Head Coach Spotlight – Ohio State vs Oregon

Inside the College Football Championship Game

 Our FanRagSports panel has spent the week debating the current College Football Playoff format, projecting the offensive difference makers for the Ducks and Buckeyes, as well as identifying the defensive game-changers for both teams.

Today our focus shifts to the men that wear the biggest headsets.

Mark Helfrich and Urban Meyer will no doubt have their teams prepared to win on Monday night, but is one head coach in a better position to bring home the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship?

The #BucksvsDucks debate continues with our panel of @TodaysPigskin writers and college football fans @Sharp_Schutter, @Ryan_Wooden, @StephenPSheehan, @AlexK_47, @ColinSylvester, and @Pat_Whitehurst now!

 Today’s Burning Question: Compare and contrast the head coaches, does one own a distinct advantage and will that translate into a National Championship victory?

 @Ryan_Wooden: We’ve been asked to provide 75-200 word answers here, so I’ll oblige, but if you wanna skip the overindulgence Urban Meyer has the advantage. It’s not even close.

I’m going to throw around a lot of platitudes here by saying that Meyer has the experience and that he’s won a lot of big games, and that might not seem very insightful because everybody else is already saying it, but it’s the only thing that matters. A coach’s influence on a game is mostly intangible, but one area where they can clearly influence their team for the better is in preparations and Urban Meyer has been in national championships before, therefore I anticipate his team being prepared for the stage.

Now, that doesn’t mean Mark Helfrich won’t be prepared because he hasn’t been in this position (as a head coach) before and it doesn’t mean that being prepared magically makes Ohio State the better football team. That being said, I think it’s fair to wonder if Helfrich’s success is due, in large part, to Chip Kelly’s incredible system and his incredible players. I guess, as far as this question is concerned, my criteria is that if coaching was the only variable in a game of two perfectly matched teams, I’d take Urban Meyer to win.

The Ducks are very sound from top to bottom.

The Ducks are very sound from top to bottom.

@ColinSylvester: Mark Helfrich has taken Oregon to new heights. Not only has he made Chip Kelly’s famed hurry-up offense more efficient by tweaking its style, he’s become one of the best in-game strategists in the country. The Ducks lead the nation by averaging 16.5 points in the second quarter, meaning they quickly make adjustments after seeing the opposing defense’s game plan. The trend continues after halftime with Oregon averaging 12.2 points in the third quarter, good for 2nd in the nation.

In terms of experience preparing for a national championship game, though, Urban Meyer has the edge. He’ll be going for his 3rd national title Monday whereas Helfrich will be coaching in his first. That being said, this is a new system for everyone involved, and no FBS coach, Meyer included, has ever had to win a tournament to earn the national championship.

Don’t think for a second that means either team won’t be prepared and ready to play at the top of its game, though.

 @AlexK_47: Urban Meyer can add a win over Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide to an already-stacked résumé, but I believe if Ohio State played the Ducks in game one, they’d be better suited. The Buckeyes received countless weeks to prepare for a physical Alabama team, but will have less than two to get ready for the nation’s fastest offense.

While this doesn’t necessarily favor Meyer’s Buckeyes, he has proven himself as a winner, and Urban Meyer as an underdog should be a significant factor in this one: he’s 5-0 in this role as Ohio State’s head coach.

The nation can rant and rave about the dazzling offense that is the Oregon Ducks, but the Buckeyes’ scroll of athletes shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Been there, done that but winning and preparing to do it never gets old for Meyer.

Been there, done that but winning and preparing to do it never gets old for Meyer.

 @StephenPSheehan:  Urban Meyer obviously brings big-game experience from his time at Florida, where he won two national championships. The big difference between Meyer then and Meyer now: Tim Tebow. Tebow was an important contributor during Florida’ 2006 championship run before becoming the focal point of the offense by the time the Gators captured the title again in 2008. This time, Meyer will have to continue working his magic with another inexperienced quarterback in Cardale Jones.

That said, it’s not like we should take Mark Helfrich lightly. He’s lost just three games as a head coach and has been one of the architects behind the Ducks’ dominant offense. He’s had a direct hand in Mariota’s development and knows him better than anyone else. I still like Meyer because of his experience and ability to motivate, but the gap isn’t as great as some people may believe.

@Sharp_Schutter:  Yes, the playoff format is new to everyone in college football and there isn’t one coach who has more experience in this situation, but the bottom line is that Urban Meyer has been there, done that. He’s a perfect 2-0 in national championship games and has been involved in many more high-profile games than his counterpart Mark Helfrich.

There may not be a coach that prepares his team for each game better than Meyer. He’s consistent in altering his game plan to exploit the weaknesses of the opposition. It’s the reason he’s a staggering 37-3 during his three-year stay at Ohio State. That’s the reason he won two national titles at Florida.

Helfrich just doesn’t have the experience or the accolades that Meyer does. Being unfamiliar with this situation doesn’t exactly doom Oregon, but it could be a potential setback. As Colin Sylvester has pointed out on numerous Today’s Pigskin Podcasts, there may not be a better coach at making in-game adjustments than Helfrich, and I agree with that point.

In this scenario, with a week to prepare, I give a slight advantage to Meyer in the coaching category. After seeing what the Buckeyes did to Michigan State, Wisconsin and Alabama with second and third-string quarterbacks, it’s hard to pick against him.

Helfrich will be much more recognizable if the Ducks win Monday night.

Helfrich will be much more recognizable if the Ducks win Monday night.

 @Pat_Whitehurst: If Ohio State knocks off Oregon a strong case can be made that Urban Meyer’s performance this season should go down as the greatest coaching job in the history of college football.

Meyer clearly holds the edge in big game experience and while he and Ohio State embrace the challenges that playing in the National Championship bring, the pendulum now swings for Oregon’s Mark Helfrich to finally play the coveted underdog card.

The Ducks have been favored in every game this season, but now the national media and college football fans across America easily give the nod to Urban Meyer.

While I don’t know much about Mark Helfrich, I know that every coach wants to make a lasting impression by beating the best when they reach the pinnacle of their sport–and this would be one helluva chance to do just that.


FanRag Sports Wants to Know:

Will the Oregon Ducks or Ohio State Buckeyes win the National Championship?

Where does Urban Meyer rank on the list of top college football coaches right now?

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