Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer solidified his name in the annals of history with a 42-20 drubbing of Oregon in Monday’s inaugural College Football Playoff national championship. At the age of 50 he has three national championships and is a jaw-dropping 8-2 in bowl games.
The average margin of victory for Meyer in national championship games is an unholy 19.7 points. Each of Meyer’s quarterbacks in those games — Chris Leak in 2007, Tim Tebow in 2009, Cardale Jones in 2015 — amassed more than 210 passing yards in the season finale.
Prototypical quarterback molds vary depending on who you ask, but Leak, Tebow and Jones likely aren’t the first gunslingers who come to mind when the conversation is approached. Leak and Tebow both also finished lower than 18th in the nation in passing yards for their respective national title seasons; Jones was the third-string quarterback in August and threw for a total of 860 yards in 7 games this season. Neither Leak nor Tebow panned out in the NFL, and Jones’s narrative should be tabled for the future.
So, how did all three put together national championship winning performances? Their defense suffocated their opponents’ running attack for them and they had incredible success rates on third-down conversions.
In all three of Meyer’s national championship wins the opposing team rushed for a combined 286 yards. Ohio State — mostly thanks to the third consecutive 200+ yard rushing performance from sophomore sensation Ezekiel Elliott — rushed for 296 alone on Monday night.
The Gators and Buckeyes brought in stout defensive systems in all three appearances: Florida ranked sixth in the country in points allowed per game (13.5) and 10th in the country in yards allowed per game (269) in 2006-07; Florida ranked fifth in the country in points allowed per game (12.8) and ninth in the country in yards allowed per game (279) in 2008-09; and Ohio State ranked 23rd in the country in points allowed per game (21.2) and 15th in the nation in yards allowed per game (328) in 2014-15.
Meyer’s teams have dominated third down situations in all three appearances.
With four of the five starting offensive linemen, the school’s top receiver and rusher returning next season, there’s no reason to doubt that the Buckeyes could again be the national title game next year. Meyer’s quarterback situation is a question mark — hanging on whether Jones will head to the professional ranks or stay put — but either way, Meyer hasn’t had a problem turning quarterback pundits into believers when it matters most.
Josh Planos has been published at the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Vice, CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio. He’s currently a Digital Editor at KETV NewsWatch 7 and a freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter (@JPlanos).