A team that basically everyone wrote off on Sept. 6 just made history. Despite being down to their third-string quarterback, the Buckeyes put together three performances that were good enough to take down three of the best teams they faced all year -- Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon consecutively -- en route to Ohio State's eighth ever national championship.
The Buckeyes' history-making run came on the shoulders of sophomore superstud Ezekiel Elliott. Even with Ohio State's storied lineage at running back, Elliott made history of his own, running the ball for over 200 yards for the third consecutive game.
A ton of credit goes to Luke Fickell, Chris Ash, and the Buckeye defense as well. Despite four Ohio State turnovers, the Bucks lived up to the Silver Bullets billing and put the team in position to be successful much of the evening. Top down, it was a championship string of performances from a team that will now be immortalized in OSU lore.
3 things we learned:
1. Ezekiel Elliott is an absolute monster. Elliott became the first player in Ohio State history to rush for 200+ yards in three consecutive games Monday night in Dallas. The Ohio State offensive line did a great job of pushing the Ducks off the ball and opening up holes for Elliott to thrive. Undeterred by the turnovers, the Buckeyes stayed calm and rode their work horse to victory in the national championship.
With Elliott returning for his junior season, Ohio State could be looking at a reincarnation of Eddie George. The St. Louis native ran wild in the three biggest games of the season and proved his worth on the biggest stages. A lot of his success can be attributed to the offensive line's progression as a unit, and the majority of that line will be returning. Ohio State hasn't had a Heisman winner since Troy Smith graced the field in Columbus, but the Buckeyes now have a legitimate candidate in 2015.
2. You can't turn the ball over against Oregon -- except for tonight. Ohio State dominated Oregon in every facet of the game, but nearly killed its chances of defeating the Ducks with turnovers. An early fumble on a handoff exchange set Oregon up with a chance to tie the game at 14, but the Buckeyes' defense came up big, stuffing the Ducks on a fourth-and-goal run.
Cardale Jones showed poise throughout the game even when his receivers were letting him down. Corey Smith caught a deep pass from Jones late in the first half and was on his way to setting the Buckeyes up in the red zone until he was tackled from behind by an Oregon defender and the ball was jarred loose. It was a second Buckeye turnover and a kick in the gut.
Again the Buckeye defense held, yet they couldn't hold on after Jalin Marshall dropped a pass right into Danny Mattingly's hands. Mariota wound up and hit Byron Marshall for 70 yards and a touchdown to cut the game to 21-17. Oregon then connected on a field goal after a Cardale Jones fumble, but Ezekiel Elliott was able to take over and roll through the Oregon defense.
The Buckeyes lost the turnover battle, but they won the proverbial war.
3. The Silver Bullets are back! The biggest storyline of the postseason has been the resurgence of Ohio State's defense. After shutting out Wisconsin's offense and holding Heisman finalist Melvin Gordon in check, it appeared the Buckeyes could be back to playing the swarming football on defense that Jim Tressel's teams always possessed.
The Buckeyes ended up facing all three Heisman finalists in the end and held Alabama's star wide receiver Amari Cooper to just 71 yards and Oregon's Marcus Mariota to a modest 310 yards through the air and just 62 yards on the ground. It was incredible to watch All-Americans Joey Bosa and Michael Bennett anchor the defense up front and to see the secondary improve from one of the worst in the country to a solid unit under co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash.
In the end, the inaugural College Football Playoff championship was the definition of a team effort. Ohio State earned its first national championship in 12 years. Let the party begin, Columbus.