NEW ORLEANS -- As coach of the team that squeezed into college football's inaugural four-team playoff on the last possible weekend, Urban Meyer couldn't be happier that Ohio State could be playing as many as two more games. But the winner of Thursday's Ohio State-Alabama Sugar Bowl, along with the FSU-Oregon Rose Bowl winner, will complete the longest season in college football history against one another, at 15 games.
And the significance therein isn't lost on the Buckeyes' coach.
"It used to be 11 games and a bowl game. Now it's 12, plus this and (with conference title games) you're talking about 14, 15 games. That is getting very NFL-ish," Meyer said. "We've been very leery of it, and there is a part of me that's concerned about the wear and tear on the student-athlete. But watching the players, they're having the time of their life. I don't feel like there's fatigue, I don't feel like there is anyone whatsoever who doesn't want to be part of this. I think it's great for college football, but I think it's something we all need to consistently monitor. I know we have very closely, because the wear and tear on the student-athlete is real. It's never been like this. This is the first time in college football history."
Of course, the vast majority of the college game won't be in such a difficult position. Of the 128 FBS teams, nearly half were done after the 12-game regular season schedule. Most of the other half plays just one additional game in a bowl appearance. Only six teams (about five percent of the FBS ranks) will play a 14-game schedule, and two others will play 15.
The high percentage of teams not involved in an extended season doesn't help Meyer manage the playoff, however.
"I'm very concerned about the wear and tear on the student-athlete, but we've done a good job as a coaching staff. You do have to treat it a little bit differently about how you practice, the amount of pads contact you have, how many times you've hit the tailback, the offensive line," Meyer said. "Those are things you watch as a staff, and I've watched so close with our strength coach about not wearing them out because it is a much different season."
» Meyer also addressed rumors that quarterback Braxton Miller will transfer after the season, something OSU running back Ezekiel Elliott is certain will not happen. Meyer was similarly assuring that the preseason Heisman Trophy candidate will return to compete with J.T. Barrett for the starting job in 2015.
"I don't expect that. We've had conversations, and I expect him to be back at Ohio State," Meyer said.