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The last time the Ohio State Buckeyes won the national championship…

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Two weeks into the 2014 season, some declared the Big Ten officially eliminated from the College Football Playoff in the first year of the new format’s existence. a little more than three months later, Ohio State made all of those early-season critics look completely silly.

The days of the BCS were officially done and a new four-team playoff format was being introduced in the 2014 season. With a focus on results on the field to impress the selection committee now the emphasis for determining what merits a shot at a national championship, Ohio State took the biggest loss of the playoff format in Week 2 of the college football season. Fresh off a 17-point victory over Navy in Baltimore to open the season, Urban Meyer and the No. 8 Buckeyes were handed one of the more surprising losses when unranked Virginia Tech left Columbus with a 35-21 victory. To complicate things more, Ohio State lost starting quarterback Braxton Miller to a season-ending injury, forcing Ohio State to go with backup quarterback J.T. Barrett. On the same day that saw other potential Big Ten playoff candidates go down (Michigan lost to Notre Dame, Michigan State lost to Oregon), the Big Ten became an easy target for many.

The playoff era was brand new and we had some ideas of how it should work, but nobody two weeks into the regular season should have been taking the plunge off the short plank suggesting the entire conference was ruled out of the playoff race with more than two months of games still to play. So Ohio State kept playing.

A 66-0 victory over Kent State the following week was enough to regain some confidence against a weak opponent, but Virginia Tech jumping up to No. 17 in the polls and then immediately losing at home to East Carolina didn’t do much to change anyone’s opinion. Ohio State may be the best team in the Big Ten, but they are still not good enough for a playoff hunt, some suggested. But the Buckeyes rolled on with blowouts of Cincinnati, new Big Ten members Maryland and Rutgers before heading to Happy Valley for a matchup with the Nittany Lions. Ohio State took an early 7-0 lead on a 10-=yard touchdown run by Ezekiel Elliott and extended the lead to 17-0 going to halftime, but the Whiteout crowd at Penn State kept the energy up as the underdog Nittany Lions drew even at 17-17 in the final seconds of the fourth quarter to force overtime. After Penn State took the lead in the first overtime, J.T. Barrett forced a second overtime with a five-yard touchdown run and gave the Buckeyes the lead with another four-yard run in the second overtime. Joey Bosa sealed the win for Ohio State by pushing a helpless Penn State running back backward and into quarterback Christian Hackenberg for a game-clinching sack. Meyer would later credit the double-overtime victory in Beaver Stadium as the catalyst for Ohio State’s championship push.

Ohio State took care of business against Illinois and won a high-scoring matchup at No. 7 Michigan State to drive right back into control of the Big Ten race. Victories over Indiana and Michigan to close the regular season moved Ohio State to 11-1, but an injury to Barrett in the win over the Wolverines left Ohio State to rely on third-string quarterback Cardale Jones. That wasn’t a problem in a 59-0 Big Ten championship game victory over No. 11 Wisconsin, which helped cement Ohio State as the fourth team in the inaugural College Football Playoff, critics be damned.

Now that Ohio State got one foot in the playoff door, it was time to prove they deserved to be there. Taking down No. 1 Alabama, the prohibitive favorite in the 2014 season, in the Sugar Bowl was all too perfect for the Buckeyes to make some noise. Elliott’s long touchdown run against the Tide will forever be the signature moment of Ohio State’s championship drive.

But much like when Team USA took down the Soviets in the 1980 Olympics, the mission was not yet complete until Ohio State won one more game. After Alabama, Ohio State had to go up against Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariotta and Pac-12 champion Oregon in the national championship game in Arlington, Texas. But as the final score would indicate (42-20), that was hardly a problem. Ohio State gave up an early touchdown to Mariotta and the Ducks but answered with a long touchdown run by Elliott and a Jones touchdown pass. Ohio State took a 21-7 lead and scored the game’s final 21 points to pull away. Elliott scored on the ground each of those three times.

The first year of the College Football Playoff was historic, and it remains the last time a team from the Big Ten won a playoff game. It may not seem all that long ago, but a lot has happened since the last time the Buckeyes won it all.

Last National Championship: 2014 (4 years and counting)

Who was President?

Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, was in the White House at the time. It was the second year of his second term in the Oval Office.

Our current president, Donald J. Trump, wasn’t running for the presidency just yet, although some were trying to push him to run for the governor’s office in New York.

What was on TV?

