College football has seen a changing of the powers that be. Hardly absolute, you can count on certain teams to be in the conversation come January. Those teams are talked about differently, though. Ohio State has often been viewed as the evil conqueror of the Big Ten. If you aren't a Buckeye fan, you probably haven't appreciated what they have done to your team. All context aside, the Buckeyes are in a different space this year as it relates to the college football playoff. Yes, they are in, something they couldn't have said last season, but it just didn't happen in the manner many thought it would.
The Buckeyes' Season Ends in an Ohio State of Shock.. Again
Playing against a somewhat lighter schedule, Ohio State simply rolled through many of its opponents, looking bad in some spots (winning by only 14 against a one-win Northwestern team), but still getting things done. Yet, when push came to shove, Ohio State seemed ill prepared to face the Michigan Wolverines. In the biggest game of the season, as a sizeable favorite, the Buckeyes crumbled in front of the rowdy Columbus crowd, falling 45-23 to the Wolverines in the last game they played.
For once, the Buckeyes are seen as the underdog, the team with something to prove. An awkward position for a largely dominant team, the Buckeyes will get a chance to prove the doubters wrong against the Bulldogs on New Year's Eve.
Before the Peach Bowl game, it's important to look back on one such game in which tells the story of what the Buckeyes can be this postseason.
Week 8 - 44-31 win at No. 13 Penn State
The Buckeyes came into this game off a 54-10 stomping of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Penn State, a very competent team in their own right, were still big underdogs in the game. The Nittany Lions had just beaten Minnesota 45-17, however, and will play in the Rose Bowl the day after New Year's. They are very much a significant player in the college football landscape.
For all that, if you had to make a judgment on much of the game, you wouldn't think Ohio State was the favorite.
The Buckeyes received two turnovers in the first quarter. Experienced quarterback and Illinois native Sean Clifford dropped back to pass on Penn State's first drive and was intercepted. Later, on third-and-3, Clifford's pass was again snagged by a Buckeye. Sophomore J.T. Tuimoloau came away with the ball.
Despite winning the turnover battle, Ohio State didn't even hold the lead after the first half. Using six plays each drive, Penn State went over 70 yards down the field in back-to-back drives in the second quarter to make the score 14-13 as the teams went back to the locker room for halftime.
Out of the halftime break, the Buckeyes continued to stall. After forcing a turnover on downs, Ohio State punted out of the half and then were held to a field goal. On the next drive, Penn State used 13 plays to move 75 yards for a go-ahead touchdown. Kaytron Allen's 1-yard rush on fourth-and-goal capped off the drive.
Suddenly down 21-16 with 9 minutes and 26 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Ohio State showed exactly what it can be, the team turned on its turbo boost.
The Buckeyes needed just three plays to go from their own 25-yard line to the other endzone. Star quarterback C.J. Stroud completed two passes for 34 yards before running back TreVeyon Henderson broke free for a 41-yard touchdown run.
Capitalizing on a Penn State fumble, Ohio State then used just one more play to go up 30-21. Stroud hit fourth year tight end Cade Stover for a 24-yard touchdown.
Responding with a field goal on a seven-play drive, Penn State's effort would not be enough. Ohio State used the same number of plays to put together a 75-yard touchdown drive. On the next play from scrimmage, Clifford was intercepted by Tuimoloau for the second time, and Tuimoloau returned the pass for six.
To recap, down 21-16, Ohio State used under seven minutes of game clock to go up 44-24. It happened in a flash, and the Nittany Lions had little chance to respond.
After a garbage time touchdown by Penn State, the Buckeyes ultimately defeated Penn State 44-31, a sizeable margin.
Even as the Buckeyes season has taken a turn to the south, all the evidence is already on the table as to how powerful Ohio State can be.
The floor may be lower than a lot of the best teams like Michigan or Georgia, but the ceiling is as high as any other teams is in the college game. Sometimes the Buckeyes struggle, perhaps even disappoint. As they do so, they tend to find a way to pull things out and have a scary top-level gear that many teams can't get to. They are as talented as anyone, and a new underdog mentality may be all the team needs to boost themselves into their top gear, putting them past the others in the playoff.
Want More Sports News?
Get the biggest and best sports news sent directly to your inbox.