Ohio State's coaches aren't sure if the benefits were physical or mental, or whether it actually made a difference in the game.
But most have a hunch that a short-lived diet made a big difference for Ohio State's football team.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Ohio State's coaching staff was impressed by the speed and finesse of Oregon's squad when it first sat down to watch game tape after the playoff semifinals. The Ducks' high-speed offense and playmaking agility stood in stark contrast to the power game employed by Alabama, whom Ohio State defeated to reach the title game.
Such a different team required a different approach. So Ohio State took an unusual angle.
"I told them: 'I don't want you to starve,'" Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson told the Journal. "Just eat less."
"I should launch my own weight-loss program."
Coaches pushed the players to drop several pounds ahead of the game by cutting down on their food intake and avoiding sweets. Each player had a goal weight to aim for, and that goal was monitored by the coaches.
When game day arrived, players were hungry to win. And the staff believes the physical deprivation heightened their on-field intensity. Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell wasn't sure if the physical effects were significant, but he believed the diet affected players' mental states.
"You’re not going to get in better shape in 10 days," Fickell told the WSJ. "But you lose a couple of pounds, you think: 'I’m leaner, I’m lighter, I'm faster.'"
The Buckeyes surprised many observers by matching Oregon's stamina and speed, stifling its offense and responding to fast strikes and moves with equally swift counters.
In the end, Oregon's finesse game was snuffed out. Ohio State rode its hunger to victory.