First things first, and there’s no getting around it — the most important and significant thing about the alleged Urban Meyer/Ohio State cover-up of domestic abuse by former coach Zach Smith is the domestic abuse. Opening an article about TCU’s game against Ohio State in Week 3 without pointing that out wouldn’t be right. Everything is of course alleged at this point, but the allegations are serious enough that Ohio State has placed Meyer on administrative leave and opened up an investigation into the matter, according to Brett McMurphy, who has been the lead reporter on the scandal from the beginning.
Ohio State said it will conduct investigation into allegations & has put Urban Meyer on paid administrative leave— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) August 1, 2018
But with all that said, there is indeed a football game being played at AT&T Stadium between the Horned Frogs and the Buckeyes on September 15, and if Meyer is still on administrative leave by that point (or gets fired), Ohio State will be without one of the most successful head coaches of the last two decades.
His absence will affect how that game turns out. Breaking down just how much it will affect the game requires a substantial amount of hypothetical “if” sentences, but it’s worth a shot.
Ohio State has two offensive coordinators listed on its coaching staff. Ryan Day was promoted from co-offensive coordinator to offensive coordinator — whatever that means — after just one season. Day was also set to begin play-calling duties for the Buckeyes at the start of the season.
But it appears Day has assumed acting head coach duties during Meyer’s administrative leave. Ohio State has two former head coaches on staff in Greg Schiano and Kevin Wilson (the other OC), as Football Scoop’s Zach Barnett pointed out, but Day is reportedly the temporary head man.
With Urban on paid leave, Ryan Day is now Ohio State's acting head coach.— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) August 1, 2018
Interesting, given Ohio State has former head coaches Greg Schiano and Kevin Wilson on staff.https://t.co/OzrSj3zOrL
That raises a number of questions. Will Day remain the primary play caller, or will Kevin Wilson, the former Indiana head coach, move back into the job to alleviate Day’s workload? Wilson was the primary play caller before Day took his spot, and was known for playing an aggressive style while at Indiana. He even took Ohio State down to the wire in 2016. If Wilson has more say, the Buckeyes could take more chances down the field.
The likely scenario on the defensive side is that Greg Schiano, Ohio State’s defensive coordinator and associate defensive head coach, will assume the lion’s share of the duties. Alex Grinch, a highly-prized hire from Washington State who is now the Buckeye’s co-defensive coordinator, could also see more responsibilities.
Meyer has always been more of an offensive-minded coach. He brought in Grinch because he valued the young coordinator’s perspective, and he was more than happy to keep Schiano when Schiano’s potential move to Tennessee fell through. It’s doubtful that Meyer would’ve played a major role with the defense during in-game scenarios. His absence will be felt, but most likely on the offensive side of the ball.
Meyer has long been known for his obsessive nature. He’s one of the best in the country in terms of scouting opponents and devising gameplans. TCU and Gary Patterson’s 4-2-5 defensive scheme takes some time to break down, especially for a non-conference team that doesn’t have to go up against it every season. Without Meyer in the film room leading gameplanning efforts, Ohio State will be at a disadvantage.
This is not to say that Schiano, Wilson and Day aren’t capable of planning for the Horned Frogs. But none of them are as good as Meyer, and Day has never been a head coach before, interim or otherwise.
The Buckeyes have two Power 5 opponents on the schedule before TCU. Granted, those two teams are Oregon State and Rutgers, so “Power 5” is used loosely here. But Ohio State will have a new starting quarterback in Dwayne Haskins, and it takes time for any QB to get into a rhythm. If Meyer is still on leave for those two games and Ohio State somehow manages to drop one of them, the Buckeyes will certainly be rattled once they come into Arlington to face the Horned Frogs.
And if Meyer is dismissed before the TCU game — a big if, mind you, and this is purely hypothetical — one of two things will more than likely happen. Either the Buckeyes will shut it down and punt on the season, or they’ll adopt the “nobody believes in us” mentality and come out firing. TCU fans should hope dearly for the former, in this scenario.
If Meyer is still on administrative leave come September 15, Ohio State will be a weaker team. That does not mean the Horned Frogs will have a cakewalk. The Buckeyes won’t be affected much on the defensive end, meaning Nick Bosa will still be free to terrorize a brand-new TCU offensive line. And although they’ll have a new starting quarterback and a new play caller, Ohio State has all the talent in the world at skill positions.
Put it this way: Ohio State was a 12-point favorite over TCU in May. I expect to see that line swing heavily in the Frogs’ direction, but the Buckeyes should still be a slim favorite in Vegas — even if Meyer is still out of the picture.