As Herm Edwards once famously said… “you play to win the game!”
The Ohio State Buckeyes will obviously be focusing on just that Monday night against Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship, looking to secure the program’s first crown since a memorable 2014 culmination.
While passionate Buckeye fans everywhere will be locked in, emotionally glued to each play, I think it’s also important to take a few moments and maintain some perspective… to be grateful considering all that’s previously taken place.
For starters, this Ohio State season almost never happened. The Big Ten announced a conference-only schedule during the first week of August, but then canceled that fall season just six days later. After more than a month in limbo featuring hopeless waiting, organized protests and seeing other leagues press on, the Big Ten reversed course and brought football back.
Then, unlike big names such as Micah Parsons (Penn State), Penei Sewell (Oregon), Ja'Marr Chase (LSU), Jamie Newman (Georgia), Kennedy Brooks (Oklahoma) and Gregory Rousseau (Miami), Buckeye stars Wyatt Davis and Shaun Wade opted back into the season.
It was an 8-game schedule, with absolutely no wiggle room, under the strictest medical protocols in the country, starting six weeks after most Power 5 conferences, that would surely create controversy when trying to rank contenders on a national scale.
After a 3-0 start, what if I told you that star quarterback Justin Fields (who tossed three interceptions all of last season) would throw three in one game vs. a top-10 opponent, whose QB would finish with 491 yards passing? There was more to that one-possession final score than just those numbers, but I bet it still caused many Buckeye fans to release a massive exhale upon conclusion.
What if I also told you that Ohio State would be down five starters, and 17 scholarship players, for a Big Ten road contest against an opponent that had just defeated a different top-10 team themselves?
Three games on the schedule were ultimately canceled, leaving OSU (5-0) one game short of the “required minimum” to play in the Big Ten Championship. But the league quickly came to its senses and eliminated that rule.
What if I told you that Ohio State would then be without Chris Olave, Baron Browning and Drue Chrisman in said title game, would lose Master Teague very early due to injury, and trail 10-6 midway through the third quarter?
What if I added that Olave, Browning and Chrisman were likely out for a potential CFP Semifinal… until the Big Ten trimmed its CoVID return time from 21 to 17 days. Then, despite tons of national debate about whether a 6-0 Ohio State team should warrant a playoff spot (over others that played 9-10 games), they were comfortably voted in.
Before the season, what if I said that your beloved Buckeyes were finally going to get the monkey off their back and beat Clemson. Not only win the game, but do so by a three-touchdown margin that featured 49 points, 639 yards of offense, karma through another targeting ejection, and under circumstances that allowed for some egg to be thrown on your favorite pal Dabo Swinney’s face?
After all this, Ohio State has reached the final game of the season and will play the only other remaining unbeaten in Alabama. Legendary coach Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide, the recent measuring stick in major college football, are making their fifth National Championship game appearance in six years. They are looking to finish off a dominant season and will likely enter as more than a touchdown favorite in Vegas.
Who knows what will unfold on the field in Miami. There will be great plays, missed tackles, bad penalties, questionable decisions and more. Justin Fields will reportedly be playing through some pain and Ohio State, like many programs, has been dealing with CoVID issues.
But, as you’re recklessly losing your mind in the living room trying not to spill buffalo dip on the furniture, try to take a breath and appreciate the opportunity to watch. If you’re somehow one of 16,000 fans to obtain a ticket, or a media member that received a credential, be thankful for this unique experience.
With all that’s recently transpired in the world, let’s be grateful for the three-hour window on Monday night to escape, argue, laugh, cry, debate and any other emotion you’d like to insert here. Because all of this could have very easily not happened.
P.S. No matter what the final score is, I promise the sun will rise on Tuesday in Columbus and throughout Ohio.
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