The Tim May Podcast.

Ohio State Football

How Paul Finebaum evaluates Buckeyes in national landscape

COLUMBUS — The offseason is still full of storylines this time of year for Ohio State, and the Tim May Podcast is here with another episode to break it all down with a huge national guest.

Tim welcomes Lettermen Row senior writer Austin Ward on the show to talk about some of the most intriguing storylines about the Buckeyes as they prepare to head into spring practice. They also broke down plenty of what Ohio State has to do in the coming months and more about Urban Meyer’s move to the NFL.

Tim also welcomes on national college football media personality Paul Finebaum for a conversation about Ohio State’s place in the national picture and plenty more.

Don’t miss the latest edition.

Transcript of Tim May’s interview with Paul Finebaum:

Tim May:

And as promised ladies and gentlemen, here’s Paul Finebaum of the Mouth of the South, the mouth that roared. Paul Finebaum, welcome again to the Tim May Podcast.

Paul Finebaum:

Tim, it is my pleasure, and I apologize for Jim Harbaugh barking downstairs, but he was all excited because Michigan finally beat Ohio State.

Tim May:

Hey, I was goin to say he’s making some noise, man. I think our Michigan fans are glad to hear him making some noise. Hey, I want to get right into it, man. You can have dogs in the background, you can have dancing girls. I don’t care what’s going on behind you there. I just wanted to ask you real quick about a bunch of things, but in rapid fire succession, rapid fire fashion.

Tim May:

Number one, you had pretty much a pretty good take on Urban Meyer last week on your show and stuff. And I just wanted to get into it. Do you think that was just a little stumble he took in hiring the former weight coach, street coach from Iowa? But how do you think he will do as a head coach? What’s your take at this point in the Urban Meyer moving to the NFL?

Paul Finebaum:

Well Tim, I do think he’s a smart guy, so one would hope or at least think he’d learned from that. But I think for your audience who knows Urban very well, it should not have been a surprise. Urban Meyer beats to his own drummer. He has no concern over what you think is right or moral, or what I think. He does what he believes and we saw that a couple of summers ago and Jack Smith. And I think it was just a ridiculous mistake that should have been avoided, but no one’s around Urban, has ever been around Urban saying, “Hey Urban, let’s talk about this. I know you’re trying to save the world and rehabilitate somebody who probably isn’t ready to be rehabilitated.”

Paul Finebaum:

So it was a mistake, but I think the good news is it happened so quickly. And before he had to deal with a locker room that I’m hoping he deals with it first day of OTAs and it’s over. And then he could move on to being another NFL coach, one of many.

Tim May:

Yeah. I’ve known him for a while, for quite a while as a matter of fact. And I could see his thinking in that whole thing and nobody does more research on this guy than I did. You know what I mean? And he could see that he thinks the guy, like you said, has rehabilitation in him, but sometimes your past follows you way too quickly and you have to move on, and I’m talking about in regards to that coach.

Tim May:

But just real quick, I haven’t talked to you since he got hired at Jacksonville. Do you think he will succeed there? Like you just pointed out, more than anything else, I think he’s a really smart guy. He does his homework, he knows usually what buttons to push, but that transition, college to pro, is tough for a lot of guys. We saw Nick Saban not do well in that regard because one thing, you’re taking orders from somebody. These guys aren’t used to maybe taking words, et cetera. How do you think Urban will do in that regard? The table is set for him; first pick, best cap space you’ve ever seen, et cetera. Just what your take on it?

Paul Finebaum:

I don’t think he’ll succeed, and I don’t think he’ll succeed for some pretty obvious reasons Tim. He can’t lose, this guy is the worst loser I’ve ever seen and he will lose eight or nine or 10 or 11 times, or more the first year. And I think it will eat him up. And we’ll start to see some of the tendencies that we’ve seen at Florida and Ohio State.

Paul Finebaum:

Now, I think it’s entirely possible that he’ll have some success at some point, but is it sustainable? And that’s the hard part about the NFL.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Paul Finebaum:

He can get to the Playoffs his second or third year, and then the next year, this quarterback gets hurt and it’s a disaster. And Urban Meyer doesn’t deal with disaster well. I thought his run… I said this a lot of times and I know your Buckeye fans came after me, but I thought he underachieved at Ohio State there. One lousy National Championship with all that talent. Nick Saban gets blistered for going two seasons without winning a national title, and Urban left a lot of titles on the ground. Not to dig up old bones here, but it was criminal that he didn’t win it in 2015.

