COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An up-close view of the title game convinced Urban Meyer that the most fundamentally sound team he saw all season won the national championship, even though his team was the nation's only unbeaten squad.
Armed with both sets of information, he and the Buckeyes went back to work earlier this week trying to close the gap with the SEC, which has won seven consecutive BCS national titles -- and a team that has captured three of the past four.
"[Texas] A&M beat them, Georgia could have beat them, LSU could have beat them and they soundly won the national championship," Meyer said Friday during a news conference. "That tells you a little bit about that conference. Where are we? I don't like to deal in speculation, but I think we're a very good team that can compete with any team in the country. I said even after the last game, that's where I believe we are.
"But to say we could roll in there and beat a team like that, first of all I don't want to speculate, and then if I was going to give you a honest answer, I think right now we have too many holes to fill."
It's not a secret what they are for the Buckeyes, who will be replacing seven defensive starters from their undefeated run through Meyer's first season with the program.
They'll have to rebuild the defensive line completely, need to find two starting linebackers and must also identify a group of leaders to fill the considerable void left by veterans such as John Simon and Zach Boren, who were integral in keeping teammates focused throughout a season that couldn't end in a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions.
The process is already under way for the Buckeyes, who resumed classes this week and launched into the offseason strength and conditioning program, with an eye on the opportunity to get back in the postseason.
And while Meyer admitted there would be lofty goals set for his second season at Ohio State, he also made clear he would be delivering some "truth" to his roster after wrapping up the holiday break watching film of Texas A&M, Oregon and Kansas State and taking in Alabama's throttling of Notre Dame live (he served as an analyst for ESPN).
"You have a good season and there's a lot of conversation about a lot of things that really shouldn't be discussed because it's not true," Meyer said. "For example, are you guys going to go do this [again] next year? No, probably not unless we get a lot better -- like, a lot better. Fundamentally we are not where we need to be.
"The biggest thing, I was fortunate enough to be at the championship game and I think probably the best fundamental team that I've seen, certainly this year, won that game. That's with leverage, that's with tackling, blocking, all the things that win football games ... For me to say we have to get [to the national championship] next year, that's like talking about we have to go fly to the moon. We're nowhere near even having that conversation."