2014 was a pretty significant year in the late-night television scene. Jay Leno stepped down as host of “The Tonight Show,” this time for good. As Leno stepped down, Jimmy Fallon was given the responsibility of hosting “The Tonight Show” on NBC. With Fallon being bumped into the first late-night time slot, Seth Meyers is made the new host of “Late Night.”

The NFL continued to dominate the ratings department, with NBC’s Sunday Night Football being the top-rated television program of 2014. “The Big Bang Theory” held a firm grip on the top spot when it came to sitcoms, and “Empire” and “Scandal” were among the top dramas in the game not part of the “NCIS” franchise.

What movies were hot?

2014 saw the superhero genre in a pretty good spot in 20124. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was a bit of a surprise hit at the box office and Captain America: The Winter Soldier was on its way to being one of the top movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

X-Men: Days of Future Past turned out to be the last good X-Men film too. But this was also the year The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was released, and that was anything but amazing.

But the top movies of 2014 at the box office were American Sniper and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. And The LEGO Movie made sure everything was awesome.

Who was on the cover of NCAA Football?

Sadly, nobody.

The 2014 season was the first season that did not see a release in the NCAA Football video game franchise due to legal issues related to player likenesses. Despite the efforts from EA Sports to provide some form of compensation to players, the NCAA and FBS conferences started pulling their licenses from the game franchise and the game had no more legs to stand on for the 2014 season.

As it stands, the last player to appear on the game before Ohio State won a national championship remains former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.

What else happened in 2014?

In addition to the Big Ten, SEc, and Pac-12 champions being in the inaugural College Football Playoff, the ACC landed a team in the mix as well with the defending national champions from Florida State joining the party. Jameis Winston and the Noles were 13-0 coming into the playoff but were eliminated from the playoff in a 59-20 setback against the Ducks in the Rose Bowl.

Other conference champions form 2014 included Baylor and TCU splitting the Big 12 title, which added fuel to the debate over whether Ohio State should have been in the playoff or if the Big 12 should have had one of its co-champs in the field. TCU’s Gary Patterson swept the major coach of the year awards.

UCF, Cincinnati and Memphis split the AAC championship, while Boise State won the Mountain West and Marshall took Conference USA. NIU won the MAC and Georgia Southern won the Sun Belt in their first season in the conference and as an FBS school.

Former USC head coach Pete Carroll and former Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson lead the Seattle seahawks to a blowout victory over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos to capture the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory.

The Golden State Warriors won their first NBA title since 1975 with Steph Curry leading the way past LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in their first NBA Finals matchup. This marked the first of five consecutive NBA Finals appearances for the Warriors, including this past season’s loss to the Toronto Raptors.

The San Francisco Giants topped the Kansas City Royals in seven games to win the World Series, making Madison Bumgarner a playoff hero as the World Series MVP.

The Chicago Blackhawks won their second Stanley Cup in three years with a Stanley Cup Finals victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The wrestling community mourned the loss of James Hellwig, better known to many as The Ultimate Warrior. He died of a heart attack one day after appearing on WWE Raw.

Ohio State and the case of bad losses

Ohio State’s biggest hurdle to getting back to the College Football Playoff has typically been their inability to avoid a bad loss. The 2015 season saw Ohio State as the best team in the Big Ten, but a last-second loss on a field goal by Michigan State at home ended up being too much to overcome to get a crack at back-to-back national titles to begin the playoff era. The 12-1 Buckeyes ended their season ranked fourth in the final AP poll after blowing out No. 8 Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. Meanwhile, the Spartans reached the playoff and were shutout by Alabama, 38-0. Ohio State had been in the top two of the AP poll all season long until their defensive battle loss to Michigan State.

The losses would become a bit more ugly in the eyes of the committee in the coming years. A blocked field goal returned for a touchdown by Penn State in 2016 took the Big Ten title race for a detour. No. 2 Ohio State slipped in the polls and lost out on a tiebreaker to the Nittany Lions for a chance to play for the Big Ten title. Despite Penn State eventually winning the Big Ten, Ohio State still managed to get invited to the playoff, where the Buckeyes were blanked by Clemson, 31-0.

Despite winning the Big Ten championship each of the past two seasons, the bad losses in the regular season proved to be too much to overcome. A 55-24 loss at Iowa a week after stunning No. 2 Penn State left the Buckeyes on the outside looking in on the playoff action in 2017. Last season, a 49-20 loss at unranked Purdue was enough of a landmine to keep Ohio State out in a year that saw undefeated Clemson, Alabama, and Notre Dame all in the playoff. The Buckeyes lost out on the final spot to Big 12 champion Oklahoma last season.

