Last night in the inaugural Playoff Final it was all about one team. A team whose playoffs chances were supposedly gone when their starting QB went down with an injury before the season. A team that was much maligned after losing to Virginia Tech way back in September in JT Barrett’s second start. A team that played in a conference that was supposedly down with traditional powers like Michigan having bad years and that was certain to be the conference that missed out on the four team playoff. People said when the Buckeyes beat Wisconsin 59-zip in the B1G10 Title game that it showed how bad the B1G10 was as a conference rather than how good Ohio State were as a team despite it being third string QB Cardale Jones first start for the Buckeyes. They made the playoffs as the fourth seed but everyone said it should have been TCU and that with three weeks to prepare for a third string QB Nick Saban would kill ’em. They faced the #1 seed and the best of the SEC in Alabama and sent them home with their tails between their legs. They shutdown the runner up to the Heismann the week after they shut down the nation’s top back. They traveled to Dallas and played the unstoppable offense. Seven point underdogs for the second week in a row with everyone righting them off. How could a QB making his 3rd start beat the Heismann winner making his 40th ? How would the Buckeyes be able to stick Oregon and their breakneck speed for four quarters? Would the Buckeyes be able to hold onto the ball and not turn it over with a QB in his 3rd start against a defense that was in the top 10 in turnovers?
In the end the they silenced all their doubters and became the first ever winners of the College Football Playoffs. As if Urban Meyer need more proof of how good he was as coach he got after lifting it out of the Tattoo-gate scandal and the ensuing 6-6 season in the season before his arrival in Columbus to its first National Championship in 13 years. It wasn’t an easy National title by any means it was done the hard way with after losing to Virginia Tech way back at the start of the season before scraping in as the 4th seed. To give the team credit though it never stopped improving from the first game to the last with the O-line’s improvement nothing short of amazing and players like LB Darron Lee who had 8 tackles in the title game(4 solo) went from being nobodies to superstars over the course of the season.
Ezekiel Elliot get tackled on a big run
In the game itself the Buckeyes were remarkably efficient at stopping Oregon for most of the game. The Ducks did get on the scoreboard first with a Marcus Mariota throwing a 7 yard touchdown to Keanon Lowe but then on it never really looked like Oregon were going to come out and blitz Ohio State the way people predicted with the Buckeyes coming out and scoring 21 unanswered points while holding the Ducks to 5 consecutive scoreless drives including when the Buckeyes managed to stop the Ducks on their own 1 yard line on 4th down. The Ducks did manage to pull it back to within 1 with a 70 yard pass by Mariota to Byron Marshall when a pass bounced off the hands of Jalin Marshall in to the waiting arms of a Oregon DB before Aidan Schneider made a 23 yard field goal. After that the Buckeyes never looked back with the Ezekiel Elliot scoring on three touchdowns on three out of their next four drives on his way to 246 yards and the Offensive MVP. the defensive line also came up big by getting constant pressure on Marcus Mariota and shut down the inside run for Oregon. With time winding down and up by 22 Urban MAyer got the Gatorade shower with two minutes left to go in the game. I must say I have admired the way Mariota has played a lot and really feel he example to all other college players with the class and dignity he handles things and it was pretty sad to see his Oregon career end the way it did with an INT in a losing effort.
With the Buckeyes, it is far too early to look ahead to next year but one thing to remember is that 15 of the starters return next year including stars like Ezekiel Elliot, Joey Bosa, Darron Lee, Vonn Bell and Michael Marshall