All season long, people kept giving up on the Ohio State Buckeyes.
When quarterback and Heisman Trophy contender Braxton Miller re-injured his shoulder in August, skeptics wrote off the Buckeyes’ season before it even began.
When Miller’s replacement, J.T. Barrett, played horribly in a 14-point home loss to Virginia Tech, we dug the football Buckeyes an even deeper grave.
Even the Buckeyes’ unofficial in-laws, the College Football Playoff selection committee, listed Ohio State no higher than 16th in late October in its first weekly poll.
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But now we know the rest of the story. As the golden confetti rained down at AT&T Stadium on Monday night, there were the Ohio State Buckeyes, too slow and too Big Ten in their two previous national championship tries (2006 and 2007 seasons).
There was Cardale Jones, the quarterback with no experience who replaced the quarterback who replaced Miller.
There was running back Ezekiel Elliott, the early season fumbler, solidly hoisting the game’s most valuable offensive player trophy.
And there was Urban Meyer, “mentally exhausted” and “depressed” enough to leave coaching four years ago, standing on the podium, celebrating his third national title.
The first College Football Playoff championship game Monday produced the first title game mismatch. The Big Ten champion Buckeyes overwhelmed the Pac-12 champion Oregon Ducks 42-20 behind Elliott, Jones and offensive and defensive lines that dominated the entire night.
“The chase is complete,” Meyer said on the field afterward.
As Meyer saw it, the Buckeyes had been chasing this moment since early November at Michigan State. A 49-37 upset victory that thrust them back into the national title picture.
A 59-0 pummeling of Wisconsin in the conference title game sealed their playoff spot in the minds of an impressed CFP committee.
Ohio State, the team that lost to Virginia Tech, took it to the podium from there.
On the victory platform, raising college football’s first playoff championship trophy, the Buckeyes — Meyer included — donned T-shirts that read, “Undisputed Champs.”
You’ll still get quite a dispute in this part of the country, especially 20 miles away where a 12-1 TCU team was arbitrarily excluded from the four-team field.
Ohio State’s lone defeat was at home to Virginia Tech. The Horned Frogs’ single blemish was a three-point road loss to ranked Baylor.
Only the dominating performance of the Buckeyes on Monday can quiet that argument for now.
Jones, the erstwhile third-string quarterback, was a pillar of strength all night long, throwing for 242 yards. Elliott carried the football 36 times for 246 yards and scored four touchdowns.
Behind most championships are dominant lines, and Ohio State’s wore down the Ducks in persistent doses.
“This is a surreal moment,” Elliott said. “After all we went through, this is crazy.”
As the season wore on, Ohio State chewed its way back from the hole that the entire Big Ten started in — coincidentally, Michigan State’s early loss to Oregon also prompted that.
In a way, a measure of credit must go to the selection committee for recognizing that this wasn’t your grandfather’s Ohio State.
By the end of the season, maybe nobody was playing better than the Buckeyes.
They held the trophy aloft Monday night. They had the T-shirts.
As far as the Buckeyes were concerned, their chase was complete.