Three and Out: Ohio State makes playoff case with rout of Wisconsin
INDIANAPOLIS -- Before the week began, Ohio State lost its second starting quarterback of the season. As the week unfolded, it dealt with the death of a teammate. When the week ended, it had put together a performance the playoff selection committee could not ignore.
After an astounding 59-0 bludgeoning of No. 13 Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium, fueled by third-string quarterback Cardale Jones’ unexpected star turn, No. 5 Ohio State is a playoff team. Whether it actually makes the playoff is to be determined.
Here are three quick thoughts off the blowout that ensured the selection committee would have a very, very long night:
1. QB3 is A-OK
The question facing Ohio State heading into Saturday's Big Ten championship was simple: How could a team be formidable and championship-worthy on its third-string quarterback? The answer is that Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman are sorcerers, because that is the only plausible way to explain Jones’ performance on basically three days of preparation. The sophomore threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns on 12-of-17 passing, and he looked as if he had taken every rep in every game. Jones' first scoring toss to Devin Smith, a 44-yarder, was a heave to a guy who was covered, showing the gumption of a longtime starter. His second touchdown pass to Smith was released a split-second before he took a shot from a pass-rusher and nevertheless was perfectly placed. Whatever test you had in mind, Jones aced it.
2. The Buckeyes’ defense might be a bigger threat than its offense
How else to view it when Ohio State holds Heisman Trophy candidate Melvin Gordon to 2.9 yards per carry and just 76 rushing yards? Or when it produces Joey Bosa’s fumble return for a touchdown plus two more interceptions? It’s that sort of dynamic performance that might prove the Buckeyes belong more than anything else.
3. Gordon won’t win the Heisman Trophy
After a five-touchdown night from Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota in the Pac-12 championship game, this might have been true regardless of what Gordon did Saturday. It is a certainty after the disastrous Big Ten title game. The Badgers junior star was stifled, and as an added insult, Bosa returned his second-quarter fumble for a touchdown. It was the antithesis of a Heisman moment all around, and Gordon will have to settle for a spectacular 2,000-yard season, a free trip to New York City and graciously applauding when Mariota hoists the trophy.