It’s been 13 long years since the Big Ten could claim a member of its conference was the national champion in college football. So, naturally, the only team to have played for a national title from the conference in that span would end the drought.
Ohio State hoisted the first-ever College Football Playoff national championship trophy after beating Ohio State 42-20 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. You know, just like everyone expected tonight or earlier in the season.
Flash back to Week 2 of the college football season and the supposed death of not only OSU, but the Big Ten in general. Ohio State just got done losing the nightcap to unranked Virginia Tech at home, Michigan was trounced by Notre Dame and Oregon took out Michigan State as well.
The Big Ten, let alone the Ohio State Buckeyes were dead. National writers and talking heads wrote and spoke the eulogies by Sunday morning. Simply put, there was no way a Big Ten team was making the College Football Playoff, let alone win a national championship.
Ohio State did it in most incredible fashion, riding a running back that was seventh in the Big Ten in rushing yards and quarterback who had never made a start before postseason play began.
Naturally the Buckeyes came in to this one as an underdog, something this team has been every game during the postseason. It can thank the little-talked about running back, its third-string quarterback and a spectacular defense for the national championship win.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott may have been a bit quiet in the regular season but he burst on to the scene in a big way during the postseason. His performance in the national championship game would’ve been enough to make him a household name — rushing for 249 yards and four touchdowns.
However, it was just the third of his 200-yard performances in the postseason. Elliott would finish the three-game stretch with 696 yards and eight touchdowns. That’s an average of 232 yards per game.
Elliott’s quarterback was equally effective behind perhaps the finest offensive line performance the Buckeyes have had all season long. Jones finished the game going 16 of 23 for 242 yards and one touchdown, while rushing for 38 yards and one touchdown.
Looking at those numbers and the 42-20 final score it would be hard to believe all wasn’t right for the Buckeyes either, but this was a team who nearly gave the game away with four turnovers.
That’s where the defense comes in, as they did some damage of their own and held the Oregon offense down in big situations all game long. Oregon was held to just 132 yards on 32 carries for the game, and Marcus Mariota was held in check outside of a few big plays for his 333-yard day.
No moment was bigger than what happened early in the second quarter. With Ohio State up 14-7 and Cardale Jones turning the ball over at the Oregon 41-yards line, the Buckeyes defense buckled down and held Oregon out of the end zone.
The Buckeyes defense didn’t just hold them out of the end zone, it stuffed them on four plays with goal-to-go to keep the score at 14-7.
Ohio State’s defense gave up just 10 points off those four turnovers, and Ohio State never trailed after going up 14-7 because of it. The Buckeyes defense made a huge stand after another Jones fumble at the OSU 32-yard line early in the third quarter.
Instead of breaking, the Buckeyes defense held fast and with a 21-17 lead on the line forced a 23-yard field goal to keep a 21-20 lead.
The Ohio State offense would feed off that energy and the game was all Buckeyes on both sides of the ball after that. OSU scored 21 unanswered points from that point forward en route to the national championship.
For Ohio State is national championship No. 9, for Urban Meyer it is national championship No. 3 and of course he becomes just the second head coach in college football history to win national titles at two different schools.
When ESPN is looking to make another set of “30 for 30” episodes, the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes are sure to make a heck of a story for them.
For the Big Ten it is the icing on the cake of a bowl season that was all about redemption. With 10 games came 10 underdog moments, five of which turned in to wins — including three on New Year’s Day alone.
Watching Ohio State win the title that has eluded the conference for so long seemed only right after years and months of jokes about the league.
Poetic justice came in the form of winning the games that mattered on the field and not in the court of public opinion. It was one more national title for the Buckeyes, but one giant leap for the Big Ten as a whole.