It’s not exactly a rags to riches story, but what Ohio State’s football team accomplished down the stretch this season is worthy of its “us against the world” tagline.
Hailing from the under-appreciated Big 10, the Buckeyes not only navigated the negative perceptions of its conference affiliation unbuttered, but did so after being embarrassed at home against Virginia Tech in their second game of the year.
By the end of the season Ohio State was forced to turn to the third quarterback on their roster in the conference title game against Wisconsin, a game in which they needed to win in order to be considered for the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff. The same story played out in the semifinals against Alabama, and finally in the National Championship against Oregon.
For all the athleticism Cardale Jones showed in those three outings, it’s hard to believe that if not for a preseason injury to Braxton Miller and another to J.T. Barrett at season’s end that his moment in the spotlight would’ve never materialized. It’s an unlikely second chance afforded to very few after failing to impress coaches when position battles played out back in August.
Urban Meyer knows all too well about second chances. He returned home to take over the Buckeyes after succumbing to the pressures of winning in the Southeastern Conference while at Florida. His exit from Gainesville was blamed on both health reasons and a desire to spend more time with his family.
But shortly after stepping away from the game he promptly began working for ESPN and, not surprisingly, jumped at the chance to take over the Buckeyes just a year later. So much for time with the family. And Meyer has dominated the recruiting trail ever since when compared to his fellow conference foes. His track record over the years is hard to dispute.
Following Monday’s 42-20 win over Oregon, Meyer improved to 14-5 in his career against Top 10 teams, 10-3 against teams in the Top 5 and 8-2 in bowl games. At Florida it was Tim Tebow running through opposing defenses to two national titles. On Monday it was Ezekiel Elliott doing the same thing, rushing for 246 yards and four touchdowns.
Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to suit up as Meyer’s next No. 15, the number both Tebow and Elliott accomplished such star-studded things while wearing?
Meyer returned to Ohio, where he had previously taken Bowling Green to new heights in two seasons before bolting for Utah and then ultimately Florida, and helped deliver the first championship to the state since the Buckeyes won it all in 2002.
That last title under the guidance of Jim Tressel during an unbeaten season now seems a distant memory from an era long ago, like back when Woody Hayes won his five titles, the last of which came in 1970 for a 9-1 team to bookend a 10-0 campaign in 1954. Paul Brown also went 9-1 for the Buckeyes championship squad in 1942.
By finishing 14-1 this season with a group that featured major contributions from freshman and sophomores, the future looks very bright for the Buckeyes in the coming years. They’ll enter 2015 with the longest winning streak in the nation at 13 games with revenge on their mind as the season gets underway for the defending champs Sept. 7 on the road at Virginia Tech.