Buckeyes survive turnover storm, claim first crown in over a decade

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With four turnovers and the No. 3 quarterback under center facing the No. 2 team in the country? Add up all of those seemingly foreboding numbers, and the only one that matters at the moment to Ohio State is, given the injuries at the most important position on the football field, a wholly-unexpected No. 1.

For the first time in over a decade, and this time with absolutely no late-game controversy, the Buckeyes of Ohio State claimed the first-ever College Football Playoff championship with a resounding and decisive 42-20 win over Oregon.  It was the first title for OSU since the overtime win over Miami in the BCS title game following the 2002 season.  Oregon had been gunning for the first title in the football program’s history.

While the Ducks were gunning, the Buckeyes were busy shooting itself in the foot.

Two first-half fumbles in Oregon territory prevented the Buckeyes from blowing out the Ducks.  Two third-quarter turnovers got UO right back in the game as what was a 21-10 halftime lead was sliced to 21-20 with 6:31 left in the third.  That was as close as the Ducks would get, as it turns out, thanks in large part to the play of Ezekiel Elliott.

On the Buckeyes’ next three drives, the OSU running back scored a trio of rushing touchdowns that gave the eventual champs a 42-20 lead.  Elliott, the game’s most outstanding player, ran for an OSU bowl-record 246 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries.

Over the past three games, which included wins in the Big Ten championship game, the CFP semifinal and championship games, Elliott, just a sophomore, carried the ball 76 times for 696 yards and eight touchdowns.

For head coach Urban Meyer, it was the third national championship of his career, with the first two coming at Florida.  This, though, was arguably the most impressive.

After losing his top quarterback, Braxton Miller, OSU proceeded to inexplicably lose to Virginia Tech at home, a defeat that had most leaving their playoff hopes for dead.  After losing Miller’s replacement, J.T. Barrett, Meyer and his offensive coaching staff, coordinator Tom Herman in particular, were able to mold the No. 3 player at the position, Cardale Jones, into not just a capable replacement but one capable of making game-changing plays.

In this game, Jones showed a little bit of youth as he was responsible for three of the four turnovers.  He also, though, totaled 280 yards of offense (242 passing, 38 rushing) and one touchdown each through the air and on the ground.  Almost certainly, Jones became the first quarterback in college football history to have his first three starts produce postseason wins.

It was also a humbling end to a spectacular career for the reigning Heisman winner.  Marcus Mariota, in what’s expected to be the final game of his collegiate career, was actually fine statistically-speaking as he completed 23-34 passes for 310 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Mariota’s biggest problem, one in which both Wisconsin and Alabama can certainly commiserate?  He and his Duck teammates were simply no match for an OSU team that morphed from a Hokie joke in Week 2 into an absolute buzzsaw at season’s end four months later.

The scariest part for college football in general and the Big Ten specifically?  Meyer himself acknowledged during the season this team was a year away from contending for a title.

A year ahead of schedule, the Buckeyes have all of the look and feel of an SEC team that has given them championship fits over the years.  Now they’ll become exactly what Meyer’s old conference was — the hunted instead of the hunters.

After the way the season began, and given their numerous detractors, I’m sure the whole of Buckeye Nation has one resounding message: bring it on.

Wisconsin launches early Heisman campaign for RB Jonathan Taylor

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The Heisman Trophy has generally been synonymous with the best quarterback on one of the best teams in recent years but there have been a few running backs who have broken through to win the most prestigious award in all of college football.

Hoping to become the next tailback to break the signal-callers’ grip on the stiff arm? That would be Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, who appears to have a budding campaign for the trophy that was launched by the school on Thursday:

Herschel Walker. Ron Dayne. Ricky Williams. Adrian Peterson. LaDainian Tomlinson. Dominant running backs. Legendary names. Unrivaled production … until now,” one tagline reads. “There’s a new kid on the block and he’s “Bringing Running Back,” back into the spotlight, just like those that came before him. And his name is Jonathan Taylor.”

The website goes through all of the notable stats that Taylor has piled up in just two seasons in Madison and while it doesn’t explicitly say everything is designed to raise the junior’s awareness ahead of Big Ten Media Days and the upcoming 2019 campaign, it does note that his fellow Wisconsin Doak Walker Award winners have all been finalists in New York at some point in their career.

i.e. hint, hint media this guy is pretty good.

And nobody is debating that after he has set numerous records during his first two years on campus. Key to actually making it to New York though might be how Taylor’s team does around him. If the Badgers can get back to being in contention for the Big Ten title once again in 2019, chances are high that the tailback’s play will play a bigger part in getting him the attention he deserves than a website and a hashtag.

Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy headlines 2019 Biletnikoff Award Watch List

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Media Day season is also Watch List season and the latest to surface for the 2019 campaign comes out of Tallahassee in the form of the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. The award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding receiver, includes the defending winner in Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and fellow semifinalist Tylan Wallace out of Oklahoma State, as well as a number of other talented pass-catchers from around the country.

Here’s the full list, which is a good general overview of the best wide receivers and tight ends for the upcoming season even if a few names can gripe about being left off:

Lynn Bowden, Jr. (Kentucky)

Rico Bussey, Jr. (North Texas)

Cedric Byrd (Hawaii)

Grant Calcaterra (Oklahoma)

Damonte Coxie (Memphis)

Gabriel Davis (UCF)

Bryan Edwards (South Carolina)

D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan)

Aaron Fuller (Washington)

Antonio Gandy-Golden (Liberty)

KJ Hamler (Penn State)

Adrian Hardy (Louisiana Tech)

Damon Hazelton (Virginia Tech)

Tee Higgins (Clemson)

K.J. Hill (Ohio State)

Isaiah Hodgins (Oregon State)

Justin Jefferson (LSU)

Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)

Tyler Johnson (Minnesota)

Collin Johnson (Texas)

CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma)

Ty Lee (Middle Tennessee State)

Kalija Lipscomb (Vanderbilt)

McLane Mannix (Texas Tech)

Kirk Merritt (Arkansas State)

Riley Miller (Ball State)

Denzel Mims (Baylor)

Darnell Mooney (Tulane)

Rondale Moore (Purdue)

Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri)

K.J. Osborn (Miami)

Dezmon Patmon (Washington State)

Jared Pinkney (Vanderbilt)

Michael Pittman, Jr. (USC)

James Proche (SMU)

Jalen Reagor (TCU)

Jared Rice (Fresno State)

Sean Riley (Syracuse)

Reggie Roberson, Jr. (SMU)

Justyn Ross (Clemson)

Henry Ruggs III (Alabama)

Laviska Shenault, Jr. (Colorado)

JD Spielman (Nebraska)

Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC)

Marquez Stevenson (Houston)

Tamorrion Terry (Florida State)

Jaylen Waddle (Alabama)

Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State)

JoJo Ward (Hawaii)

Quez Watkins (Southern Miss)

Ryan Day isn’t going to name Justin Fields as Ohio State’s starting QB just yet

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Almost as soon as Justin Fields’ waiver to play right away in 2019 was approved, the Georgia transfer was pegged as Ohio State’s starting quarterback.

Ryan Day, however, is picking up this whole being a head coach at media day thing pretty good because the new leader of the Buckeyes offense declined to anoint Fields as the starter despite ample evidence that he’s the guy for the job.

“It’s an interesting situation. Whoever is playing in that first game will be the first time. Justin and Gunnar (Hoak) are going to compete like heck to go win the job,” Day said from the podium at Big Ten Media Days on Thursday. “At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to who can play the game.”

Hoak, who grad transferred over from Kentucky, was a key pickup for the program in the offseason not just to provide some competition for Fields but to provide much-needed depth after a host of quarterbacks left for other schools. While he has experience playing in five games last year with the Wildcats, there’s a gap in terms of natural talent between him and Fields.

Day seems likely to stick to his timetable of naming the starter a few weeks into camp but it still seems pretty clear as to who eventually will take over for Dwayne Haskins under center for the scarlet and gray.

Still though, you have to hand it to the rookie for going full on coach-speak when it came to his signal-caller at his very first media day in charge.

Big Ten’s Jim Delany upset with College Football Playoff Selection Committee

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Thursday marked the final Big Ten Media Days press conference for outgoing commissioner Jim Delany.

While his appearance was fairly low-key all things considered, the longtime college athletics stalwart didn’t hold back when it came to discussing his league and the College Football Playoff, lobbing some critical comments towards the Selection Committee in particular.

“I wish we had a little more continuity. I wish they would demonstrate as well as state the stronger commitment to strength of schedule,” Delany said. “We should be playing comparable schedules and if we’re not, there should be somewhat to differentiate that.”

The Big Ten has missed out on the playoff the past two seasons and saw its champion be skipped over in another year for a divisional runner-up.

Delany also voiced support for something suggested by Big 12 counterpart Bob Bowlsby to require all teams to play at least 10 Power Five opponents in a season, helping even out the difference between eight and nine conference slates.

“I’ve been disappointed, quite honestly, about the strength of schedule,” he added. “We’re not going to change. There may be pressure to change, but I think that’s short-selling our fans, our players, our TV partners. I’m hoping that the committee catches up with the intent of the founders.”