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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Asked on National Signing Day if he had his sights set on two-time defending national champion Alabama, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer declined to take the bait.
"No, absolutely not. We have one rival, and that rival has been dictated many, many years ago," Meyer said, referring to Michigan. "One rival, and that rival is clear."
But while Meyer might not be willing to admit that he's chasing the Crimson Tide, he might be the only person in the state of Ohio thinking that way. In fact, even members of his second-ranked recruiting class have spoken publicly about their desire to knock Nick Saban's squad off of college football's proverbial throne.
"We're gong to try to beat 'Bama at national championships and try to get that crystal ball," five-star safety Vonn Bell said, while announcing his intentions to play for the Buckeyes. "We're going to complete that mission."
It's no surprise that Bell, or any current college-aged kid, would make comments like that. After all, it's been Alabama who has dominated the college football landscape over the course of the past four years, with Saban amassing a 49-5 record since the 2009 season, while winning three BCS National Championship Games in the process.
Saban's success has made the Crimson Tide the undisputed king of college football for the better part of the last half-decade, and given that he just landed the country's top-ranked recruiting class for 2013, it doesn't appear that will be changing any time soon.
If there's anybody who can end Saban's reign, however, it might be Meyer. With two undefeated seasons and two national championships to his credit during his 11-year head coaching career that has seen stops at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, and OSU, the Buckeyes' head man has earned a reputation for being one of the sports' top coaches.
Some of Meyer's success can be attributed to his big picture perspective, which extends his desire for championships past conference crowns and to national titles. That's one of the reasons why when asked about Bell's comments, the 48-year-old OSU head coach reiterated that while the Wolverines are the Buckeyes' primary rival, he's not afraid of bringing up Alabama while chasing a recruit.
"I think anytime you're in SEC country recruiting, I think anytime teams start talking about who is the king of the hill right now, those words might come out of people's mouths," Meyer said. "Including mine once in a while."
Between Ohio State returning 14 starters from its undefeated 2012 team and Alabama bringing back 13 from its most recent national title squad, the Buckeyes and Crimson Tide could be on a collision course for Pasadena, Cali. where the final BCS National Championship Game will be played before the playoff postseason format takes effect in 2014. Having played Alabama during his time with the Gators and serving as a guest analyst at the most recent title game, Meyer is very familiar with Saban's program, and admitted that his own still has to make some progress to get on its level.
"Probably the best fundamental team that I've certainly seen this year won that game. And that's with leverage, that's with tackling, blocking, tackling, and all the things how you win football games," Meyer said of the Crimson Tide's national title-winning performance. "Fundamentally, we are not where we need to be."
But in just his second offseason in Columbus, Meyer still has six months to get the Buckeyes there. And judging by some of the other comments that Bell made when he committed to Ohio State last month, that's just what his future head coach is counting on.
"We want to do something special," Bell said. "Urban Meyer is on a mission right now for a national championship."
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