Entering 2019, Ohio State is undergoing some change with a new head coach in Ryan Day and a new starting quarterback in Justin Fields. One thing that remains consistent in spite of roster turnover on the starting lineup is the quality of talent to be found in Columbus. Player for player, Ohio State still boasts the most talented roster across the depth chart among Big Ten teams and should be a strong contender for the Big Ten title and a spot in the playoff this fall and in the years to come. If they can just avoid those pesky upset losses on the road, perhaps Ohio State will bring an end to their brief championship drought soon enough.

Trump, coaches push for college football as cracks emerge

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President Donald Trump joined a U.S. senator and a number of coaches Monday in the push to save the college football season from a pandemic-forced shutdown.

There was speculation that two of the five most powerful conferences — the Big Ten and the Pac-12 — might call off their seasons. Farther east, Old Dominion canceled fall sports and became the first school in the Bowl Subdivison to break from its league in doing so; the rest of Conference USA was going forward with plans to play.

A Big Ten spokesman said no votes had been taken by its presidents and chancellors on fall sports as of Monday afternoon and the powerful Southeastern Conference made clear it was not yet ready to shutter its fall season.

“Best advice I’ve received since COVID-19: ‘Be patient. Take time when making decisions. This is all new & you’ll gain better information each day,’” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey posted on Twitter. ”Can we play? I don’t know. We haven’t stopped trying.”

A growing number of athletes have spoken out about saving the season with Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence among the group posting their thoughts on Twitter with the hashtag #WeWantToPla. Trump threw his support behind them Monday.

“The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled,” he tweeted.

Old Dominion has stopped trying. The Virginia school canceled football and other fall sports less than a week after Conference USA set out a plan to play a football season.

“We concluded that the season – including travel and competition – posed too great a risk for our student-athletes,” ODU President Broderick said.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh took a different stand, saying the Wolverines have shown players can be safe after they return to school.

“I’m not advocating for football this fall because of my passion or our players desire to play but because of the facts accumulated over the last eight weeks since our players returned to campus on June 13,” he wrote. “I am advocating on August 10 that this virus can be controlled and handled because of these facts.”

Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, picked up on the safer-with-football theme in a letter to the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten.

“Life is about tradeoffs. There are no guarantees that college football will be completely safe — that’s absolutely true; it’s always true,” he wrote. “But the structure and discipline of football programs is very likely safer than what the lived experience of 18- to 22-year-olds will be if there isn’t a season.”

“Here’s the reality: Many of you think that football is safer than no football, but you also know that you will be blamed if there is football, whereas you can duck any blame if you cancel football,” added Sasse, a former college president. “This is a moment for leadership. These young men need a season. Please don’t cancel college football.”

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.westwoodonepodcasts.com/pods/ap-top-25-college-football-podcast/

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Players unite in push to save college season, create union

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Michigan defensive back Hunter Reynolds saw the tweets from Trevor Lawrence and other college football players pushing for the opportunity to play this season despite the pandemic.

Reynolds, one of the organizers behind a players’ rights movement in the Big Ten, didn’t like the way some on social media seemed to be pitting Lawrence’s message against the efforts of #BigTenUnited and #WeAreUnited.

“There was a lot of division,” Reynolds told AP early Monday morning.

Reynolds got on a call with Lawrence and the star quarterback’s Clemson teammate, Darien Rencher, and within a matter of hours the summer of athlete empowerment found another gear.

College football players from across the country united Sunday in an attempt to save their season and ensure they will no longer be left out of the sport’s biggest decisions.

Lawrence, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Oklahoma State All-America running back Chuba Hubbard, Alabama running back Najee Harris and numerous other players from Florida State to Oregon posted a graphic on social media with #WeWantToPlay and #WeAreUnited.

“We came to the conclusion, We Want to Play, their message might have been conveyed differently but at the end of the day the message wasn’t too far off from what Big Ten United wanted to promote,” Reynolds said. “Which is we all want to play sports this fall. Every athlete, I’m pretty sure, wants to play their sports. They just want to do so safely.”

The #WeAreUnited hashtag was used a week ago by a group of Pac-12 players in announcing a movement they say has the support of hundreds of peers within their conference. They have threatened mass opt-outs by players if concerns about COVID-19 protocols, racial injustice in college sports and economic rights for athletes are not addressed.

