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Buckeyes handle biggest test, prove top-seed worthiness yet again

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Ohio State won the Big Ten for the third year in a row and should be a top seed in the College Football Playoff. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football

Buckeyes handle biggest test, prove top-seed worthiness yet again

INDIANAPOLIS — There is no flaw on the Ohio State resumé.

There might be a couple other solid ones around the country, but there isn’t one better than the one the Buckeyes polished up on Saturday night in the Big Ten championship.

What, one bad half is supposed to knock them out of the top spot? Maybe take a look at the second half instead as Ohio State left no doubt that it has everything that could possibly be required of a No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff. And if contenders are supposed to get challenges along the way to prove what they’re made of, the response to the first serious case of adversity against a third consecutive top-15 opponent revealed exactly what makes the Buckeyes special.

Brilliant talent. Balance on both sides of the football. Impressive coaching. Seemingly bottomless well of toughness. No fear after falling behind by two touchdowns to No. 8 Wisconsin before turning on the jets and winning 34-21.

Sure, some of those are intangibles. So try a perfect record in the deepest conference in the country with every win by double digits — and more ranked victories than the LSU team trying to steal away the top seed. Ohio State earned it over the course of the entire season, and it’s hard to understand how Championship Saturday could have changed anything for Selection Sunday.

“Definitely, I think we’re No. 1, point-blank, period,” Ohio State defensive end Chase Young said. “I mean, I just feel like a team like this, that hit a lot of adversity, has been tested many times, times like today — and then to see us come back? And not just come back, but we came back and we dominated.

Chase Young-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State defensive end Chase Young made his case that the Buckeyes should stay No. 1. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

“I feel like a team that can flip the switch like that is a No. 1-worthy team.”

It’s hard to know exactly what the unpredictable selection committee will make of the latest win for the Buckeyes, but there were certainly analysts around the country lining up to criticize them because the flip was seemingly off for most of the first half. Just for the record, there is no protocol for evaluating halves of games, and the full picture was once again a clear-cut victory for the program.

Yes, the first half was sloppy. Ohio State didn’t make any excuses for that despite playing with an injured starting quarterback, coming into the week having just played two high-stakes, brutal battles with ranked opponents and facing a rare rematch against a team with absolutely nothing to lose. But all that really does is make the 27-0 barrage in the second half more impressive — and it’s clearly more in line with what the Buckeyes did for the rest of a season that was filled wire-to-wire with dominance.

“I think when you look at our resumé, what we’ve done, beating Wisconsin when they’re a top-10 team twice in one year, and then again this three-game stretch was unlike I think any team has had in the country,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “The committee does a great job of ranking these teams. These are top-15 teams, top-10 teams that we played three weeks in a row. If there’s anything else that shows what this team is made of, you saw it here today. The fact that we went down and played the way we did in the first half, but then to come back and play the way we did in the second half not only shows you our talent but shows you the heart of this team.

Ryan Day-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State coach Ryan Day celebrated his first Big Ten championship on Saturday. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

“If there’s a better team out there, I’d like to see them.”

No matter what, the Buckeyes have to win twice more to win a national championship. So, they’re going to see first-hand if LSU, Clemson or Oklahoma can measure up with them on the field. All of those potential matchups are packed with intrigue, and again to the credit of a team that embraces challenges, there weren’t any Buckeyes celebrating in the locker room who cared about the next opponent or where they’re going for the semifinal.

But Ohio State also shouldn’t even need to do any campaigning. What the Buckeyes have done on the field this year speaks for itself, and they’ve been doing it louder and longer than anybody else in the country.

“This has really been a special season, man,” Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson said. “It’s a blessing to be a part of this team, it’s fun to play with these guys and we all love each other, so we can’t wait for the next two games.

“I mean, we’re going to enjoy this win and check in with the [committee] at 12 o’clock. You’ve got to win two games either way, you’ve got to win out. It’s going to take two games to win a national championship, and we don’t care where we’re at. We know what we’ve got to do.”

Even with one bad half, something exactly like what Ohio State delivered in the Big Ten title game would work just fine twice more.

And if that’s the worst the Buckeyes could play and still win easily, that sure seems like it should seal the deal for the top seed.

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Dan Carey
Dan Carey

Agreed! Great points and a great summary. I don’t get why analysts (like Leinart) talk about rankings “at the time” teams play? Isn’t an opponents ranking at the end of the season the truest indicator of how good a “win” or how bad a “loss” was? Anyway, love reading your stuff!

Brunstar
Brunstar

Time to find out if the SEC will be rewarded for playing Chicken Poop Saturday games again. It must be nice to play FCS schools in November.

Kid Buckeye
Kid Buckeye

I agree somewhat. The problem is that we had played Wisky before and beat them good and a first half like we had should not had happened if we wanted the #1 spot. We had the chance to claim the #1 spot but not sure if we took it.

Rick Marks
Rick Marks

You write as if you are a paid employee of the OSU athletic department. I have been a Buckeye fan since 1968, but I expect reporters to write objectively, something you never do. This is just the most recent example. It’s also the reason I come to Letterman Row-to read what your colleague, Jeremy Birmingham, thinks. Birm is everything you want in a reporter: knowledgeable, relentless, and objective.

Buck68
Buck68

Rick – agree that imperfect people cannot write “objectively” on their own authority.

But… [and so froth] ;-{)}

Thoroughly enjoy LR’s staff efforts to ‘report’… our digressions into ‘stuff’ notwithstanding.

But… do we not need, brothers, to ‘hold ourselves accountable to the ‘standards’ we say we ‘have’?

And trying to do what i ought to do, has zero effect on my lack of authority or my ‘case for being better’. Forgetting that …has some times for a while been called ‘pride’.

Buck68
Buck68

y’all actually thought all along you were #1? Honest?

CDRALAC! Or you are… the dreaded ‘inappropriate’. And, due to progress, the “Slur of the Day”.

The only thing we have re-illustrated here is that stupidity and hyperbole luv each other.

i am just grateful and thankful our team has the opportunity to demonstrate their competitive performance in the Arena two more times this season, the Lord willing.

The coaches and players have plenty to work on before the playoffs. Time to heal. Time to rededicate. Time to reach out and help their brothers.

But most of all, time to appreciate and be thankful for what we have been given.

GO BUCKS!

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Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.

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