Ohio State won the first national title in college football's playoff era
(ARLINGTON, Texas) — Ohio State can add the newest version of the national championship trophy to a case that already has a bunch of the old ones.
The Buckeyes’ third-stringer matched Oregon’s Heisman winner as Cardale Jones led Ohio State past Marcus Mariota and the Ducks 42-20 in the first College Football Playoff national championship game Monday night at the $1.2 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Behind their bullish backup quarterback and the relentless running of Ezekiel Elliott, the Buckeyes (14-1) completed a remarkable in-season turnaround with a dominating performance against the Ducks (13-2).
“The chase is complete,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “It’s done. It’s over. They accepted their final mission, their final assignment and their final directive, and they did it. That was our whole mantra this last couple of weeks. A job well done, and we’re very grateful.”
Ohio State began the first major college football playoff as the fourth and final seed, and as a team that faced questions about whether it belonged at all. It was a team that never would have had a chance to win a title under the old postseason system.
No question about it now: Ohio State is the truest champion big-time football has ever crowned, showered by golden confetti as its band played “Hang on Sloopy” when the clock hit 0:00.
Meyer’s Buckeyes overcame two injured Heisman contenders and one awful early season loss at home to Virginia Tech to win their first national title since 2002. Back then the Bowl Championship Series decided No. 1 at the end of the season — usually.
Before that, it was up to The Associated Press and coaches’ polls to sort out which team was best, with little help from the bowls. The Buckeyes have three of those championships, too.
And Meyer now has three, adding this one for his home state team to the two he won for Florida. It’s taken just three seasons in Columbus for Meyer to put the Buckeyes — and the Big Ten — back on top, with a team that looks built to last.
Elliott, a sophomore, ran for 246 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries. In the last three games against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon, Elliott had 696 yards rushing.
Jones, who took over three games ago for the injured J.T. Barrett (who had taken over at the start of the season for the injured Braxton Miller), passed for 242 yards and a touchdown and ran for score. The 250-pound third-year sophomore proved he could keep up with Mariota — at least on this night.
Mariota passed for 333 yards and two touchdowns, but the Ducks’ warp-speed spread offense missed too many red-zone opportunities and couldn’t unleash its running game against linebacker Darron Lee and an Ohio State front seven stacked with future NFL draft picks.