For Ohio State, Redemption Feels Good, Feels New

January 13, 2015

Ask a Buckeye fan how redemption feels.

It’s not something that they’re used to experiencing. Not with the third largest campus in the country, six football national championships and four title game appearances since 2002. In fact, with a résumé like that Ohio State is more of a bully than an underdog.

But not this year.

No, this year Ohio State was written off. Axed from the conversation of the elite in early September, when the college football season was still in its infancy. A loss to Virginia Tech at home? Forget about it. They’re done. The Big Ten is soft. Besides, who is this J.T. Barrett kid anyway?

Fast forward two and a half months.

What do you know, the redshirt freshman actually has some game. So do some of the other young guys peppered throughout both the offense and defense. Suddenly Urban Meyer’s offense is clicking in Columbus, just like it did in Gainesville and Salt Lake City before that. Things are going well, with the Buckeyes up on Michigan in the final game. But then Barrett breaks his ankle on the first play of the fourth quarter. Ohio State wins, but…

Forget about it. They’re done. The defense can’t stop Melvin Gordon. And that Cardale Jones kid? Yea, we know him. He didn’t come to Columbus to play school. He didn’t come to play a lot of football, either. Jones had thrown a total of 19 passes in his career leading up to the Big Ten Championship Game.

Ohio State 59, Wisconsin 0.

Yea, that happened. So did the defense holding Melvin Gordon to just 76 yards rushing on 26 carries. Gordon would go on to finish second in the Heisman Trophy voting.

One day later, playoff berth. Maybe TCU should have gotten into the show, but the Buckeyes did just beat Badgers by 60. We’ll let it slide because it’s only the No. 4 seed. Alabama awaits.

Forget about it. They’re done. This is the Crimson Tide, who overcame its own adversity to win the SEC. The Southeastern Conference! What Ohio State did was nice, but the SEC isn’t the Big Ten. Real football will be played in New Orleans.

It’s New Year’s Day. Middle of the second quarter, Crimson Tide up 21-6. No surprise here. Did you really think that Cardale Jones was going to be able to chuck the ball up against Alabama and get away with it? Please.

Middle of the third quarter, Buckeyes up 34-21. Blake Sims was just intercepted for a pick six. Is this actually happening?

Four and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter. Ezekiel Elliot takes the handoff, busts through the gap. Wait a second, is he actually running away from the Alabama defense? This is a Big Ten offense, and its running back just outran an SEC secondary. Eighty five yards for the score. Ohio State 42-28.

The clock hits all zeros. Ohio State 42, Alabama 35.

That happened, too. And down goes the second Heisman finalist in a row, Amari Cooper.

Next up: Oregon in Dallas.

All right, this time let’s not forget about it. This time they’re not done. But Oregon’s offensive tempo may be too much.

In college football’s biggest games, ball security is often times the difference between two evenly matched teams. But in Cowboys Stadium, two evenly matched teams didn’t play each other. Ohio State was just better.

Better on offense, so much so that the Buckeyes turned the ball over four times compared to Oregon’s zero and still won by three touchdowns.

Better on defense, so much so that Urban Meyer’s team managed to make all three Heisman finalists look mediocre in consecutive games.

Redemption complete.

For a team that dealt with so much adversity, losing not one but two starting quarterbacks at integral points in the season. For a school that had been outclassed in its previous two national title game appearances and become the target of heckling fans, especially in the South. And for a conference that so desperately needed for someone to repair its image as one of the premier leagues in the sport.

But for all this talk of redemption and being the underdog, Ohio State has proven that those two words are really just used to describe a situation where the rest of the world got it wrong.

Yes, Cardale Jones was a relative known with a cannon for an arm. But around him were five star athletes with the speed and raw talent to match that of anyone in the country. The quarterback situation that the Buckeyes dealt with is just a testament to how good the rest of the offense truly became.

This wasn’t a scenario where the little guy got lucky against a Goliath. It was one where a sleeping giant was left for dead, left out and not given the credit that it was warranted.

Enjoy it, Buckeye fans. Your team absolutely deserved to win the national championship. Ohio State was the most dangerous team in the country at the end of the year and convincingly the two best teams in the country based on perception.

As the now defunct band from Columbus, City Lights, once sang, “the greatest pleasure in life is doing what they say you cannot do.”

Maybe they’re right. Ohio State did it, and it felt pretty damn good.

– K. Becks

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