Alright, so the story wasn’t perfect, right? It certainly wasn’t a fairytale… But, now that all is said and done, Ohio State football fans should look back and remember the 2021 season very fondly. Let us not forget: the Buckeyes lost a certain record-setting quarterback named Justin Fields from the 2020 team. They also said goodbye to Trey Sermon (another OSU record holder), Jonathon Cooper (first recipient of the Block O jersey), and their top five tacklers on defense, among others! On top of the personnel losses, there was added pressure to try and rid themselves of the stench from last year’s loss to Alabama — and perhaps reach the CFP for a third consecutive year. Pretty standard expectations.
So how did it all turn out? What happened? Well, in a nutshell: Ohio State lost to Oregon in Week 2, and fans were calling for C.J. Stroud to be benched… after two starts, and with a room full of unproven quarterbacks behind him. K’Vaughan Pope, a veteran linebacker, caused a scene while quitting the team (mid-game!) two weeks later. The front-seven of the defense and the experienced offensive line – which we assumed would be a strength – all struggled. The McCord/Ewers noise never seemed to go away, the defensive rotation was an endless game of musical chairs, and the offensive line just couldn’t gel in a way coaches anticipated it would. But then a funny thing happened...
The team hit its stride (overwhelming talent has a way of helping to facilitate that), reeled off a bunch of big wins against inferior opponents, and all the sudden seemed like a championship contender. Ryan Day went from goat to G.O.A.T., and OSU fans took great joy from the struggles of Clemson and Oklahoma. The Buckeyes seemed like a shoe-in for that previously mentioned CFP appearance. All they had to do was run through the two Michigan teams, both of which they had dominated in recent seasons. Ohio State humbled MSU and, based on what we saw from the B1G West, appeared to be one win away from a playoff. Then… TTUN won The Game. They ended The Streak. Hopes were dashed, dreams were ruined, and Christmas was joyless. All because the Buckeyes lost a football game. Boo hoo, woe is me. Why should you and I look at this season as anything other than a tragic failure?
For starters, the team was competing for a National Championship until the end of the season! Despite their two losses, Ohio State arguably needed just one conference championship game to go differently. Beyond that, the Buckeyes were exciting as hell to watch. Sure, fans were frustrated at times by the defense or the run blocking – and rightfully so – but think about the highs, rather than dwelling on the lows. Stroud developed into a superstar before our eyes. Same for Jaxon Smith-Njigba and TreVeyon Henderson. We have at least three Heisman candidates returning. Chris Olave surprisingly returned for his senior season, and set an OSU record for career touchdown receptions. Garrett Wilson caught everything in sight, and generally wowed in way that will never be forgotten for many years.
Achievements and milestones were not so abundant on the defensive side of the ball, but there are still plenty of positives to take away from the 2021 season. J.T. Tuimaloau and Jack Sawyer earned valuable experience. Denzel Burke showed that he could potentially be the next graduate of DB U. Tyleik Williams flashed, Steele Chambers made a smooth transition to linebacker, and fellow LB Tommy Eichenberg went from being stuck in quicksand, to racking up 17 tackles in the Rose Bowl. So there is momentum moving forward.
And how about that Rose Bowl? “The Granddaddy of Them All” became an instant classic; a game that Ohio State fans will remember for years. Down players, and down points early, the Buckeyes did not fold. Stroud and the offense kept taking swings and scoring touchdowns, and the defense showed great resolve in the second half. For my money, it was a top-5 exciting game to watch, at least from the last two decades. The game earned the same television ratings as one of the CFP semifinal games, and blew away all other bowl games in terms of viewership. As OSU fans, we will look back at that game in years, and reminisce with our friends, family, and alumni. That is why we love Ohio State football.
Your 2022 Rose Bowl Champions— Adam King (@AdamKing10TV) January 2, 2022
The Ohio State Buckeyes: pic.twitter.com/NyTrdP2aIe
Every game of every season matters — even when it seems otherwise. We’re able to bank memories and still accrue new ones, because we are gifted with so many. The 2022 Rose Bowl was just another memory we will be able to hold onto for years, and it was the perfect ending to an imperfect season. We should appreciate them all the same. We should appreciate that we have a reason (many) to love Ohio State football. To borrow a line from that certain somebody who believes that winning a battle is winning the war: who’s got it better than us? Go Bucks!