Paul Finebaum:

And there was another time or two that he probably should have, and that’s in college. He’s up against more competition in the pros. When you get right down to it, at Ohio State he had to navigate a tough non-conference game every year. And the Buckeyes played the big game, we all know that. And then he had to deal with maybe a hot team somewhere, whether it’s Penn State on a whiteout or that every five or six years of Jim Harbaugh put a legitimate team on the field.

Paul Finebaum:

But when Jim Harbaugh is your… When your biggest rival is Jim Harbaugh, it’s like stealing from kids. It’s like stealing candy from a kid, but it’s not really very difficult. And then navigate, avoid the upset in a Conference Championship game, and he did that. I think all except one time maybe, and then fight to get back into the Playoff after you had done your traditional and annual lose on the road to somebody by four touchdowns, you should have never lost to.

Paul Finebaum:

And that’s Urban Meyer’s resume. It’s a great resume if you’re anywhere but Alabama or Ohio State, but I thought he underachieved there. And I think he’ll do the same thing here because he’s up against 31 geniuses across the board. Everybody’s got the same system, there’s nothing new in the NFL that you can’t go stockpile players. You can’t go into Florida and get a great kid to come to Ohio State because of tradition. You can’t get a legend whose dad played at Ohio State. And even though he’s starting ahead with Trevor Lawrence and some other picks, I think the train will run out of gas eventually. It always does with Urban.

Tim May:

Yeah. I would defend him on a lot of those counts that you just threw out there, but it would take too long on my show [crosstalk 00:06:07]

Paul Finebaum:

That’s why I went on so long.

Tim May:

Yeah, but no, but [inaudible 00:06:11] at least when he was there, Ohio State was in the hunt every year.

Paul Finebaum:

Absolutely.

Tim May:

You can’t say that about most major programs. And number two, you’re right. I think the 2015 team, they had a shot to repeat. They had that one loss to Michigan State, but otherwise that was a hell of a football team. They might’ve won the first two college football playoff team, but they didn’t get invited for whatever stupid reason. And it is what it is, but you’re right.

Tim May:

Here’s the one thing I’ll say about her before we move on. I think he’s smart enough to know the difference between the colleges and the pros, yet losing eats him up without a doubt. But he’s smart enough to know, in college football you lose once and you’re pretty much you’re out of it.

Paul Finebaum:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tim May:

And the NFL, you can go 10-6 and make the Playoffs. And I think he’s smart enough to understand that, but you’re right, as this thing goes on, we’ll [crosstalk 00:06:59]

Paul Finebaum:

And Tim, one more thing. The criticism in college football is pretty tame. Yeah, a guy like you may take a shot, somebody on ESPN may take a shot, but I had somebody argue with me, “Well, Jacksonville is not that tough a market.” I said, “Jacksonville is not the market that will get Urban Meyer. It’s every morning on ESPN, it’s on Fox.”

Paul Finebaum:

There are so many… The NFL Network, there are so many tributaries talking about the NFL 52 weeks out of the year. And I’ve been in those studios in New York for the ESPN shows. And those guys are pretty relentless and they take no prisoners, and Urban Meyer has a big bullseye on his back.

Tim May:

Yeah, you’re right. If he listens to all that then maybe doesn’t belong there in the first place.

Paul Finebaum:

Well, somebody… I know his wife will listen.

Tim May:

Yeah. Oh yeah, the people close to you always listen to it. That brings me to a great segue I wanted to talk to you about. All along, you talk about moving from college to pro football by coaches, et cetera. Only a few of them have ever done it successfully. Jimmy Johnson is one of those guys, et cetera. But the interesting thing to me, as long as I’ve been alive, which is about 10 years longer than you have I think, is that… But you know what I’m saying there Paul, where I want to go with you here. These big time programs that [inaudible 00:08:28] riding high right now, we’ve seen Alabama after Bear Bryant before they finally found Gene Stallings. You know what I mean?

Tim May:

And then after Gene Stallings, before they finally found Nick Saban. Why is it so tough do you think for these programs to follow? Because Nick Saban is getting up in years, who knows? He may coach another 15 years, who knows? But why is it so tough for these programs to continue that greatness, for want of another term?