#BigTenUnited arrived on the scene a couple days later, a movement that claimed the backing off 1,000 Big Ten football players. Their demands were more targeted, strictly related to health and safety in dealing with COVID-19.

Sunday night, the call with Reynolds, Rencher and Lawrence led to a Zoom meeting — of course — with some of the Pac-12 players involved in “WeAreUnited.”

Washington State defensive lineman Dallas Hobbs got to work on a graphic and now the movement is officially nationwide.

“Just started bouncing ideas off each others’ heads and kind of discussing where we go from here and we ended up coming up with that statement,” said Reynolds, a senior from South Orange, New Jersey.

Under the logos of each Power Five conference — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — the players pronounced their platform:

— We all want to play football this season.

— Establish universal mandated health & safety procedures and protocols to protect college athletes against COVID-19 among all conferences throughout the NCAA.

— Give players the opportunity to opt out and respect their decision.

— Guarantee eligibility whether a player chooses to play the season or not.

— Use our voices to establish open communication and trust between players and officials: Ultimately create a College Football Players Association.

All of this capped a weekend during which the adults who run college sports seemed to be moving toward shutting it all down because of the pandemic.

A day after the Mid-American Conference became the first of the major college football leagues to cancel the fall season, Power Five conference commissioners met Sunday. They discussed mounting concerns about whether a season can be safely conducted with the pandemic still not under control in the United States.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said no decisions on the season have been made, but conceded the outlook has not improved.

“Are we in a better place today than two weeks, ago? No, we’re not,” he said.

Bowlsby cited “growing evidence and the growing pool of data around myocarditis.”

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart and it has been found in some COVID-19 patients. There is concern it could be a long-term complication of contracting the virus even in young, healthy people, a group that has usually avoided severe cardiovascular symptoms.

Also Sunday night, the Big Ten’s university presidents and chancellors held a previously unscheduled meeting, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was not announced by the conference.

Another person with direct knowledge of the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no votes were taken or decisions made about the college football season.

The final call on whether major college football will played this season rests in the hands of the university presidents who oversee the largest conferences.

With doom and gloom hanging over college football, Lawrence, who has become the face of the sport in a summer of strife, tried to push back the tide with a series of tweets.

“People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play,” Lawrence posted. “Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract covid19.”

Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth had a similar message, and the parents of Ohio State football players weighed in, too.

Reynolds wants athletes to have a say in the meetings that are deciding the fate of their sports — starting now.

”All college athletes through unifying and not being afraid to speak our minds and having social media to kind of mobilize, I think that box on a Zoom call is something that is pretty attainable,” he said. “Especially, in the near future.”

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.westwoodonepodcasts.com/pods/ap-top-25-college-football-podcast/

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

After MAC surrenders to pandemic, will other leagues follow?

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In many ways, the Mid-American Conference has little in common with Power Five leagues that first come to mind when fans think of major college football.

There are no 75,000-seat stadiums in the MAC. Million-dollar per year coaches are rare. In a typical season, NFL scouts might find one or two potential first-round draft picks playing at the 12 MAC schools that dot the Midwest. The MAC’s biggest games — #MACtion, if you will — are often played on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Its television deal with ESPN pays per year only a few million more than the $9 million Clemson pays coach Dabo Swinney.

Still, the MAC is one of 10 conferences that competes in the NCAA’s highest level of football, and Saturday it became the first of those to surrender to the coronavirus pandemic and cancel the fall sports season.

So is the MAC an anomaly, done in by its small budgets or is this a dire sign of things to come in college football?

“I won’t try to judge what other folks are doing,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. “I know we’re all in the same place. They all have their advisers. They’re going to make judgments based on the information they are receiving.”

Not long after the MAC announced it would explore second-semester seasons for all fall sports, including soccer and volleyball, the Big Ten made its own announcement that seemed ominous given the timing.

Tapping the brakes on football’s preseason, the Big Ten told its schools that until further notice full contact practices cannot begin. All teams will remain in the first two days of what is known as the “acclimatization period,” working out in just helmets. The first Big Ten games of the season are scheduled for Sept. 5.

“As we have consistently stated, we will continue to evaluate daily, while relying on our medical experts, to make the best decisions possible for the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes,” the Big Ten said in a statement.

The MAC’s schools were facing a significant financial burden by trying to maintain costly COVID-19 protocols, while also dealing with the uncertainty that campuses can be opened safely.

