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Trey Sermon has come up big when Ohio State needed him most

After rushing for 331 yards in the Big Ten championship game, Sermon racked up over 200 total yards against Clemson to push Ohio State into the national title game.

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Ohio State vs Clemson Anderson Independent Mail-USA TODAY Sports

To say that 2020 was a roller coaster of a year for Trey Sermon might be an understatement. As COVID-19 was sinking its teeth into the United States and the world in March, Sermon announced he was entering the transfer portal after three seasons with the Oklahoma Sooners.

During his time in Norman, Sermon rushed for over 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns. The Georgia product was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2017, and followed that up with 947 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2018. Sermon’s junior season didn’t pan out as he had envisioned, seeing only 54 carries in eight games before a knee injury ended his season.

It became obvious that Sermon was going to need a fresh start to close out his college career. After Ohio State recruited Sermon in high school, the running back had the Buckeyes on his list of possible destinations. The feelings were mutual, as Ryan Day knew he needed to solidify the running back position, especially after Master Teague suffered an achilles injury in spring camp.

The knee injury Sermon was recovering from, along with the pandemic that the world was battling, didn’t allow for the running back to adjust to his new team as quickly as he would have liked. For a while, it was looking like Sermon wouldn’t even get a chance to suit up for the Buckeyes, as the Big Ten originally decided to cancel their college football season this year.

Once the Big Ten reversed course and opted for a shortened season, there was a rejuvenation for Sermon and the Buckeyes. Unfortunately, that excitement didn’t translate on the field for the graduate transfer right away. In his first four games, Sermon didn’t rush for more than 68 yards in a game. Master Teague looked to have a solid hold on the starting running back position after posting two 100-yard performances in the first four games.

Sermon started to build some momentum in the second half of the blowout win against Michigan State when he broke a 64-yard touchdown on his way to recording his first 100-yard game as a Buckeye. The running back has only gotten better since then, giving Justin Fields another option to lean on, much like he did with J.K. Dobbins last year.

The breakout performance for Sermon came in the Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern. With Chris Olave inactive for the game, and Master Teague leaving the game in the first half due to injury, Sermon knew it was his time to shine. Sermon not only shined, he was the brightest star on the field in Indianapolis that day, breaking Eddie George’s Ohio State record by rushing for 331 yards against the Wildcats.

After Dobbins was able to gash Clemson in last year’s semifinal, Sermon had designs of doing the same on the first day of 2021. Sermon not only rushed for 193 yards and a touchdown against the Tigers, he also hauled in four passes for 61 yards. Clemson had no answer for Sermon, especially in the first half, as the Buckeyes held a 35-14 lead on the Tigers at halftime.

Now Sermon will get another shot at Alabama, who defeated Oklahoma in the 2018 College Football Playoff semifinal at the Orange Bowl. To beat the Crimson Tide, Ohio State is going to need Sermon to break some more big runs, to not only wear out Alabama’s defense, but to also keep Alabama’s high-powered offense off the field.

After the game, Sermon will have a decision to make— to return to Columbus for another season, or head to the NFL. It’s more than likely that Sermon will opt for the NFL, especially after accepting an invite to the Senior Bowl, but stranger things have happened. With 868 yards rushing on the season, Sermon has a shot to reach 1,000 yards on the season, with most of the damage coming in a four-game span. If Sermon is able to help power the Buckeyes to a national title, his stock might be higher than it will ever be, and it will be tough to hold off on heading to the NFL.

No matter what happens after the title game, Sermon has become an Ohio State legend with his performances against Northwestern and Clemson, especially after the shot of Sermon smiling at the camera while officials were reviewing a play in which he rolled off a defender and scored a touchdown. While the touchdown was overturned, the image of Sermon will live on forever.

For as tough and uncertain as 2020 started for Sermon, he certainly saved his best of the year for the last few weeks, and started off 2021 with a bang. Sermon certainly has made himself a lot of money with his big performances when Ohio State has needed them most, and we’ll never forget how he put the team on his back to not only secure a spot in the playoff for Ohio State, but to also help them finally topple Dabo Swinney and Clemson.