Paul Finebaum:

I think Tim, one of the hardest things in all of mankind is picking the right person.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Paul Finebaum:

You could go from your spouse to a football coach, to a CEO. It may be under a 50-50 proposition, so I think that’s applicable in coaching as well. You mentioned all the names at Alabama, look at Ohio State.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Paul Finebaum:

It’s one of the three greatest traditions in college football history and post Woody Hayes it was a roller coaster. Nebraska, even when you think you got it right, you got it wrong. And I think that’s been the problem at Alabama as well. And another thing, that when they hired Nick Saban, they were fortunate. He wanted out of the NFL, and he was not fired after two years in Miami. Wayne Huizenga the owner, they really did not want him to leave.

Paul Finebaum:

Would he had been successful there ultimately? I’m not really sure. I probably would have bet against it, but he walked into Alabama. He had clout, he had grabby toss, and he basically told the boosters and the media to get the blank out of his way. He did, he had meetings with the media and he threatened them. He said, “I will treat you fairly, but if you ever crossed me, if you ever lie, if you mislead, if you print something or publish something, or broadcast something that I’ve told you is off the record, you’re done.”

Paul Finebaum:

Those guys came out of those meetings scared to death. I don’t need to explain to you that the modern media of 2021, or even back then it was 2008. And I think very few people have that power or can execute it.

Tim May:

Yeah. Finding that right guy, it seems like it’d be a snap but tradition only carries you so far.

Paul Finebaum:

Right.

Tim May:

And a lot of these guys, a lot of these programs back into guys, you know what I mean? Jim Trussel was the second or third pick for Ohio State way back when Urban of course was sitting there like a low-hanging fruit, and Gene Smith was able to grab it. But you’re exactly right, that’s what I want to get to you. I grew up in Alabama and in Texas, has Texas made the right hire do you think, to finally get back to the promised land? Steve Sarkisian, what’s your take?

Paul Finebaum:

I think they’re better than they were, but yeah, I’m not about to tell you that he’s the answer because frankly, I thought Tom Herman was, I really thought he was. You guys know Tom Herman, I thought he was a great coach and that environment just finally ate him up. I think they were smart to make a change, which I’ll give them credit in spite of all their lives and misleading comments. They got somebody, and I think he was the hottest coach out there. But I think Texas is on the brink of maybe becoming another Nebraska and Michigan, those great traditional programs that just can’t get it right.

Tim May:

Yeah. It’s interesting to me though, but it sounds like you just walk in there and flip a button and boom, you’re going to win. But Jimbo Fisher is sitting a 100 miles away, you know what I mean? At Texas A&M et cetera.

Paul Finebaum:

Exactly.

Tim May:

And he’s in another league. He’s in the league, according to a lot of people. The SEC and the competition there is crazy. Ohio State recruits down there, cherry picks guys, Alabama, et cetera, it’s tough. I wanted to ask you in that regard, who do you see as the next… From your vantage point, who is that next great coach in the SEC?

Tim May:

Some guys have kind of come and gone a little bit. Some guys you’re kind of wondering about, like Kirby Smart, et cetera. Is Dan Mullin? He had one of the weirdest years, one of the weirdest seasons I’ve ever seen at Florida, from really grabbing people by the throat to, “What are you doing?” At the end of the year and stuff. But take Saban out of the mix, who is that next great coach down there, do you think?

Paul Finebaum:

Well, I’m going to give you some obvious names and then we’ll get under the surface. I don’t think there’s any question, the two coaches after Sabin are Kirby Smart and Jimbo Fisher. There’s no surprise in those answers, but I’ll move the [inaudible 00:13:20] for a sec, I don’t think he is. Dan Mullen showed a lot this year that he may not be long for Florida. You can almost feel that he’s looking around, whether it’s the NFL or something else.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Paul Finebaum:

After that, you have a couple of wildcards. I really like Eliah Drinkwitz at Missouri, just a cool customer. I think he could become a big coach somewhere else. Beyond that, Kiffin is an enigma. I think it’s entirely possible he could break out there, but he’s a little bit in that [inaudible 00:13:57], you’re not really sure. It depends on the fit, but I would probably… Also, I’ll tell you another guy. I don’t know if he’ll make it huge at Vanderbilt, but Clark Lea who came down from Notre Dame, to me has been very impressive. Brilliant defensive guy, there was talk about three, four years away from maybe him taking over from Brian Kelly at Ohio State. So those are some strange names, but that’s who I would go with.

