2014 Review: Things couldn’t have possibly gone any better for the Buckeyes, who secured their eighth national title in program history in the inaugural season for the College Football Playoff. Many counted Ohio State out prior to the start of the 2014 season with Braxton Miller sidelined for the year. But, the Buckeyes surprised everyone.
After the loss to Virginia Tech, Ohio State showed little signs of weakness and continued to develop on both sides of the football. J.T. Barrett went from back-up quarterback to Heisman Trophy candidate. Ezekiel Elliott became one of the Big Ten’s top running backs and Cardale Jones, who stepped in when Barrett went down, led the Buckeyes through the Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff.
Defensively, Joey Bosa and Michael Bennett were forces up front while Darron Lee and Vonn Bell were terrific in the Buckeyes secondary. As you would expect from the national championship team, Ohio State was the most complete team in the country but struggled to earn respect on the national level. Wins over Penn State and Michigan State on the road along with a 59-0 win over Wisconsin in the conference championship with a third-string quarterback gained attention.
Despite some controversy, Urban Meyer’s team was granted an opportunity to compete for a national championship, and they took full advantage.
High Point: There were plenty of peaks to select for the Buckeyes last season, but perhaps the most memorable was the 42-35 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. With Jones making just his second career start and the Buckeyes defense going somewhat untested in the regular season, many thought the Crimson Tide would steamroll the Buckeyes.
After trailing 21-6 in the second quarter and the Buckeyes struggling to keep up, Ohio State limited the Crimson Tide to 14 second half points and concluded an impressive come-from-behind victory to reach the national championship game.
Elliott ran for 230 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries while Jones threw for 243 yards and a touchdown in the win for the Buckeyes. Alabama only converted two of its 13 third down opportunities in the game.
Low Point: The loss to the Hokies was a hindrance to the Buckeyes throughout the season, and for good reason. Barrett tossed three interceptions and completed just nine of his 29 passes in the 35-21 loss. Not only was it a bad performance, it was in Ohio Stadium against an average opponent.
Legendary coach Frank Beamer had his team ready to play in Columbus that night, but the Buckeyes played their worst game since Meyer took control of the team three seasons ago.
Best Player: Four or five players could be nominated and a solid argument could be made for each one. Prior to his injury, though, Barrett was the most impressive Buckeye on the field.
Not too frequently does a freshman who was expected to stand on the sideline and learn from the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year become a Heisman Trophy candidate. With 45 total touchdowns to his name to go along with more than 4,000 yards of offense, that’s exactly what Barrett was able to do.
He had plenty of big games throughout the season, but the most important came on November 8th in East Lansing. With a trip to Indianapolis hanging in the balance, Barrett threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-37 victory over Michigan State to become the front-runner in the Big Ten East Division. He added 86 yards on the ground with two rushing touchdowns to lead the Buckeyes to an important win.
2015 Outlook: The Buckeyes will be a heavy favorite to repeat as Big Ten champions in 2015 and will be high in the polls to start the season as well. It’s hard to imagine with so much talent returning to the scarlet and gray next year that the Buckeyes won’t be in the College Football Playoff for a second-straight season.
Miller, Barrett and Jones are all returning. Elliott will be in the backfield. Bosa, Lee and Bell will be stellar defensively. That presence with several other great contributing talent on the roster makes the Buckeyes a hard team to beat next season.
Ohio State should be so talented it will be scary. Games with Michigan State and Penn State will be important next year, but right now, it’s hard to think the Buckeyes will slip up as they defend their title in 2015.