INDIANAPOLIS – A year ago, hopes died for the Scarlet and Grey in the Circle City. It was the reverse just about 365 days later.
After dropping a chance to advance to the national title game in 2013 with a Big Ten Championship Game loss to Michigan State, Ohio State kept themselves in the running for another with dominating performance against Wisconsin.
The Buckeyes ran all over the Badgers and then shut them down for the first time this millenium in a 59-0 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday evening.
Urban Meyer’s team became the first to shutout Wisconsin since 1997 and in the process his 5th-ranked team made a strong case to be included in the four-team college football playoff for the national championship.
They’ll find out Sunday morning if they made the cut.
“I’ve been asked a lot, ‘Did I see this happening?’,” said Meyer after the game. “I saw a team that prepared very well and is playing at a very high level right now.”
This might have been the highest they’ve been at this season. Wisconsin never put up a challenge over the course of 60 minutes which the Buckeyes led by 14 after the first quarter and 38 by halftime.
Ohio State’s rushers gained 301 yards led by Ezekiel Elliott’s 220 yards on 20 carries while the Badgers’ vaunted attack was smothered by Buckeye defenders. Melvin Gordon-a Heisman candidate who put up 408 yards against Nebraska in November-had just 76 yards on 26 carries.
“This is the first time everybody did everything that was asked of them and did it as hard as they possibly could,” said Ohio State defensive lineman Michael Bennett. “This is a huge victory for us. A lot of respect for the offense we won against.”
The defense got one score on the board late in the first half when Joey Bosa had a short fumble return touchdown but it was the offense that put up points in bunches.
Cardale Jones-the Buckeyes’ third-string quarterback-threw for three touchdowns and 257 yards on just 12 completions for three touchdowns. He got the game going with a 39-yard scoring strike to Devin Smith.
Elliott added another score with an 81-yard run straight up the middle to make it 14-0 and the Buckeyes were not to be stopped after that. The running back added another touchdown in the second quarter which coupled with a Jones scoring pass, field goal and Bosa’s return made it 38-0 at the break.
Twenty-one more points by Ohio State in the second half capped the epic rout which puts a very positive spin on the Buckeyes’ playoff resume. At 12-1 the team will be in the running with Baylor, Florida State and TCU for the final two spots behind Alabama and Oregon-who are likely in with their own title game victories.
After the game, Meyer was asked how he felt this win might help his team’s chances.
“I hate getting asked that, to be honest with you. I like coaching a team. This is without question the most improved from start to finish team that I’ve ever been around,” said Meyer. “To see them operate in all facets of the game at a high, high level from our punter to the way we played defense, then offense was incredible. Our third quarterback, two Heisman candidates out, this guy comes in and plays like that.
“The Selection Committee has a tough job. The whole BCS thing, this is supposed to clean up the BCS conflict or conversations. All I can speak to is I’ve been around teams that have competed and won national championships. This team, the way it’s playing right now, is one of the top teams in America.”
Unlike 2013, they showed that in their trip to Indianapolis.