College Football Playoff committee, the ball is now officially in your court.
Saving its best for the biggest and most important stage of the 2014 season, No. 5 Ohio State turned in arguably the most impressive Week 15 performance among the playoff contenders, taking No. 13 Wisconsin to the woodshed in a 59-0 evisceration in a Big Ten championship game win that gave OSU its first conference title since 2009. It also served as UW’s worst loss since a 59-0 drubbing at the hands of, you guessed it, OSU in 1979.
In every phase of the game, the Buckeyes were dominant — and even that word doesn’t do it justice.
Offensively, the Buckeyes rolled up 558 yards. That’s the most given up by the Badgers’ defense this season, surpassing the 412 yards by Iowa two weeks ago. Triggering that offensive explosion was Cardale Jones.
In his first start at the collegiate level, Jones was superb, completing 12-of-17 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns. Coming in, the redshirt sophomore had thrown for 121 yards in his career. Aside from no turnovers against the No. 2 defense in the country, the most impressive part of the performance was that, at no point in time, did the game look too big or too fast for the athletic 250-pound quarterback.
Devin Smith caught four of those passes for 137 yards and all three touchdowns, while Ezekiel Elliott ran for a career-high 220 yards on 20 carries. The yards, incidentally, breaks Melvin Gordon‘s title-game record of 216 yards set against Nebraska in 2012. Speaking of that particular running back…
Defensively, the Buckeyes absolutely shut down Gordon, with the Heisman contender averaging just 2.9 yards on his 26 carries; the junior came in averaging exactly eights yards an attempt . With 76 yards, Gordon failed to rush for at least 100 yards for the first time since Week 2 That was part of an impressive defensive effort overall, with OSU holding UW to 258 yards and, most importantly, zero points.
And, for good measure, punter Cameron Johnston was a significant weapon on special teams. Johnston had a net average of 53 yards on four punts, with two of those pinning UW inside the 10-yard line. One of those was a 73-yarder that left the Badgers starting at the two-yard line.
With the Badgers summarily dispatched, the Buckeyes’ attention now turns to the playoff and the 12-person committee that will decide their postseason fate. Two of the four spots in the four-team playoff belong to Alabama and Oregon. Four teams will now be fighting for the remaining two spots: unbeaten and fourth-ranked Florida State and one-loss Baylor (No. 6), Ohio State (No. 5) and TCU (No. 3).
Which direction will the committee go? I’ll go into that deeper in the Fifth Quarter, but I’ll say this: if I were the Big 12, I’d be fairly nervous at this point in time. And cautiously optimistic if I’m the other two, especially FSU.
Speaking of the committee…