Rea's Say: One For The History Books

Every national championship is history, but there might not be any equal in 125 years of football for what the Ohio State football program did Monday night, BSB managing editor emeritus Mark Rea says.

I have had the great pleasure of covering the Ohio State football team for more years than I care to remember, but I have never borne witness to a more incredible, implausible, unbelievable season than the one that culminated Jan. 12 with the eighth national championship in program history.

Teams aren’t supposed to lose their three-year starting quarterback less than two weeks before the start of the regular season and win a national championship.

Teams aren’t supposed to lay a huge egg in front of a nationwide TV audience in early September and win a national championship.

Teams that are forced to start a third-string quarterback late in the season aren’t supposed to win a national championship.

And yet, Ohio State overcame all of that adversity and then some, and still somehow found itself on the championship podium following a 42-20 vanquishing of second-ranked Oregon – installed by the oddsmakers as a seven-point favorite – following the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship.

Throughout this magical season, I have often been asked to put the title chase into some kind of historical perspective, and I’m not sure I can.

National championship seasons are so unique to themselves that each is extraordinary in its own way. That is especially true at Ohio State, where most of its titles are ancient history to many of today’s fans. Championships won in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s helped shape the program but were accomplished so long ago that it makes the recent titles much more special.

And still it’s difficult to compare the 2002 and 2014 teams of destiny.

The 2002 national championship run was such a wild ride with all of its close games and fantastic finishes, but that team of Buckeyes didn’t experience the kind of gut punches as this year’s squad. Imagine, if you can, that championship team of a dozen years ago losing Craig Krenzel just before the season and then backup QB Scott McMullen early in the fourth quarter of the Michigan game. It is exceedingly doubtful that Ohio State could have handled defending national champion Miami (Fla.) in the BCS title game much less beat the Hurricanes in double overtime.

I know there are teams that have ridden backup quarterbacks to championships, but I know of no team that has placed its fate in the hands of a third-stringer under center and even come within a whiff of winning a title.

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What Cardale Jones was able to do by leading the Buckeyes to victories against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon was nothing short of remarkable. But the fact that he was even in position to excel must be credited to Urban Meyer and his coaching staff.

When Meyer was hired at Ohio State shortly after the end of the disastrous 2011 season, no one could have known he would bring a national championship to the school just three years later.

Think about it for a second. Where the program was the day Meyer was introduced as the new head coach and where the program is today can’t be measured in conventional terms. The Buckeyes were mired in the wake of an NCAA investigation that had cost former head coach Jim Tressel his job and led to a 6-7 season, the most losses the team had experienced in one season in more than a century.

Some programs take years, even decades, to return to elite status following those kinds of tribulations. But Meyer responded with a perfect season during his first year, a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game in his second, and a national championship in his third.

What can he possibly do for an encore? Placing the bar of excellence incredibly high is sometimes a difficult cross to bear. After winning the national title in only his second season in Columbus, Tressel led his team to two more title-game appearances but was never again able to raise the championship trophy.

But the feeling seems different this time. Although this season was so special because of all the mountains Ohio State had to climb, you get the idea that Meyer expects his team to contend for the championship next year and the year after that and the year after that. Beaming as he basked in the championship glow, the coach suggested how sweet it would be to make a return trip to next year’s title game. That theme continued throughout the postgame comments from players and coaches inside the OSU locker room.

And why not? With a loaded roster that returns the likes of Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, Jalin Marshall, Mike Thomas, four-fifths of the offensive line, eight defensive starters, both kicking specialists and perhaps three star quarterbacks, why wouldn’t Ohio State be favored to defend its national championship at next year’s title game?

Of course, back-to-back undisputed national championships have been accomplished only twice in the last 35 seasons, and the Buckeyes have never in their long history won two in a row. Then again, Meyer seems to specialize in doing the impossible.

  • Show your support for the champs—stock up on Bucks gear by clicking here!

  • Show your support for the champs—stock up on Bucks gear by clicking here!

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