Sports Nut

Overheard on Chat: “In Urban We Trust”

What two Slatesters had to say about last night’s Ohio State upset.

Illustrations by Charlie Powell.

Illustrations by Charlie Powell. Photo by Thinkstock.

In this occasional feature, we highlight the virtual water-cooler chatter that’s happening on Slack, an instant messaging platform used in the Slate offices.

What follows is an edited conversation between Slatest writer (and Michigan fan) Ben Mathis-Lilley and senior editor (and Ohio State fan) Rachael Larimore. They talked before and after Monday night’s inaugural college football championship. —Slate Plus editors

Rachael Larimore (Jan. 12, 5:29 p.m.): Go Buckeyes!

Ben Mathis-Lilley (Jan. 12, 5:30 p.m.): FWIW, on the merits, I happen to think that Ohio State is in a great situation tonight. It’s early in the Urban Meyer regime—it’s his third year as coach—and the team wasn’t expected to make it this far to begin with. If you lose, as long as it’s not a total blowout, you’ve still had a great season.

* * *

Larimore (6:05 p.m.): Well—I’m sitting here, a nervous wreck, waiting to see how this can go south for Ohio State. You’ll have to forgive … pessimism is a congenital condition for Ohio sports fans.

Mathis-Lilley (6:07 p.m.): I see that you, as an Ohio State fan, are already rubbing in my Michigan fandom by being “pessimistic” about your team as it prepares to play for the national title after one of the biggest wins in its history. If Michigan were about to play for the national title, regardless of the odds, the only thing I’d be pessimistic about would be my chances of making it to work on time the next morning.

Larimore (6:09 p.m.): Oh, believe you me, I’m already ready to play the “we weren’t supposed to be here” card in the event of a loss.

* * *

Larimore (7:02 p.m.): I know there are two schools of thought among Michigan fans in this game (and probably also fans of PAC 12 teams not named Oregon). You can either stay true to the spirit of the rivalry by hating the Buckeyes, or you can be a good citizen of the B1G and pull for the conference to represent.

Where do you stand?

Mathis-Lilley (7:07 p.m.): I’m hoping for a narrow loss—a solid enough showing to keep the B1G’s ongoing reputational revival going, but NOT solid enough to give Ohio State another title to brag about.

* * *

Mathis-Lilley (Jan. 13, 1:41 a.m.): Just got home from watching the game—what an unbelievable victory for Ohio State. It wasn’t just a win with their third-string quarterback—it was an EMPHATIC win with their third-string quarterback. In 11 days Urban Meyer has completely reversed the idea that the Big Ten can’t be competitive in modern college football.

Larimore (7:45 a.m.): What can I say besides, “In Urban We Trust”? Great game.

I’ve enjoyed the “Cardale Jones is the third-string QB” meme as much as anyone. It fed into the underdog mentality that has propelled Ohio State since the early loss to Virginia Tech. But he was never some random guy on the end of the bench with a clipboard. After spring football, he was No. 2 behind Braxton Miller and ahead of J.T. Barrett. It took a spirited competition in the fall to put Barrett ahead of him. Ohio State just has an embarrassment of wealth at that position.

Mathis-Lilley (7:55 a.m.): What was wrong with the Big Ten before, that it went a decade without winning a title when its players were THIS good?

Larimore (7:58 a.m.): I think the SEC had a bit of a monopoly on the game’s great coaches, all of whom helped elevate the college game and who were able to recruit the best talent and make the most of it. And now, Ohio State has Urban. (For the record, Meyer has been insistent that the whole B1G needs to up it games.)

Mathis-Lilley (8:05 a.m.): Two final questions for you on that front: 1) How does this change your opinion of Jim Tressel, the epitome of good but not great Big Ten coaching? 2) What do you think of Urban Meyer, human being?

Larimore (7:58 a.m.): I will always have a soft spot for Jim Tressel, scandal or no. He was the right man at the right time for Ohio State. They had gone 2-10-1 against your Wolverines under John Cooper, who never really “got” what OSU football meant to the state of Ohio. People outside the state did a collective “huh?” when OSU hired Tressel, but anyone in the state who’d followed him at Youngstown State got it right away.  

As for Urban Meyer, human being? We’ll be nominating him for beatification soon. It’s funny, in hindsight: When his name was first bandied about, all I could think about was the 2007 BCS title game (after the 2006 season) in which his Gators embarrassed the heck out of Ohio State. And I thought, “Noooooo! How can I forgive him for that? How can I ever embrace him?” Well, now, all is forgiven.