Friday January 1st, 2016

No. 7 Ohio State outpaced No. 8 Notre Dame for a 44–28 victory in the Fiesta Bowl on Friday. Here are three thoughts on the Buckeyes’ win.

1. The game we witnessed Friday afternoon could have been very, very different had each team not lost a likely 2016 first-round pick on defense

Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith left the game in the first quarter with a leg injury—although Ohio State’s offense was firing just fine in his brief time on the field—and then Buckeyes defensive lineman Joey Bosa was ejected shortly thereafter for targeting.

With Bosa, Ohio State had gotten out to an early 14–0 lead, and Notre Dame’s offense looked stifled. After his exit, though, the Fighting Irish managed two first-half touchdowns and remained in the game until close to the end.

Bosa’s exit shouldn’t hurt his draft stock—he’s widely perceived as a top-three name off the board—but Smith, should his injury prove serious, could see his stock fall in the months between now and April.

By the second half of the game, Smith was on the Notre Dame sideline on crutches, and Bosa had sent several tweets apologizing and cheering on his teammates.

College Football
10 reasons to be excited for the Alabama-Clemson title game

2. This Ohio State team over the past four years is one for the record books

With the win Friday, Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes logged their 50th victory since the coach took over in 2012, setting the record for the most wins in a four-year span in college football history—while also being banned from postseason play in 2012. Keep in mind, Meyer inherited a team that went 6–7 in ’11.

Most of the big-name players who have defined this era—Bosa, Taylor Decker, Ezekiel Elliott, Joshua Perry, Braxton Miller—will be gone in 2016, and though Ohio State didn’t make it back to the College Football Playoff, beating Notre Dame should be a somewhat satisfying finale for the group.

3. Elliott was downright unstoppable

After a season where his words and actions off the field may have overshadowed what he did on it, the Ohio State running back proved he’s still a top-tier player at his position. Elliott, a junior who announced after the Buckeyes’ loss to Michigan State that he’ll declare early for the NFL draft, was the driving force behind Ohio State’s offense on Friday, and it seemed like every time Notre Dame came within striking distance, Elliott would soon streak into the end zone.

In the regular season, Elliott averaged 6.4 yards per carry and 139.3 per game; on Friday, he finished with 149 yards on 27 carries, including four touchdowns, tying a Fiesta bowl record.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.