Chico: Too little, too late for the Buckeyes

Another year with another ugly loss will have Ohio State on the outside looking in

Mike 'Chico' Bormann
December 02, 2018 - 7:08 pm
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. (7) celebrates in the closing seconds against the Northwestern Wildcats during the fourth quarter in the Big Ten conference championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

© Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

I had to laugh this morning when I saw ESPN's "Playoff Predictor" giving Ohio State a 71% chance of making College Football's Final Four. If there was ever any doubt about the Selection Show's desire to grab ratings during the three hour lead-up to the unveiling of the top four, it was cleared up when they tried like hell to give the impression that Ohio State had the inside track to garner the fourth, and final spot, necessary to compete for a National Championship.

The Buckeyes were never seriously considered by the Playoff Committee to be worthy of punching their ticket to the Orange or Cotton Bowl, but ESPN was happily dangling the bait in hopes of heightening the suspense before the official announcement.

The committee announced #1 Alabama will battle #4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, with the other Semifinal pitting #2 Clemson against #3 Notre Dame. The Buckeyes were not even granted the honor of "first out" as two-loss Georgia came it at five, followed by Ohio State at six. Head Coach Urban Meyer will coach in his first Rose Bowl on New Year's Day when the Buckeyes square off against Washington in Pasadena.

The committee made it very clear after Ohio State was embarrassed by 29 points against Purdue in West Lafayette on October 20th, that the Bucks would need nothing short of a miracle to play for a National Championship. While some felt that miracle had taken place a little more than a week ago when they hung 62 points on their rivals from Ann Arbor, it was evident that Ohio State had simply made their way back into the conversation and would need help in the form of an Oklahoma loss to Texas in Saturday's Big 12 Championship game. The Sooners avenged their only loss of the season-a 3 point defeat to the Longhorns- with a 39-27 victory in Arlington.

After a roller coaster season that saw Quarterback Dwayne Haskins shattering records while making a case for the Heisman Trophy, the Buckeyes defense could never be trusted to make life easy on the offense. After the Purdue loss, Greg Schiano's crew never appeared to right the ship when it came to putting the clamps on opposing offenses. They surrendered an eye-popping 7 plays of 70 yards or more en route to one of the more disappointing seasons from a unit affectionately known as the "Silver Bullets." True, they lost a guy who might very well be the top selection in the 2019 NFL Draft in Nick Bosa, but the linebackers were routinely out of position each week. Add to that an inexperienced secondary that had a heck of a time keeping pace with some of the best skill players the conference had to offer, and you have a team that could never be trusted to hold an opponent under 30 points.

Make no mistake, a record of 12-1 that included a thrashing of "That Team Up North" is something to be extremely proud of. But when it came down to Ohio State vs. Oklahoma, it became clear that a 29 point loss carried more weight than convincing wins against better competition. Fair or not, Ohio State went into last night's conference championship game needing to prove they had found something on defense. They were rudely greeted by Northwestern's John Moten scampering 77 yards for the Wildcats' first score. Making matters worse, Ohio State saw a 24-7 halftime lead squeezed to 10 after QB Clayton Thorson carved up a Buckeyes secondary en route to a Touchdown. While Haskins and the offense bailed out Ohio State again, the committee saw signs of a defense being exploited once again.

I can argue that Ohio State is indeed one of the four best teams in the country when Haskins is slinging it all over the yard, but depending on what hour of the day it is and what mood the committee is in, it wouldn't do much good if "most deserving" becomes the catch phrase of the day. In that case, another year with another ugly loss will have Ohio State on the outside looking in.