Quarterback is the premier position in all of sports. Monday’s NCAAF Playoff Championship Game featured Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Ohio State’s Cardale Jones. Mariota, a three-year starter, is the reigning Heisman trophy winner, and will most likely be a top ten NFL Draft pick. Jones entered the season as a third-stringer, and had started just two college football games in his life: The Big Ten Championship Game, and the Sugar Bowl semi-final against previously #1 Alabama.
The mind-boggling difference between the two starters was a major storyline throughout the week. Mariota is the epitome of class and success, while Jones had only made headlines prior to December for his infamous “we ain’t come to play SCHOOL” tweet. But Jones was 2-0 in his career, winning the Buckeyes two biggest games of the 2014 season, and didn’t miss a beat last night.
When the game ended, it was Mariota who once again walked off of a field without a national championship. The third stringer, the three-year benchwarmer, the 6’5” monster, Cardale Jones, had done the impossible. Ohio State had won the national championship.
Football is the ultimate team sport, and last night proved exactly that. Ohio State, a team that had burned through two other quarterbacks before Jones stepped on the field, is the 2014 National Champion. Running back Ezekiel Elliot, the Buckeye defensive front, and a collection of fantastic wide receivers, had faith that Jones could get the job done, and he did.
It was an improbable run for Ohio State, who fell to unranked Virginia Tech at home in September. After the brutal loss, many assumed the Buckeyes were out of the running for the inaugural playoff. But win after win, including statement games over Michigan State and Wisconsin, allowed the Buckeyes to sneak into that coveted fourth spot.
Controversy ensued immediately when Ohio State was granted their playoff berth. Big 12 co-champions Baylor and TCU claimed they were snubbed. Some fans saw the loss to Virginia Tech as inexcusable, and wanted the Horned Frogs of TCU in the playoff. But the doubt surrounding Ohio State is long gone.
Ohio State made a statement by dismantling Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big 10 Championship game. They made an even louder one after beating #1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, one of two national semi-finals. And for the third straight game, an underdog Ohio State, led by third-string QB Cardale Jones, won. This time, though, the game was as big as they come.
The star of the season’s final stretch, and the MVP of the National Title Game, was Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliot. Elliot rushed for 246 yards and four touchdowns last night, and ran for 230 against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. He is the record holder for rush yards in the Big 10 Championship Game, the Sugar Bowl, and the National Championship Game.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer may have done the most amazing job of all. He is 38-3 in three seasons at Ohio State. In 2012, his first season in Columbus, he was undefeated, but the Buckeyes were ineligible for postseason play due to NCAA violations. Meyer is seemingly a wizard at QB coaching, as now three QB’s of his can be preseason Heisman candidates. Meyer is one of two coaches to win National Titles at two schools (he won two at Florida).
Congratulations to the Ohio State Buckeyes. Congratulations to Urban Meyer, to Ezekiel Elliot, to Cardale Jones, and to every other player on the roster that played a role in this championship season. Starting this spring though, I have no doubt that the Buckeyes will be back at work, looking for another national championship in 2015.