A move to the spring, however, could also be budget-buster if it means less revenue from the ESPN deal, which pays each school about $1 million per year, and football ticket sales. The MAC also shares about $90 million per year in College Football Playoff money with four other conferences.

“It would be naive to say that you don’t give thought and consideration to what the financial ramifications of any decision are, but this was a health and well-being decision first and foremost,” Steinbrecher said. “As we sit here today we don’t know what this will mean financially and how the rest of the fall plays out.”

Steinbrecher said the decision effects only fall sports, not basketball or others that begin in the second semester such as baseball, softball and lacrosse.

He added the decision was unanimous among the membership. Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier, supported by NIU President Lisa Freeman, has been a vocal advocate of delaying the season.

“No one wants to have football or sports more than me,” said Frazier, who played football at Alabama in the late 1980s. “Football gave me all the opportunities I have today, but I can’t do it at the expense of people’s lives.”

Eastern Michigan athletic director Scott Wetherbee said he has been feeling a sense of inevitability for two weeks about the MAC canceling fall football, but can’t predict whether this decision trickles up to other conferences.

“Could it? Certainly. There’s certainly a narrative out there that could happen,” Wetherbee said. “No, it wouldn’t shock me if some followed suit. In fact, it would shock me if some didn’t.”

NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline made clear that even though plans for the football season have been adjusted to accommodate potential COVID-19 disruptions like the ones Major League Baseball has had, they are all still aspirational.

“Almost everything would have to be perfectly aligned to continue moving forward,” Hainline said Friday during the NCAA’s weekly video chat on social media.

As the Power Five conferences re-worked their schedules to play exclusively or mostly within their conferences, another of the MAC’s revenue streams dried up.

MAC schools, with athletic budgets in the $30 million range, rely heavily on payouts from road games against power conference teams. Kent State alone had more than $5 million in so-called guarantee games canceled. Whether they can be recouped and when is still to be determined. Without that revenue, the strain became too great of trying to keep players and staff safe during a pandemic.

“Certainly there was a cost attached to it,” Wetherbee said. “But as a league we were prepared to do it.”

The move to try spring football has already been going on in the second tier of Division I.

Nine of 13 conferences that play in the Championship Subdivision, have postponed fall football seasons. The first was the Ivy League in early July.

Now it’s the MAC, which was among the first conferences to limit fan access to its basketball tournament in March as concerns for the virus began to soar across the country. On March 12, the MAC was among many conferences to call off their tournaments hours before the NCAA canceled all of March Madness.

“If you told me in March we’d be here today,” Steinbrecher said, “I’d never have believed it”

Colorado State pauses football after allegations of racism

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FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Colorado State is pausing all football activities after an investigation started by the president of the university into the program’s handling of COVID-19 cases uncovered allegations of racism and verbal abuse toward athletes.

Athletic director Joe Parker said he asked President Joyce McConnell to expand the investigation she announced Tuesday to include a comprehensive review of the athletic department and football program.

“Today, we learned of some extremely troubling allegations of racism and verbal abuse from CSU’s athletic administration generally and in the football program specifically,” Parke said.

Parker’s statement did not mention any particular member of the coaching staff or athletic department. Steve Addazio is in his first season as head coach of the Rams.

McConnell announced the investigation Tuesday after an article published in the Coloradoan that quoted unidentified football players and members of the athletic staff saying coaches told them not to report coronavirus symptoms and threatened players with reduced playing time should they quarantine.

“Colorado State University is committed to being an anti-racist university, and we will not tolerate any behavior or climate that goes against that core value,” Parker said. “Moreover, CSU Athletics is committed to the health and well-being of student-athletes above all other priorities, and this includes their mental health. We believe it is our responsibility to make sure that all student-athletes feel welcomed and valued as members of an inclusive athletics community.”

Colorado State has paused all meetings, workouts and practices.

“While we have been working hard towards playing football this fall, the holistic well-being of our student-athletes is our unequivocal top priority,” Parker said. “We must and will address these allegations before we focus on playing football.”

On Tuesday, Addazio said he welcomed the investigation into the football program’s alleged mishandling of coronavirus protocols.

McConnell announced via an email to student-athletes and department staff Thursday that Husch Blackwell, a legal firm based in Kansas City, would lead the probe into those allegations

Addazio was hired in December, replacing Mike Bobo, after spending seven seasons with Boston College.

The Rams were scheduled to open the season Sept. 19 by hosting Northern Colorado, but the Big Sky Conference voted this week to push back its football season to the spring.