Something that might be impossible to rectify: football is a game driven by, created by violence -- a reckless, dangerous game -- in which lines have been drawn to decide which hits are too violent.
Fact: Joey Bosa was ejected in the first quarter of his final game as a Buckeye, and that really sucked.
Fact: By the letter of the law, what Bosa did met criteria for a targeting penalty and an ejection.
Those of us who don't play the sport feel cheated when our favorite players are ejected from games, because in our worldview, the game is about us: it's an entertainment industry, one that should be designed to maximize our enjoyment. There is no football without us, we think, and therefore it should pander to us. It's an easy instinct to give in to.
The way that Bosa hit Deshone Kizer -- crown of the helmet straight into the chest -- didn't seem to meet our traditional litmus test for targeting. Bosa didn't go anywhere near Kizer's head, the hit wasn't malicious, et cetera. But here's where we see the other side of the coin. While there arguably might not be college football without the fans, there definitely wouldn't be college football without, you know, the players. And rules like targeting are designed to protect the players, first from one another, and second from themselves. Bosa led with the crown, and while he didn't run the risk of injuring Kizer's head, he ran the risk of injuring his own, and so he was, by rule, penalized.
It was tough to swallow, and it dramatically changed the shape of the game. But if you're complaining about it, your gripe is with a rule that takes on the Sisyphean task of trying to legislate violence within a violent game. It shouldn't be with the referees, who did what they were supposed to do.
Bosa has played his last snap as a Buckeye. So have several others, and it is time to celebrate them, in light of a sound victory over Notre Dame, to the tune of 44-28. Let's take a look at who's responsible for bringing home the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl trophy:
Blue Chip Stocks
Ezekiel Elliott, RB: Being proud of someone you've never met can feel like a condescending thing. You don't know them, you don't know their life, you probably aren't qualified to speak on it. But good god, I am proud of Zeke. I am proud of what he's done for the last two seasons, proud of how much joy he's brought to so many people. Rarely have I enjoyed watching someone go to work as much as I have Ezekiel Elliott.
He was predictably excellent against Notre Dame, finishing with four touchdowns on 27 carries totaling 149 yards. He also added 30 yards receiving to his numbers on a little swing pass from J.T. Barrett, which he took up the left sideline at astonishing speed. There's little left to be said about what Zeke has done as a Buckeye. All we can hope is that he's drafted by a team good enough to be shown on national TV once in awhile.
Michael Thomas, WR: There's one play from this game that Thomas would probably like to have back. Barrett hit him in the end zone, his man a step or two behind him, not a threat. The rock bounced straight off of the most reliable hands on the team and skipped away incomplete. Despite that uncharacteristic misstep, Thomas had himself a hell of a game, finishing with 72 yards on seven catches and another touchdown. (He put two open-field defenders on skates to put that one in, stop us if you've heard this before.)
Thomas hasn't said definitively that he's leaving for the NFL or staying in school. The smart money is on the former, as he would likely hear his name called on the first night of the draft. But a tweet from after the game has us wondering whether he might stick around another year and try to bring in one last piece of hardware.
Do what they said you couldn't #For2016 #GoBucks— Mike Thomas (@Cantguardmike) January 2, 2016
Joey Bosa, DE: The most ringing endorsement of Bosa's impact is just how different the game looked after he was out of it. Before his ejection for targeting, Bosa was everywhere, getting after Deshone Kizer again and again, drawing double teams that lightened the load for his teammates. Notre Dame's offense had absolutely nothing going well when Bosa was in the game.
It was a different story afterwards, as an already-thin defensive line (missing both Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt) struggled at times to stuff the run or put enough pressure on Kizer. The Irish QB seemed to have all day to throw at times, and the Buckeyes avoided giving up a pair of huge plays only because the ball was overthrown. Bosa, who could very well be the top pick in April's draft, is a natural disruptor. It hurt to see him go out the way he did, and it hurts knowing his days in the Scarlet and Gray are over. One last time, an homage for the people in back:
Tyvis Powell, S: Powell, one half of Ohio State's fearsome safety duo, almost had himself a pair of interceptions on the day. His first, unfortunately, came on the same play in which Joey Bosa was ejected for targeting. The personal foul negated the pick, and Powell was left to stew. He got his chance again in the third quarter. Powell shaded to his left, read a floating Kizer pass perfectly, and reeled it in. A former two-star recruit, Powell has worked hard for four years to earn and keep a starting spot. He has a year of eligibility remaining, so we'll have to wait and see if he joins the mass exodus from Ohio State to the NFL.
Gareon Conley, DB: Conley didn't have his finest game of the year against Notre Dame. In all fairness, it wasn't his fault that he ended up matched up against Will Fuller, one of the country's best wide receivers, on a crucial fourth quarter drive. Fuller got the better of Conley in a big way, knocking him off balance with a hard cutback and then easily stepping out of Conley's tackle attempt en route to an 81-yard TD. Conley is a solid player who can play better than he has at times this year. Think of this as his personal bulletin board material.
Buy: J.T. Barrett's improvisational skills. Barrett looks his best as a runner when he's forced to scramble and take off upfield. This game gave him ample opportunity to make big plays with his legs, and Barrett made the most of them. He finished with 96 yards on 23 carries, as well as throwing for 211 yards and a TD.
Sell: Abandoning Braxton Miller. The opening drive showed so much potential for this to be a repeat performance of the Virginia Tech game. It would have been a fitting bookend on the year to let Braxton cook in the last game like he did in the first, and it would have been a nice ending to his historic Ohio State career to feed him the ball at least a half-dozen times. Alas, the world doesn't work that way, and Miller was pretty much left out of the game plan after the opening minutes. He ended his Ohio State tenure with a two-catch game, totaling 12 yards. Barrett could have had Miller in the end zone late in the game, but the window closed and Barrett was sacked instead. Thanks for everything, Brax.