As soon as it looked like Ohio State had a chance to make the College Football Playoff despite losing 45-23 to Michigan, I started thinking back to the first College Football Playoff at the end of the 2014 season. While the situations aren’t exactly the same, there are a lot of similarities between 2014 and 2022.
A loss to rebound from
In 2014, Ohio State was beaten at home by Virginia Tech 35-21 in the second game of the season. Even though the loss came in early September, at the the time people were already counting out the Buckeyes.
The Big Ten is officially eliminated from placing a team in the playoff. It is September 6th.— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) September 7, 2014
Really though, once Clay Travis said Ohio State was already eliminated from the playoff, we should have known the Buckeyes were a lock to make the first-ever CFP. If you ever want to put your money to good use, just bet against anything Travis says.
Granted, Ohio State had a couple months to state their case as to why they deserved to be in the CFP in 2014. This year the Buckeyes used their résumé heading into the Michigan game to earn a spot in the playoff. Ohio State started the season with a win over Notre Dame, and added victories over Penn State, Iowa, and Wisconsin to strengthen their case.
Ohio State suffered a huge loss in 2014 even before the first snap of the season when Braxton Miller was ruled out for the year with a shoulder injury. It looked like it was going to be a long season for the Buckeyes when J.T. Barrett under center when they lost to Virginia Tech in the second game of the year. Luckily for Ohio State, Barrett found his groove quickly after, leading the Buckeyes into the Michigan game with a 10-1 record.
Then Ohio State was thrown for another loop when Barrett suffered a leg injury against the Wolverines, leaving Cardale Jones to finish out the year. Prior to his first start in the Big Ten Championship Game, Jones was only known as the “we ain’t come to play school” guy. The third-string quarterback would go on to total six touchdowns in the final three games of the 2014 season.
This year, Jaxon Smith-Njigba was thought to be a serious contender for the Biletnikoff Award after a 2021 season where he caught 95 passes for 1,606 yards. Smith-Njigba was injured early against Notre Dame, and we only saw him for a handful of plays the rest of the year. Even without Smith-Njigba, Ohio State’s passing attack was one of the most feared in the country with Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, and Julian Fleming. The Buckeyes were able to survive without Smith-Njigba, but who knows where they could’ve been had the wide receiver not gotten hurt in the season opener.
SEC semifinal foe
In 2014, Ohio State was matched up with top-seed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. This year the Buckeyes will face top-ranked Georgia in the Peach Bowl. Eight years ago, not many were giving Ohio State a chance against the Crimson Tide, as Alabama was favored by more than a touchdown. This year’s point spread against the Bulldogs isn’t quite that high, but it’s clear that the majority of people think Georgia will move on to the title game.
It’s understandable why Ohio State is an underdog against the Bulldogs. Georgia not only won last year’s title, they also were able to get through their schedule this year without a loss so far. While the Bulldogs lost a lot of talent from last year’s title team, Kirby Smart has stocked the cupboards in Athens with some of the best talent in the country. Not that Ohio State doesn’t have some great athletes, it just seems like Georgia has some of the most athletic monsters in the trenches that you’ll ever find.
Silencing the doubters
A week before Selection Sunday, any Buckeye fans were ready to blow the whole football program up. Some were packing Ryan Day’s bags, while others were certain we had seen C.J. Stroud take his last snaps in the scarlet and gray. Nobody was looking forward to another meaningless Rose Bowl, or matchup against Clemson in a New Year’s Six bowl.
Despite winning his first 24 games as Ohio State head coach, Urban Meyer did face plenty of criticism for how the 2013 season ended, as well as how the 2014 season began. Following the loss to Virginia Tech, Meyer had seen his team lose three out of four games, and there were many that thought more losses were on the way with Braxton Miller sidelined for the season.
Since taking over for Meyer as head coach following the 2018 season, Day has only lost three regular season games as Ohio State head coach. Unfortunately for Day, two of those losses have come in the last two seasons against Michigan. Many are wondering if Day is the next coming of John Cooper. While many schools would kill to have Day as their head coach, losing to Michigan is unacceptable. This year’s loss to the Wolverines would be forgotten if the Buckeyes are able to not only beat Georgia, but also beat Michigan if the two teams square off in the national title game.
On a smaller scale, Stroud also has a lot to prove. Even though the Ohio State quarterback is a Heisman Trophy finalist for the second straight year, he wasn’t all that impressive in the final few games of the regular season. There are some that have questioned Stroud’s toughness and leadership following the loss to Michigan. The New Year’s Eve tilt against the Bulldogs will give Stroud a chance to make some of his doubters eat their words if he can lead the Buckeyes to victory against the toughest defense in the country.