Orange Bowl 2014: Has Urban Meyer Lost Big-Game Edge?

Andrew Coppens@@andycoppensContributor IJanuary 4, 2014

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Everything was going Urban Meyer's way to start his career at Ohio State. He was 24-0, and it appeared that no one could beat his Buckeyes from the Big Ten. 

Two games later and two Top 15 teams have now come out victorious over his Buckeyes, as Clemson beat OSU, 40-35, in the Orange Bowl on Friday night.

Meyer is now on a two-game losing streak after seemingly doing no wrong during the Buckeyes' 24-game win streak. 

How the last two losses have happened—questionable play-calling on offense and a lack of taking advantage of opportunities—have some questioning if the magic of Meyer in big games is gone. 

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 02:  Head coach Urban Meyer of the Florida Gators looks on from the sidelines during their game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Imag
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

For as much as the past two games matter, it's not just those losses that give us clues that Meyer's big-game edge may have slipped. 

If you go in the way-back machine and enter 2010, you see the big-game edge crumbling in his final season at the University of Florida. That team went 8-5 on the year and just 4-4 in SEC play.

More importantly, Meyer's Gators went 0-4 against Top 25 teams that season, and a negative trend was being set.

Perhaps that was the beginning of the end for the legend of Meyer as nearly invincible, especially coming off a loss in the 2009 SEC Championship Game.

Yet, there was no questioning Meyer's Buckeyes during the 24-game win streak, as they went 5-0 against Top 25 teams. 

However, those were just regular-season games, and when championships and BCS games were on the line for the first time, the Buckeyes let every opportunity slip through their fingers.

In the Big Ten title game it was scoring 24 unanswered points to take a 24-17 lead, only to see Miller and the offense sputter out in the fourth quarter and the defense get gashed for 17 unanswered points for the 34-24 loss to Michigan State. 

On Friday night in the Orange Bowl, it was a lack of an ability to score when Clemson made mistakes that cost them dearly. 

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 03:  Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers (L) and head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes shake hands after the the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Clems
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It started early on, after getting a safety and pulling the game to 14-9, the Buckeyes went three-and-out on the following possession. Opportunity No. 1 missed. 

Early in the second quarter, Clemson was knocking on the door for a touchdown to make the game 21-9. Then Ohio State freshman safety Vonn Bell made a great pick at the 1-yard line. What happened next? 

You guessed it—another Ohio State three-and-out and a chance to take the lead gone. Opportunity No. 2 missed. 

Fast forward to the last two minutes of the game and Ohio State is down 40-35, needing a defensive stop like yesterday. They got just that courtesy of a C.J. Barnett interception of Tajh Boyd and a return inside Clemson territory with 1:27 left in the game. 

Two plays later and Braxton Miller badly misses a receiver in the post and it winds up in the hands of Clemson's Stephone Anthony. Opportunity No. 3 missed, and game over.

In both of the losses, Ohio State was given every opportunity it needed or hoped for, and nearly every time it couldn't come through in the clutch. 

That's unlike the Meyer teams of the past. Heading into this year, Meyer had lost just one conference championship game his teams played in and was 7-1 in bowl/national championship games. 

Even the conference championship game situation suggests that Meyer's big-game edge is slipping. He's currently on a two-game losing streak in that department, losing to Alabama in 2009 and Michigan State this season. 

It all leads to Meyer being just 5-6 against ranked opponents in the past three years.

Panicking over two games, however important they are, may seem a bit crazy—but when you're Meyer and expectations are Big Ten titles at a minimum and national titles preferably, losing the first two cracks at big games doesn't cut it. 

Meyer will have plenty of time to correct the current trend, but losing a few more big games on the national stage will certainly make the folks in Columbus more than unhappy. 


*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.


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