The hard part has simply been getting the entire team to buy in over the course of the past three years. There have been flashes of greatness – especially in the 24-game winning streak – but the 2014 group is the first one to fully trust the coaching staff’s plan for them.
“Something he has said since he has been here is the plan is infallible,” senior defensive tackle Michael Bennett said. “He said, ‘If you follow the plan, it works. It’s been proven to work everywhere I have gone.’ Each year, we have believed in it more and more. This year is the first year where legitimately we have every guy to where he says, ‘Tell us what to do, we’ll just go do it.’ He is a fantastic coach who knows what he is doing.”
The Buckeyes’ latest challenge comes in the form of dealing with Oregon’s tempo. The Ducks love playing fast, and their breakneck pace not only pays off on an immediate basis but also in the second half when fatigue sets into opposing defenses.
It will be a different challenge than the Buckeyes faced against Alabama, which revels in running the ball down opponents’ throats. Instead of facing the bruising duo of T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, Ohio State will focus on finding ways to stop Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.
The Ducks are second in the nation in scoring average, putting up 47.2 points per game, and third in total offense (552.9 yards). They’re also second in the country in turnover margin. While operating the relentless offense, Mariota has thrown just three interceptions compared to 40 touchdowns.
Still, Meyer has a plan.
“We have the shot clocks up, we have a lot of emphasis about defeating the demon, the demon that takes place when fatigue takes over, and that's real, and that's something that we've addressed really hard,” Meyer said in the final pregame press conference on Sunday.
The Buckeyes have trained their players to battle fatigue by running certain segments of practice at an impossible pace. It involves two different offensive unit facing one defensive unit. Above all, the focus of the exercise is to force the Silver Bullets to block out all distractions and immediately refocus to the next play, which will come quicker than they’ve ever experienced.
“You get two huddles going. Two huddles running at us,” junior linebacker Joshua Perry said. “You put the clock up there and try to get it running as fast as possible. It’s trained us to make the play and get up and save the celebration for when we get off the field. You turn right to the sideline, get the call and then look at what’s going on on the field.”
That drill actually mirrors what LSU did to prepare for the Ducks in 2011. The Tigers beat the No. 3 Ducks 40-27 in the same stadium where tonight’s game will be played. LSU’s success was rooted in a drill called ‘Tempo,’ in which the defense faced two offensive units alternating over and over again.
As is always the case with Meyer, it’s all part of the plan.