If you were to ask my honest thoughts about the Inaugural College Football Playoff, my response would be something along the lines of “wow”…and that’s all any true fan of the game should be able to say after Monday night’s shocking upset in the title game.
In the first ever title game as a result of a four-team playoff, the second-seeded Oregon Ducks and fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes clashed in Arlington, Texas in the home of the Dallas Cowboys–to the tune of LeBron James, who watched from not far off.
The game featured polar opposites at the quarterback position. First was the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Marcus Mariota, who knows a lot about how to be a starter in big time football games. Clear leader and captain of the Ducks squad whose only previous loss was to the Arizona Wildcats, Mariota was determined to add to his already extensive and impressive resume with a national title.
Well, that didn’t happen.
Instead, the man in the corner opposite Mariota was a Buckeye making just his third ever start–and his name is Cardale Jones.
In his first ever start, Jones demolished the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big 10 title game by the sound of 59-0. In his second start, he managed to knock off the top team in the country, Alabama, in the Sugar Bowl to give his Ohio State team a shot at a legitimate title. Then, to close off this odd but overwhelmingly joyful season for the Buckeyes, Jones delivered sweet victory at long last and had himself some good ol’ Ducks for dinner.
On national tv, again, mind you.
As great as Jones proved he can be (and don’t discount original starter Braxton Miller OR backup J.T. Barrett; both QBs succumbed to injuries this season), he did not do it alone. Here are three keys to the Buckeyes success in the Nat’l Championship Game that showed they play as a team, not as individuals, stat sheets, or even pure underdogs:
1. E-Z PICKIN’S
Sure, there was a Heisman winner fighting against an unknown third-stringer in the QB, but the real hero was Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State. Elliott stole the spotlight of the underdog victory, as he contributed a championship game record 246 total yard on just 36 carries–four of those being for touchdowns.
Are you taking notes now, NFL?
Because of all of the hype surrounding Marcus Mariota on Oregon’s offensive side of things, the Duck defense was overlooked and because of that, Elliot and company were able to exposure the flaws of Oregon’s defensive setup that we all thought might be there, they just hadn’t been shown yet.
And what a stage to show it on.
Further, Elliott’s padding of four touchdowns is what propelled the Buckeyes to not only an early lead, but the ability to hold off Oregon and prevent any chance of Mariota coming all the way from behind to win. Doing this against Alabama too, if Elliott decides not to enter the NFL Draft coming up, along with any other positive reinforcements that will make a sort of a second coming for the now-defending National Champions.
Whoa. Gear up College Football, you’ve got another thing coming.
2. URBAN LEGEND
Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer has been looking for redemption for a while now. After winning two titles with the Florida Gators and with Tim Tebow at the helm (2006, 2008), Meyer found what was originally a more mellow gig with the Buckeyes not long ago.
In his short time with Ohio State, Meyer has shown that he really knows what he is doing when it comes to picking prospective quarterbacks to be on the team, but also he has shown that he can build and develop ANY football player from the ground up.
When Tebow first got the go for the Gators, there was definitely a fair share of haters, doubters, and harsh critics alike. It seems, ironically, that those kinds of people all crawl out of their little holes at the exact same time and then retreat in identical fashion. With the incredible ability to not just handle but man handle those critical of the program he has been entrusted with, it makes me wonder what could happen if people all actually began to support Urban Meyer’s efforts, which, apparently, will never cease to amaze us.
And trust me, the character of the coach says more about a football team, especially at the collegiate level, than any raw talent produced on the field. While the goal is to become man-eating menaces on the football field, the other ultimate goal is to help raise young men into champions at life.
Urban Meyer just that, and he will continue his “Urban Legend” as long as it takes to earn recognition and success across the board.
So, you better get off the hate train now, ’cause after this, it won’t be making a stop any time soon.
3. ON THE HOUSE
While the Buckeyes took their one loss at home, they remained undefeated on the road (6-0) and an untouchable 3-0 in neutral sites. Seemingly dominating more when away from campus, the Buckeyes proved that they can make any place the football game is going on a home game.
Don’t believe me? You must not have watched the Sugar Bowl.
In a game played in Louisiana, a state much closer to Alabama (their then opponent) than Ohio, the Buckeyes fans that showed up made them feel like they hadn’t moved a mile. This unwavering support was also evident in the Big 10 Championship Game against Wisconsin (59-0) and the College Football Playoff Nat’l Championship (42-20), but made the biggest difference against the Crimson Tide.
Alabama was clearly the harder of the final two match-ups for Ohio State, with the reason being the overall fitness, physique, and mental toughness. Alabama had to endure a lot of adversity this season, particularly early on in determining the quarterback and leader of the team, so in many ways they were close to home with Ohio State.
And the result? A great game and arguably an instant classic.
All three neutral games were games that the Buckeyes controlled. All three games were played with a third-string quarterback, you know his name by now, Cardale Jones. J.T. Barrett, the first replacement to original starter Braxton Miller, had a great regular season without having to play in neutral sites, so I think the future is loud and clear for the Buckeyes.
With all this talent now evident at quarterback, the question now becomes who goes where? Will Miller stick around or transfer after recovering from being injured? Is Barrett’s incredible regular season enough to save him a seat at the table? Or has Cardale Jones, a man just three starts deep, already swept the hearts, minds, and memories of good ol’ Ohio folk?
Only time will tell, and the clock starts now.