Tim May:

Hey, real quick. Ryan Day, what do you think he’s done his first two years? Has he replaced Urban with aplomb? How would you describe it? They finally beat Clemson. And then he got beat by one of the great Alabama teams I’ve ever seen. Considering the circumstances, maybe the best Alabama team I’ve ever seen.

Tim May:

And number two, past Ryan Day, I don’t know where you would put him on the ranks in The Big Ten, who else just catches your eye in The Big Ten, you think can get it going on?

Paul Finebaum:

Well, your audience knows what I’m going to say here, because I think I said this before Ryan Day ever coached a game here Tim, I’ve always liked him. I thought that was as seamless a transition as I’ve ever seen, and he’s proven that. Short of the Silver Cup, I don’t know what else he could do. He has had two brilliant years, and especially this year, overcoming all the noise.

Paul Finebaum:

I think the only concern about Ryan Day is will some NFL club come and take him away? He looks prime for at least that possibility. Beyond that in The Big Ten, it’s an unusual league because you’ve had some comments like P.J. Fleck, who you thought were sure things, and now you’re not so sure. Scott Frost, I’ll never forget. Tim Brando was on our show as Scott Frost was being hired, and he pretty much guaranteed a couple of National Championships. How about winning record?

Tim May:

Yeah.

Paul Finebaum:

I don’t know what the answer there is. Franklin to me, he’s certainly a good coach. Tennessee tried to hire him, but I’m not sure I’m ready to make him a Hall of Fame coach. I frankly like Schiano, I think he is sneaky good at Rutgers. And Locksley, I think has a chance at Maryland.

Tim May:

[inaudible 00:16:23].

Paul Finebaum:

Yeah he can. Mel Tucker I think is another guy that… I’ve known him a while when he was at Alabama and Georgia, he’s somebody I’m keeping my eyes on. But yeah, I think Ryan Day is the best coach in The Big Ten. And frankly, I’m not sure who could make a claim to be better.

Tim May:

Yeah. You and I both know what makes you a great coach, it’s the players you recruit and the coaches you recruit, and Ohio State keeps stacking them up in both sides, but definitely in the player side.

Paul Finebaum:

Tim, he replaced the second best coach in college football.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Paul Finebaum:

And you wouldn’t know it. There’s no drop-off.

Tim May:

Yeah. [crosstalk 00:17:05].

Paul Finebaum:

I might argue the program’s better with Ryan Day than Urban Meyer.

Tim May:

Wow. [crosstalk 00:17:10]

Paul Finebaum:

There’s less drama.

Tim May:

But that’s what I was talking about a while ago, about those transitions. When you go from one Coast to the other, who knows what the right… Teams have elevated guys before and falling flat on their face. You know what I mean? You never know what’s really going to work, do you? Until five years later.

Paul Finebaum:

No, but you could argue, “Oh well, he walked into a great [inaudible 00:17:34].” He did, but he didn’t make it worse.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Paul Finebaum:

The argument, why I think it’s a little bit better is that the drama I mentioned, and there wasn’t always a lot of drama with Ohio State, but yeah, there was that inexplicably loss which we have not seen yet.

Tim May:

Yeah, good point. Last thing. Who’ve you got your eye on this coming season already, that you think… I’m talking about a program, a team that can make a rise that maybe it’s been dormant for a while, or has been laying in the weeds, whatever. Who just intrigues you right now in late February, because college football fans, it’s a hot stove league for them 24/7.

Paul Finebaum:

Well, I’m going to give you a very traditional answer, but the team… Because they’ve been in the playoffs every year, almost every year, but I think Oklahoma has a chance to win it all next year because of their quarterback, that is certainly not a dormant team. to me, the teams that are obvious, but keep your eyes on Oklahoma and Georgia because Georgia has it all this year.

Paul Finebaum:

Now, you’re looking for someone under the surface a little bit that could make a run. I’m not sure that’s possible anymore in college football, Tim. I think it’s extremely tough to make that next step. Texas A&M nearly did it this year, from an average team to a team that was legitimately a top four team at the end. But the seven or eight teams that we see every year have almost blocked out the rest of college football.

Paul Finebaum:

You may see a team that has an unusually good season, but the question… Yeah, USC might be one I would opt for. It’s a traditional name, but they have not been good lately. They seem to be getting better, although it’s hard to trust them out there.

