ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Urban Meyer isn’t an especially large man, but he casts an especially big shadow. So big, it almost overshadowed the Ohio State-Michigan game.
Some say “The Game” is the most important part of the season every year. Toss the records out and forget about last week because it’s a one-game season.
I could feel the hatred in Ann Arbor during OSU’s 40-34 loss to Michigan. I could feel the passion.
But no matter what the outcome was, the biggest story in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday morning is going to be Meyer becoming OSU’s next football coach.
In a way, “The Game” was trumped by Meyer’s impending arrival.
Sure, it’s not official yet, but Meyer coming to OSU is the worst kept secret in college football.
Even during Michigan week, it’s all anyone wanted to talk about.
As much as coach Luke Fickell can talk about his program being in a “bubble” and ignoring the outside world, everyone was listening to the rumors — players and coaches included.
I’m sure the university didn’t want the news to break until after the end of the regular season out of respect for Fickell and everyone else on this year’s team, but the fact that it did couldn’t have helped the Buckeyes.
As a coach, how can you concentrate on the task at hand when, in all likelihood, you won’t have a job the following week? I’m sure they all wanted to beat Michigan and cared about the players enough to prepare to the best of their ability, but in the back of their minds, they have to be thinking about supporting their family. Any sane person would be at least considering future coaching options.
As a player, how likely are you to listen to a coach that you only have to deal with for a couple more games — especially a coach that has already led you to five losses?
The bottom line is, the Meyer rumors didn’t just excite the fans. They affected the internal program’s focus and at least partially distracted them from the Michigan game.
The defense was porous, giving up a season-high 40 points and junior quarterback Denard Robinson had his way with the Silver Bullets, scoring a total of five touchdowns.
Fickell did what he could, but what does it say about “the greatest rivalry in all of sports,” when the focus during game-week isn’t on the game?