By Chris Emma-
INDIANAPOLIS (CBS) — Confetti fell through the outstretched arms of the Ohio State Buckeyes, rejoicing a most triumphant victory.
Coach Urban Meyer hugged everyone in sight wearing Ohio State’s scarlet and gray. Defensive tackle Michael Bennett worked the field for piles of confetti, scooping it into his helmet for a keepsake of this win. Center Pat Elflein even jumped into the stands and embraced fan after fan.
The Big Ten’s crown went to the Buckeyes after an overwhelmingly convincing 59-0 rout of the West Division’s Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. But soon after, the raucous celebration mellowed and the politicking began, because Ohio State’s spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff is anything but guaranteed.
“We just won 59-0 against one of the top teams in America,” Meyer said.
Added athletic director Gene Smith: “I hope the committee was watching.”
The rhetoric continued on in Ohio State’s locker room, with players stating their playoff case in between hugs, dancing and selfies.
Believe it or not, a 59-0 win in a conference title game — pushing the Buckeyes to 12-1 on the season — may not be good enough for the selection committee.
There’s no doubt, though, it was quite a statement.
“A huge statement,” said Devin Smith, who posted three touchdown catches. “Whoever lines up against us, we can get the job done against anybody.”
The Buckeyes can back their record with words, but their play did all the talking needed. This was as dominant of a win as Meyer could’ve dreamed of. He didn’t need to run up the score late; Ohio State had done that by halftime.
Such a controversial scenario wasn’t even in the realm before 8:17 local time. Most pundits wrote off the Buckeyes from even winning the game. The Badgers were Vegas favorites, and they lost by eight touchdowns and a field goal. Every question seemed to be answered emphatically.
Could the Buckeyes win with third-string quarterback Cardale Jones? Yes, and he was MVP of the game. Would Ohio State manage offense against the nation’s second-ranked defense? Those 59 points on the board seem to say a lot. Has this team truly improved from its Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech? Saturday’s 60 minutes of complete domination offer all the committee needs to decide.
The only argument that can be made against Ohio State is its loss to Virginia Tech in the Horseshoe. That was when J.T. Barrett looked like a freshman, not the Heisman Trophy candidate he would become. An offense desperately searched for an identity, and a defense couldn’t contain the Hokies.
But Meyer is one of the greatest coaches in college football history. His record is now 36-3 at Ohio State and 139-26 overall, working at four different schools. He coached Barrett into one of the best quarterbacks in America, built an unstoppable offense and dominant defense.
Ohio State ran the table in Big Ten play, hanging 50 points or more six times, surviving a couple scares to Penn State and Minnesota and dethroning reigning Rose Bowl champion Michigan State.
But nothing quite attests to the Buckeyes’ improvement quite like a 59-0 rout in a championship stage.
“This team, the way it’s playing right now, is one of the top teams in America,” Meyer said.
Inside a exhilarated locker room, the Buckeyes would agree with their coach’s sentiments. The scarlet-clad fans in Lucas Oil Stadium agree, too, even chanting “We want Bama!” late in the fourth quarter. Popular opinion would back Ohio State’s case, while even the greatest pundits would struggle to dismantle the emphatic statement of Saturday’s annihilation.
However, this will be decided in a Dallas boardroom, not Indianapolis’ football palace, where confetti sat along the turf. It’s the committee’s decision now, and nothing more the Buckeyes can say will matter. Alabama and Oregon are locks to make it, and TCU and Florida State have the inside track after nabbing the third and fourth spots in last week’s rankings. Baylor remains in the mix as well.
What should resonate, though, is an incredible Ohio State victory that turned a title game into a demonstration of dominance. The Buckeyes are certainly one of college football’s four best.