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Opinion: Ohio State proved in Cotton Bowl the College Football Playoff committee got it right

Urban Meyer raises the Cotton Bowl trophy following the end of game against the University of Southern California on Dec. 29 in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Ohio State won 24-7. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

It did not take long for the headlines to start appearing, all with a common theme: Ohio State dominates USC in 24-7 victory in Cotton Bowl.

Just as soon after those headlines appeared did people begin to criticize the College Football Playoff committee’s decision to omit Ohio State from the top-four teams.

But this game proved one thing to me: the committee got it right. Neither No. 5 Ohio State nor No. 8 USC deserved to be included in the playoff.

The score shows a defensive battle between two Power Five champions. But the game looked quite the opposite of how the score turned out.

USC quarterback Sam Darnold seemed to have Ohio State’s number right out of the gate. He made tough throws look easy and receivers often made similarly challenging catches look routine. He completed 26-of-45 passes for 356 yards, 79 more yards than Ohio State had total offense.

The problem for USC and for Darnold was that what mistakes he made, they were major. The pick-6 he threw into the hands of safety Damon Webb was a terrible read, and Webb made him pay. The two fumbles he had were both the result of a constant torment of pressure from Ohio State’s defensive line that the USC offensive line failed to stop for much of the day. His top receiver, Deontay Burnett, also had a bad fumble in Ohio State territory that set the Buckeyes up in great field position.

And overall, Ohio State scored 21 of its 24 total points after turnovers. Similarly, the only points USC was able to put on the board came when H-back and punt returner K.J. Hill muffed a punt on the Ohio State 15-yard line. Neither team scored in the second half. The only real chance either team had came when USC missed a 28-yard field goal attempt that bounced off the right upright.

USC’s offense crossed the 50-yard line just seven times when it didn’t begin with the ball off a turnover, and Ohio State managed to cross it only three times when not set up by a turnover. Ohio State’s offense, which ranked No. 5 in scoring entering the game, had 13 total first downs while USC, led by a likely top-five NFL draft pick quarterback and a potential early-round running back, had 23.

If Ohio State was a playoff team, it would have dominated a porous rushing defense that had given up 1,195 rushing yards to just five other top-30 rushing attacks. It would have decimated a passing defense that had allowed the 30th-most passing yards per game (246.5 per game).

It would not have struggled to run the ball and muster just 163 yards on 38 carries. It would not have only passed for 114 yards and completed just 11-of-17 passes.

And on the flip side, Ohio State’s defense should have been better against Darnold. While it forced some crucial turnovers, Darnold deserved more blame than Ohio State credit for his interception. He made some throws that were tough to make, but there were plenty others that were more the result of poor coverage.

Ohio State’s defensive line and offensive line were really the only two units that lived up to the billing of a potential playoff team. The defensive line dominated USC to the tune of 14 tackles for loss, including eight sacks. On the other side, Ohio State’s offensive line only allowed four tackles for loss, three being sacks.

But a playoff-caliber team needs to click more than Ohio State did against USC. Had that been a Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia or Alabama, Ohio State probably does not come out on the winning side of that matchup. It might not have been shutout again, but the way that offense played against a middle-of-the-road USC defense would not have fared well against top-six defenses like Alabama and Clemson. The way Darnold tore Ohio State apart, there is little doubt a Baker Mayfield, who already torched the Buckeyes once this season, would have again had his way with them.

Ohio State had a fine season. It ended as Big Ten and Cotton Bowl champions. But it was not a playoff team. I’m sure if Alabama loses to Clemson, many will berate the committee for getting the No. 4 team wrong. But Alabama would have to lay an Ohio State vs. Clemson 2016-edition egg for this to look like the wrong decision by the committee.


  1. That the committee got it right is still debatable. Let’s wait to see what Alabama does against Clemson then we can make that assessment. In recent times, everything Alabama does is viewed as strengths. If you look at the USC Ohio State game and place Alabama in OSU’s place people would be saying how dominant Alabama’s defense was and that Nick Saban played it safe with the offense to ensure he saved the win. But everyone is just jumping on OSU for having a less than impressive offensive game. In the NFL a team can get blown out during the regular season by a lesser opponent and that team goes on to win the super bowl and no one argues that that team is the best. OSU had two terrible games but is still won the big ten, arguably the best conference in college. But come January 1st, if the SEC loses all of its games including Alabama losing to Clemson, how can anyone make the argument that the committee got it right?

  2. JT sucks … if we had a real qb we would stand a chance w the big boys. He’s surrounded by 5 star athletes so he can get away with scrambles and swing passes and still win. That’s why Tate and Dwayne will make us so much better next year. They can both throw the ball past 10 yards and actually possess qb skills to win against elite defenses. Without Dwayne we would have lost to Michigan, his 17 points would have never happened with JT. 2018 is looking bright!

  3. Guess you never heard the adage “defense wins championships”. What I saw last night was a championship caliber defense (even without Ward).

    Did OSU deserve a playoff spot? No, but that does not mean that the committee got it right with Alabama either. What about UW, or UCF? UW at least won their division and played in their conf. championship game. UCF was undefeated, and won their conf.

  4. they won by 17 pts against a conference champ. Game was basically over by halftime. Overanalyzing it.

  5. Bucks were up 24-0 and defense playing well. It does not take a football genius to understand you play it safe from that point against SC. You need to put stats in proper context.

    You can sit here and pick apart Alabama just as easily. Weak schedule. Struggled against mediocre MSU and LSU teams and offense looked overwhelmed against Auburn. No conference championship. Somehow they still passed the “eye test”. They could run the table but so, too, could the Bucks against this year’s field.

