Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
The first question for Ohio State coach Urban Meyer probably wasn’t what you’d expect it to be.
It wasn’t about who the team’s leaders would be after losing former captains John Simon, Zach Boren, Garrett Goebel and Etienne Sabino.
It wasn’t about sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller, or about the return of running back Jordan Hall after being granted a medical redshirt for 2012.
It wasn’t even about how Meyer and the Buckeyes’ defense would replace seven starters, including four-of-five captains, and junior defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, who chose to forgo his senior year and enter the 2013 NFL Draft.
No – the first question aimed at Meyer in his first press conference in more than a month was about Bowl Championship Series National Champion Alabama and if OSU could raise itself to the Crimson Tide’s level next year.
After the program’s first undefeated campaign since 2002, an appearance on the sport’s highest stage might be a plausible in 2013.
But Meyer isn’t buying it.
“For me to say we have to get (to the national championship) next year, that’s like me talking about we have to go fly to the moon,” Meyer said Friday. “We’re nowhere near even having that conversation.”
Meyer, who witnessed Alabama’s 42-14 win against Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship game for himself as a guest analyst for ESPN, lauded coach Nick Saban’s squad as the most fundamentally sound group he’s seen all year.
Meyer couldn’t say the same for OSU.
“Fundamentally we are not where we need to be,” Meyer said.
At least not this early in January.
In part, the team’s pursuit of fundamentals is why Meyer said he installed a new team mantra: “Truth.”
“Truth means … you have a good season and there’s a lot of conversation about things that really shouldn’t be discussed because it’s not true,” Meyer said.
Such noise could be the buzz surrounding OSU as early national title contenders next season.
Meyer, though, maintained the Buckeyes have their work cut out for them – particularly when it pertains to elite teams like Alabama.
“To say that we could roll in there and beat a team like that, I don’t know,” he said. “Honest answer, right now, (we have) too many holes to fill.”
But don’t mistake Meyer’s stance as a lack of confidence in his squad. He said OSU can play with anyone.
“I think we’re a very good team that could compete with any team in the country. I didn’t feel that way early in the year, even in the middle of the year,” he said. “But the last game, I even said that after the season, that’s where I believe we are.”