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Urban vs. Frank

Gobbler Country explores the similarities and differences between two NCAA FBS coaching stalwarts.

On September 6, 2014, the Ohio State Buckeyes experienced the only loss of their 2014 championship season. When Virginia Tech defeated OSU at the Horseshoe in front of an audience of 107,517 fans, the Hokies not only provided the only blemish on the Buckeyes’ otherwise perfect season, but they also stopped Ohio State from breaking the NCAA record for the most single-season college football wins in the AP Poll era. Almost exactly one year after suffering his only home loss since taking the head coach job at OSU, coach Urban Meyer leads Ohio State into Blacksburg for a bitter rematch against coach Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech.

Beamer and Meyer both attended the respective universities whose football squads they currently coach. Beamer earned his undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech. Meyer attended Cincinnati for his undergraduate, but received his graduate degree from Ohio State. Interestingly, both men were student athletes and both played as defensive backs during their time as undergraduates. Both have developed number one NFL draft picks. Beamer coached QB Michael Vick who was selected as the first pick of the 2001 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. At Utah Meyer coached QB Alex Smith who was selected number one by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2005 NFL Draft. When both men accepted their current positions they took over programs languishing under NCAA sanctions resulting from actions of the programs’ previous head coaches. Both men have since developed their football squads into successful, nationally esteemed programs.

Frank Beamer is entering his 29th season with VT, and 35th season as a head coach. Before accepting the VPI head coaching position he was the HC at Murray State. Beamer’s career record as a head coach is 273-138-4, and he is the winningest active coach in the FBS. Urban Meyer will be starting his fourth season as the Head Coach of Ohio State and his 14th overall season as a HC. He was previously the HC at Bowling Green, Utah, and Florida—where he won two National Championships. Coach Meyer is the second fastest FBS head coach to earn 100 wins, and is on pace to be the fastest FBS HC to earn 200 wins. At 0.845 (142-26), he currently owns the highest winning percentage among active FBS head coaches with at least ten years of experience as head coach. Both coaches have received significant recognition for their performance. Frank Beamer was named the Associated Press Coach of the Year in 1999, and Urban Meyer was named the Sports Illustrated Coach of the Decade in 2009.

Urban Meyer has been coaching for less than half the time Frank Beamer has, but there are several milestones Meyer has achieved that continue to elude Beamer. Most notably, the OSU HC has three national championships—in 2006, 2008, and 2014. The highest ranking Beamer’s team has achieved is number two. Meyer has commanded a number-one team five times, in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2014, and now in 2015. Urban Meyer has never lost a season-opening match. Ever. Coach Beamer last lost an opening match in 2013 when Virginia Tech faced Nick Saban’s No. 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. Since taking over the VT squad in 1987 coach Beamer has dropped nine opening games. Coach Meyer has defeated four number-one ranked teams, a feat that continues to escape Frank Beamer.

The highest ranked team the Hokie coach has beaten was the second-ranked 2003 Miami Hurricane squad. Meyer has an excellent 9-3 record against top-five ranked opponents while Beamer has an abysmal record of 1-22 against top-five squads. Coach Meyer’s performance against ranked teams is impressive at 31-12. Beamer has substantially greater performance against ranked teams than he does facing against top-five squads, but still hovers below 0.500, with a 45-50-1 record. Coach Meyer’s bowl game performance is also solid. He carries a 9-2 record, including 4-1 in BCS Bowls and 2-0 in College Football Playoff games. Beamer’s bowl game execution, like his performance against ranked opponents, sits below 0.500, at 10-12. Included in that performance is Virginia Tech’s appearance in six BCS Bowl games, and in those efforts coach Beamer has only managed a single victory when No. 19 Virginia Tech defeated No. 12 Cincinnati, 20-7, in the January 1, 2009, FedEx Orange Bowl.

Urban Meyer’s accomplishments and performance as a head coach is certainly intimidating and impressive. Although he is clearly gifted there is an interesting fact to consider when looking toward Monday night—a fact that may provide some of hope to Hokie fans. Since taking responsibility for the Buckeye squad, Coach Meyer has lost three games. Only one of the losses was a conference game. Michigan State defeated Ohio State, 24-34, during the Big Ten Championship game in December 2013. The other two losses were to ACC programs. Clemson handed OSU another beating immediately after the Michigan State defeat during the January 2, 2014, Discover Orange Bowl. Most recently VT provided coach Meyer with his latest setback. It may only be two victories, but that still makes the ACC the most successful conference against Urban Meyer since he began been coaching Ohio State.

Like the OSU and VT football squads, coach Beamer and coach Meyer have only met one time...last year. Beamer’s 2014 squad is the only unranked team to beat Ohio State while Meyer has been the HC. One must look all the way back to 2010 and the Florida Gator’s contest against Mississippi State to find the last instance of Urban Meyer losing to a team without a presence in the top 25. VT’s victory over OSU also represents the largest losing deficit (14 points) that Meyer has encountered since arriving in Columbus. It is true that Urban Meyer has never lost an away game since he took the reins at Ohio State. But until the Hokies visited last year, he had never lost a home game either.

Last week I explored preseason number one teams that have dropped season openers. In that piece I rated the situation facing the unranked 1972 UCLA Bruins as most closely resembling what the Hokies face Monday night, and I stand by that comparison. Frank Beamer has never lost to Urban Meyer, and like the 1972 Bruins who beat the No.1 Cornhuskers, the 2015 Hokies can defeat the No.1 Buckeyes.