That's what we think, so with that in mind, we're asking 20 Questions when it comes to the Ohio State football team. Every day from now until the opening game week, we'll have our BSB writers answer one question about the Ohio State football team. Some will be serious, some will be funny, and none will be "Animal, vegetable or mineral?" But all should help you think about the upcoming season, hopefully in a different way than before.
Question 2: If Ohio State swapped coaches with the other team for every game, what would its regular season record be?
Ryan Ginn: I guess I should start by saying that I was the one who came up with this question, mainly because I occupy my free time by pondering important topics like what would happen if Tim Beckman and Urban Meyer switched lives for a week, Freaky Friday style. I have no faith in my ability to actually answer the ridiculous things that pop into my brain, but I’m going to take a crack at it here.
Because of the sheer talent involved, I do think there’s a chance the Bizarro Buckeyes run the table in the regular season if Meyer’s brain is wiped clean every week and it all starts anew. Could Tim Beckman’s Ohio State beat Urban Meyer’s Ohio State? Let’s agree that we wouldn’t bet on it. But Meyer has to use Tim Beckman’s Illinois in this scenario, and one cupboard is a little more full than the other. Looking through the schedule, I think Urban’s best chance to grab a win as an opposing coach would come when he’s with Virginia Tech or Michigan State. Dantonio’s OSU vs. Meyer’s MSU might be an all-timer. I'm tempted to say Meyer could coach up Christian Hackenberg well enough to get a dub against Scarlet and Gray James Franklin, but I need to see the PSU offensive line in action and I don’t like that the game is in Columbus. For the safety of our readers, it’s probably best to not even imagine Jim Harbaugh coaching the Buckeyes against an Urban Meyer-led Michigan. If I had to put a number on it, I think the Bizarro Bucks lose two games to Nomad Urban Meyer, whose teams would likely be a double-digit underdog on paper in every game. That alone would be worth the Coach of the Year trophy that he’ll never get.
Now, if we’re not looking at this in a vacuum and Meyer actually gets to retain the knowledge from the previous contests as the season progresses, Ohio State might be packing its bags for the Pinstripe Bowl. The OSU schedule is pretty backloaded, and I have to think that by the seventh or eighth time he faced the players that he recruited, he’d probably know what it takes to beat them.
Blake Williams: Kudos to Ryan for coming up with an excellent question. Essentially this comes down to identifying the games on the Buckeyes schedule in which there isn’t large enough talent gap to render coaching a moot point. The disparity in talent between Ohio State and Western Michigan is so vast that swapping P.J. Fleck and Urban Meyer wouldn’t be able to close it.
With that in mind I took a hard look at Virginia Tech, Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan. I’m sure that Frank Beamer and Bud Foster (I’m assuming we’re trading entire staffs here) would be able to dial up some interesting packages with the Silver Bullets at their disposal, but in the Hokies Meyer would be getting a defense with eight returning starters from a team that was 14th in scoring D a year ago. In Blacksburg at night, Meyer tops the Buckeyes.
I think James Franklin is good enough to get the Buckeyes a home win over PSU and Jim Harbaugh could pull off a road win with a significant talent advantage against the Wolverines. That leaves a Dantonio-coached Buckeye team against Meyer-led Spartans. I think Dantonio would have loved to coach Ohio State and would get the most out of the opportunity. The Buckeyes win, barely. Though MSU would have the best chance to mess this up, I’m going with 11-1.
Jeff Svoboda: Whoa, this one really made me think because of all the variables. First, you're starting with the conceit that Urban Meyer is a better coach than most of the guys he's facing, if not all (a pretty reasonable thought). Then, you're asking which team or teams would benefit most from the reality-TV-based "Wife Swap" conceit either because of talent or the ineptitude of its own coaches. Then you're asking if Meyer would be good enough to lead an opposing team with less talent to an upset win it likely wouldn't get otherwise. So there's a lot going on here.
So, what's my actual answer? Well, Meyer would be the first to tell you that talent makes good coaches, and since Meyer won't be doing three years of recruiting for these teams before the game (I'm choosing to interpret the question that coaches get swapped only during game week), that eliminates most of the Buckeyes' opponents. Like, sorry, Northern Illinois. You could have Vince Lombardi on the sideline and it wouldn't matter.
In fact, I'm saying Hawaii, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Indiana, Maryland, Rutgers and Illinois are out right away simply because of the talent gap. That leaves Virginia Tech, Penn State, Minnesota, Michigan State and Michigan. I don't think a coach swap would really help the Hokies (that's a good game-week staff, as OSU learned last year), Nittany Lions (Hackenberg in Meyer's offense? Nah) and Golden Gophers (Kill maximizes his talent as much as Meyer, in my opinion), either.
So that leaves two really interesting questions. The Michigan State one is interesting because Mark Dantonio in many ways has fashioned himself the anti-Meyer, and there are a ton of Jim Tressel guys on that staff. There's too much history here to really even comprehend this question and what it would mean. Then there's the strategy part -- I don't think Connor Cook running Meyer's offense would work, either, but I do think Meyer is a master at preparing a team it lost to the year prior. But I don't know. Dantonio is a good coach in his own right, and I think the talent gap between the Buckeyes and Spartans is bigger than people realize. So I think a Dino-led Buckeye team beats Meyer-led Sparty.
Lastly, there's Michigan. It would be crazy to think about Meyer leading the Wolverines and Jim Harbaugh coaching the Buckeyes because of each's identification with his home-state program, but this is an X's and O's and motivation discussion. And when it comes to motivation, Meyer would be terrifying coaching Michigan this year -- you know his whole offseason would be dedicated to making the most of that three hours in November when his team would take on its championship-defending rivals. But let's be honest, the talent gap between the Buckeyes and Wolverines is pretty big, and it's not like Jim Harbaugh is a bad coach, either. Meyer with Jake Rudock behind center doesn't exactly scare me, either. Unless he made Jabrill Peppers QB for a week. WHICH HE TOTALLY WOULD.
Anyway, I'm taking Ohio State as 12-0 even with this though exercise. I'm not even sure if my answer made sense. Thanks a lot, Ryan.