    Bucks not perfect but compared to Alabama, should have gone to playoffs.

  6. If Bucks were in playoffs this year then PENN STATE definitely deserved to be in last year. Not only did they beat the Bucks , they also won the conference title. Cant have it both ways Buckeye fans.

  7. The committee asked itself one question …did Alabama give up 55 points to anybody? Then they said, “meeting ajouned.”
    As much as you sit there and hope Bama gets smoked by Clemson to make you feel better about your season…you can’t get past the fact that your campaign ended with that loss to Iowa.

    • Touche. Bucks can only blame themselves really. Indeed, they should not have lost to iowa in that fashion. There is no way to explain that anomaly. I have no problem with Ohio State being left out. I do have a problem with Alabama being put in. UCF deserved it more, but that would have been bad for business. I just wish there was a requirement that playoff teams need to have at least ONE impressive win. Alabama’s best win? MSU? Weak schedule

  8. suck darnolds dick some more, the guy ate dirt the whole game and his receivers bailed him out many times.

  9. Maybe next year Ohio state should schedule Mercer at the season end … then they can sit at home watching tv like Alabama did this year, while the good teams play the last week… who actually did Alabama beat this year to deserve to go to the payoff ? Alabama’s resume sucks… and then they finally played a top ranked team and lost !!!

  10. Lots of good arguments here, but the basic premise of this article is terrible and shows the authors lack of football knowledge. Judging OSU’s ability based on a game where they found themselves up big, early and had no reason to open up the offense is just dumb. Jim Tressle made a living off of winning the surest way… get the lead and sit on it, suffocate with defense. Thats what you do when the situation presents itself.

  11. How much did the BCS Committee and Booger the SEC puppet pay you to write this defense of their mistake? The Big Ten champion of the UNDEFEATED Big Ten conference (one to go) proves it is the best conference top to bottom. The SEC runner up with a weak schedule and an uh-oh record conference alone shows your attempt to justify their riddiculous snub for fear of Nick’s wrath rather than being fair and correct is pathetic.

  12. None of the Final Four teams gave up 55 points to anybody. Move along now nothing to see here..just some crying OSU fans…lol. Keep scheduling the Bercsts and Bobcats. Your strength of schedule was worse than Bama’s

  13. The fact that my last post was deleted about OSU”s strength of scheduling being worse than Bama”s shows how much propaganda is being thrown around on this website. The author of this article got it right. You can’t reason with delusional fans. 55 is a number that should be planted in your memory bank for years.

  14. Are you guys still watching college football? This just in…it’s an all SEC Final for college football”s national championship.
    My team got in earlier today and guess what ….Bama didn’t give up 55 points. Does that number sound familiar? I know… you guys could beat both of them right?

  15. The article’s logic is flawed. The resumes had to be compared as of Dec. 3rd – the day the committee selected its 4 teams. Nothing that happens after that point in time can make the committee’s decision right or wrong. The question is still – and will always be – did Ohio State or Alabama have the better resume as of Dec. 3rd?

    • Scott, your logic is just as flawed, as you are limiting your options to 2 teams. I’d argue there are other more deserving teams, particularly Wisconsin and UCF. Let’s look at those 2 compared to the wrong decision that the committee made. Wisconsin won there division, played in their conf. championship game, only loss is to 2 loss Ohio State who won their conf. championship. UCF is undefeated, won their division, won their conference. Alabama did not win their division, didn’t even play in their conf. championship game, lost to 2 loss Auburn (2 at the time, 3 now) who in turn did not win their conf. championship.

      Hopefully, after UCFs win over Auburn, the committee will not overlook an undefeated non-power five conf. winner in the future.

      • That’s fine if more than just Alabama and Ohio State were considered for the last playoff spot. I just mentioned them bc that’s who the committee debated as the last team in and first team out, as evidenced by their 4th and 5th rankings. For whomever was considered, though, my point is nothing that happened after Dec 3rd changes the resumes as of the point in time when a decision had to be made.

        • The article asserts the committee “got it right”. Your correct in that only data available thru Dec. 3rd matters, but that still doesn’t mean that they “got it right”. More then Alabama and Ohio State should have been considered for that last playoff spot, and looking at the data available on Dec. 3rd, the committee did in fact get it wrong.

          • I agree with you that the committee got it wrong. I don’t think Alabama had a top 4 resume as of Dec. 3rd either. Several teams on the outside looking in had a better resume than Alabama, including conference champs like Ohio State, USC and UCF and perhaps still others. Alabama had a free pass based on their name, not resume. That remains true even if Alabama beats Georgia by 3 TDs next week. That’s why I was irked by this writer declaring the committee was right bc of some exhibition bowl games that were played after the fact.

  16. Ohio State fans=delusional

  17. Great that Alabama made it to the championship, but still doesn’t change the widespread belief that Bucks should have been in playoffs. Bucks would have clobbered Clemson, which is a shell of last year’s team. How they were seeded #1 is beyond me. 188 yards against a Bama defense that is worse than last year’s. And that Bama defense gave up 500 yards to Desean and Company.

    Hindsight is 20-20, but based on bowl performances, we now know that:

    1. SEC and ACC were overrated.
    2. B1G was 7-1 in bowls, which included easy wins against USC, Miami, Washington, and WSU.

    B1G is far and away the best conference and it is almost a travesty that they were left out of the playoffs.

  18. Widespread belief..lol. The teams that your conference beat were as fraudulent as OSU. Bama”s defensive.line would destroy your weak ass team.
    Enjoy your off season while my conference dominates. I like coming here for good laughs.

  19. All I hear from you people now are…crickets!

    Thank you for staying at home this year. You would have never made it past the first round.

    The SEC rules!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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