Tim May:

Hey Paul, real quick before you go. I know this is my last question, but I always have three follow ups, but [inaudible 00:19:39] Is Alabama Clemson, Ohio state, and maybe Oklahoma, I’d throw Oklahoma into that bunch. Is that good for college football? You know what I’m talking about? [crosstalk 00:19:49] Ohio State is a national name. Alabama is a national name. You could make the argument for the other two, definitely. But is that good for college football? What’s your take on it? Because a lot of people are arguing that it’s not good to have those traditional powers always in the mix.

Paul Finebaum:

I would argue that it’s not good for college football, because I think we saw this year, and this was an outlier year because of COVID…

Tim May:

Yes.

Paul Finebaum:

But the ratings really were extremely weak.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Paul Finebaum:

And with Ohio State and Alabama, it should have been a record rating, but the rating for the Championship game, as you know Tim, was worse than the Playoffs.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Paul Finebaum:

College football is seriously flawed so I think that’s more of the issue than who the teams are. Yeah, it would be exciting to see a new team in there, maybe with some sensational player on his way to the Heisman that we haven’t seen before. But I think ultimately, you cannot come up with a better four than we had. You had Alabama and Notre Dame are probably the two biggest names in college football history. You had Ohio State would be in the top four or five in college football history. And then Clemson, which has been one of the two best programs for the last decade.

Paul Finebaum:

So I don’t even know how you could top that, other than maybe Southern Cal being in there instead of Clemson. But I don’t think it would have mattered. I just think people don’t like the system, the season seems to peak on January 1st, and then the Playoff Championship game completely gets lost. You’ve lived through that a couple of times and you’re fighting the NFL. This year, we had six NFL games on the Saturday and Sunday before the National Championship game.

Paul Finebaum:

And by the time it got to Monday morning, folks were tired. They’d go, “Okay. Oh there’s a game tonight?”

Tim May:

Yeah.

Paul Finebaum:

I’m not talking about Columbus in Birmingham. I’m talking about in LA, Chicago, Philadelphia, the awareness of the championship game was very low.

Tim May:

But even the Super Bowl ratings were down.

Paul Finebaum:

Right.

Tim May:

What do you attribute that to Paul? Was it just the pandemic malaise? What do you think is going on here, is football [inaudible 00:22:04]?

Paul Finebaum:

No, television experts will say the game matters, but I’ve watched a lot of blowout games when the number was still significantly higher. The Super Bowl was clearly affected by the game, but the bottom line Tim is this, you talk to your children and your grandchildren. They’re not watching conventional television anymore.

Tim May:

Yes.

Paul Finebaum:

And every person who has to deal with young people, I don’t mean that as like it’s a chore, maybe that’s what I’m saying, they’re hands on their phone. And they’re watching stuff and they’ll look over the game. I ran into people when I traveled four or five times a week. And I don’t know, for some reason, young kids just couldn’t wait to tell me, “I see you, but I never see you on television.” It’s just like I don’t want to be caught dead watching that big 72 inch thing. It’s not really cool.”

Tim May:

Yeah.

Paul Finebaum:

And I think that ultimately, you may see some tune in early and then, “This games is no good. I’m going to flip over to Netflix and see what the latest rage is.”

Tim May:

I think you’re exactly… I think you hit the nail right on the head there. It’s like whether you’re talking about pro football in Southern California or Miami, there are other things to do than go to the game. And there are other things to watch like LetsDig18. I started watching that, this guy that runs a backhoe. But it’s like watching a guy run a Zamboni machine [crosstalk 00:23:36]

Paul Finebaum:

Well, I don’t want to be negative because I spent most of my life in one of these two places. But college football’s two best markets are Columbus Ohio and Birmingham Alabama.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Paul Finebaum:

I can tell you in Birmingham, there is nothing else to do. Columbus has a hockey team at least, but there’s not much else to do other than pay attention to the local team.

Tim May:

Yeah. Plus Columbus has the reigning Major League Soccer Champions. So there you go.

Paul Finebaum:

I was about to mention that but it slipped my mind.

Tim May:

It slipped your mind, Hey, Paul Finebaum, always a pleasure my man. I love coming on your show too man, whenever you need me. But thanks for coming back on the Tim May Podcasts my man.

Paul Finebaum:

Tim, it’s one of the things I look forward to. I’m just glad you remember me, now that you’re playing golf seven times a week.

Tim May:

24/7. Yeah, exactly. Ladies and gentlemen, Paul Finebaum, the incomparable Mouth of the South.

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