Man, what a roller coaster season it’s been for the Trojans this year. From the early dominating Stanford win, the tough defeat against Washington State, the brutal thumping on the road against Notre Dame, only to go on to win not only the PAC-12 South but the PAC-12 Championship. However, we focus so much on our individual teams during the season we tend to overlook our opponents road to here.
With so much time to kill between the end of the regular season and bowl game, let’s take a look at the road Ohio State took to get here.
Heading into this year, Ohio State football had big hopes. Ranked top two in most of the preseason polls, one of the best coaches in the game in Urban Meyer, and an established veteran running the offense in JT Barrett. I know we always hear every year how good Ohio State was supposed to be, but this year was supposed to be special. They had all the pieces to make a national championship run.
After a shaky opening half against Indiana to start the season, Ohio State started playing like, well, Ohio State, and cruised down the stretch to a 49-21 road win. Much like USC, sluggishness in the opening game could be blamed on looking ahead,to a big week two matchup. While USC got their statement win week two against Stanford, Oklahoma was the one making the statement that night on the Buckeyes home turf. A 31-16 Sooners victory left OSU fans at a loss for words, especially given the second half dominance from Oklahoma and differentiation in play from Baker Mayfield and JT Barrett. Some postgame Mayfield antics made the defeat that much worse, leaving a sour taste in the Buckeyes mouth very early on in the season.However, there was still an entire season left to play for, OSU still had not only conference hopes but playoff hopes as well. But, they needed to badly address the problems that plagued them in the OU game. They rolled relatively easily in their next two matchups against Army and UNLV, helping work out the kinks right before they rolled into the thick of conference play.
Boy, did Ohio State look good. With dominating performances over Rutgers and Maryland, games where they outscored their opponent a total of 118-14, it seemed clear this Ohio State team was nowhere near the team that took the field that early September night. With another convincing win over Nebraska, Ohio State was on the rise with a 6-1 (4-0) record on the year. However, many still doubted them. And the criticism seemed fair at the time, OSU had only faced one ranked opponent on the year, and were beat by 15 at home. Rolling over lower tier Big Ten programs could not be overhyped, they had to prove it against Penn State. And in the beginning, the critics looked right, PSU put up a quick, and I mean quick, 14 point lead on Ohio State at home. Things seemed like it could get out of hand fast. I’ll admit I was one who had written off OSU after I saw that early deficit, not only in the game but as a contender. But credit where credit is due. The Buckeyes clawed their way back into the game, with JT Barrett at the helm, orchestrating a late fourth quarter touchdown drive to win the game for the Buckeyes. A statement had been made, this Ohio State team had learned from OU, and was a serious contender in the Big Ten and playoff race.
Hey, remember when I said:
A statement had been made, this Ohio State team had learned from OU, and was a serious contender in the Big Ten and playoff race.
Yeah scratch that, I was wrong. The absolute beatdown the Buckeyes received on the road against Iowa was shocking, a 30 plus point defeat to an unranked conference opponent was something that never happened to an Urban Meyer led team. But it did. Ohio State was once again a pretender, with now two brutal losses on their resume. Now they had to face a streaking Michigan State team.
Hey, remember when I said:
Ohio State was once again a pretender
Yeah scratch that, I was wrong. The Buckeyes ruthlessly murdered a ranked, impressive MSU team by 45 points. 45 points. A simple win would have sufficed, but 45 points? OSU utterly dominated in every facet of the game. This roller coaster season continued to take the craziest ups and downs. (Seeing this start to relate, Trojan fans?) With a chance at the Big Ten title game, the Buckeyes went on to take care of business against Illinois and rival Michigan (for the sixth straight year), giving them their playoff hopes back. Going up against an undefeated Wisconsin squad, OSU was under the impression a win would most likely put them in a playoff spot. However, there could be no guarantee with Alabama looming. After a strong start to the game, Ohio State held off Wisconsin, giving them their 36th Big Ten championship in program history.
It was a performance that most thought (including myself) would get them into the fourth spot of the playoff, but the committee just left them out, opting to go with a 1-loss conference titleless Alabama team.
So, here they sit.
It’s crazy, reflecting on the seasons really shows how similar USC and OSU were this season. There were statements wins, there were disastrous losses, and there are conference titles. Two two-loss teams, while may be slightly disappointed not reaching the playoffs, excited to end the season in the historic Cotton Bowl. And they both seem to be playing their best football of the season.
Man, I can’t wait till December 29th.