OSU Ends Up Just Under CFP Line
Ohio State not only faced the challenge of battling undefeated Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game but also had to climb from the No. 8 spot in the College Football Playoff standings to the top four in order to keep chasing a national title.
They missed their late-season flourish by that much.
While an interception on fourth down of an Alex Hornibrook pass in the final moments preserved a 27-21 win over the Badgers and set off a Saturday night party in Lucas Oil Stadium, the Buckeyes (11-2) found out early in the afternoon on Sunday that the CFP selection committee slotted them at No. 5 and just behind Alabama, thereby keeping Urban Meyer’s team out of the four-team playoff.
Instead of looking for revenge against Clemson and pursuing the crystal football, Ohio State’s bowl assignment is to tangle with No. 8 and Pac-12 champion USC (11-2) in the Cotton Bowl. The game, which pits the to major conference champions who have been left out of the College Football Playoff, will be played in Arlington, Texas, on Dec. 29 (8:30 p.m., Eastern, ESPN).
The Trojans outlasted Stanford, 31-28, in the Pac-12 championship game on Friday night, but like the Buckeyes are on the outside looking in as far as the CFP is concerned.
Clemson, which destroyed Miami (Fla.) in the ACC title game, maintained the top spot and will battle No. 4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl in one national semifinal. The other will pit No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 Georgia, which handily claimed the Big 12 and SEC titles, respectively, with big wins on Saturday evening.
Alabama (11-1) did not win the SEC West Division and didn’t play for the conference championship thanks to a loss to rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl yet held off the Buckeyes, who remain haunted by their 55-24 loss at Iowa on Nov. 4.
The Sooners (12-1), who provided Ohio State’s other loss this season, recovered from an upset at Iowa State to win out and blasted TCU 41-17 in the Big 12 showcase. Georgia (12-1) got revenge on Auburn and rolled to a 28-7 win in Atlanta.
The entire top 25 of the final CFP rankings follows:
Final College Football Playoff Rankings
1. Clemson (12-1)
2. Oklahoma (12-1)
3. Georgia (12-1)
4. Alabama (11-1)
5. Ohio State (11-2)
6. Wisconsin (12-1)
7. Auburn (10-3)
8. USC (11-2)
9. Penn State (10-2)
10. Miami, Fla. (10-2)
11. Washington (10-2)
12. UCF (12-0)
13. Stanford (9-4)
14. Notre Dame (9-3)
15. TCU (10-3)
16. Michigan State (9-3)
17. LSU (9-3)
18. Washington State (9-3)
19. Oklahoma State (9-3)
20. Memphis (10-2)
21. Northwestern (9-3)
22. Virginia Tech (9-3)
23. Mississippi State (8-4)
24. N.C. State (8-4)
25. Boise State (10-3)
Auburn fell from No. 2 in the rankings but mysteriously stayed above a Trojans team with a better record and a major conference title. USC is led by quarterback Sam Darnold, a top NFL prospect and an offense and defense littered with athleticism.
Ohio State and USC have played 23 times, many of those battles coming in the Rose Bowl. The Trojans lead the all-time series 13-9-1
The two teams last squared off in 2009 when USC came away with an 18-15 victory in Columbus. They last played in a bowl game when the Trojans beat Ohio State, 20-17, in the 1985 Rose Bowl. The last time they met away from Columbus was an infamous showing by the Buckeyes – a 35-3 loss to USC in the Los Angeles Coliseum in 2008.
The Buckeyes have one previous appearance in the Cotton Bowl. Ohio State topped Texas A&M, 28-12, in Dallas on Jan. 1, 1987.
Analysts more or less agreed that the Buckeyes needed a more convincing win over Wisconsin. They led 21-7 in the second period but missed a couple chances to put an exclamation point on the victory and had to hold on for dear life at the end.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett turned in a gutty performance six days after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. He was 12 of 25 passing for 211 yards and two touchdowns – an 84-yarder to Terry McLaurin and a 57-yarder to Parris Campbell – but he also threw a pair of interceptions, including a pick-6 to linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel. Barrett also overshot both T.J. Hill and Johnnie Dixon on deep balls and potential huge plays in the second half.
OSU’s J.K. Dobbins, however, outshone UW’s Jonathan Taylor in the battle of star freshman running backs. Dobbins rushed 17 times for 174 yards, an average of 10.2 per carry, and was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player. Taylor came in with more than 1,800 yards and an average of 7.0 per carry but was held to 41 yards in 15 attempts (2.7 ypc).
Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagali was up to billing as the Badgers’ leading receiver. He had five catches for 45 yards and also hauled in a key two-point conversion in the fourth quarter.
Each team had 16 first downs although the Buckeyes finished with 449 yards to UW’s 238. Wisconsin scored 18 points off of OSU turnovers, which proved costly in the Buckeyes’ quest to turn in a dominating performance.