer. I know the interest has never been stronger in college football, and I think we’re headed in the right direction. To answer your question, absolutely. You feel for a champion of any conference that didn’t make it in.”
Breaking down the matchup between yourself and Clemson, the comment that keeps coming back is how Ohio State is going to have to be more productive offensively. You had 17 points against Michigan State, 17 points in regulation against Michigan. What will you do in this month to deconstruct and reconstruct your offense and be able to perhaps be a little more productive in terms of passing the ball?
“We’re going to do quite a bit. It’s not just passing the ball. We have to protect. We have to do a better job running the ball, too. I think we ran for 200 and something yards against our rivals, but that’s definitely why we’re going to practice. We have a bunch of new starters that have a whole year under their belt now, so we should be getting better, and we’re going to work really hard because you’re right — we have to be very productive on offense in this game.”
What are your first impressions of Clemson on each side of the ball?
“I got to watch them last night. I know Clemson very well. I study Clemson just because I like what they do offensively, and I know their players from recruiting, I know their staff. We have not dug into them yet as far as game planning yet, but I have a pretty good indication of what they are, and as talented a team as there is in college football.”
What do you think are the biggest things you’re going to have to work on during bowl practices to prepare for playing Clemson?
“Their skill level, I think it’s going to be a good matchup. Our secondary is very good, and from everything I’m hearing, this is the three or four best receivers that we’ll face. Obviously a great quarterback, a nice, balanced offense, so that side of the ball is going to be a great matchup with their skill against ours.
“Offensively, we faced some good defenses and had a tough-weather game, but we have to get back to like we were against Nebraska — great balance, mixing up the run and the pass and protecting that quarterback.”