The College Football Playoff has been here since the 2014 season and will be transforming from a four-team field to a 12-team field just in time for the 2024 season.
But for now, it is still four teams and the Buckeyes have been a near fixture in the field over the run of this mini-tournament for the National Championship of college football.
This will mark Ohio State’s fifth appearance in the event, only trailing Alabama, and Clemson with neither of those schools making the field this season.
Georgia will be making its third appearance in the CFP field after winning it all just last season.
It should come as no surprise that the SEC has been in every single College Football Playoff field with two teams making it on two separate occasions.
This season will be the first year where a conference outside of the SEC sends multiple representatives with the Big Ten sending both Ohio State and Michigan.
Only one of the four teams is going to have exclusively great memories of how the event plays out with three teams assured of losing their final game of the year, but that doesn’t mean there are not a few high points along the way (outside of a certain Fiesta Bowl for Ohio State), so let’s relive Ohio State’s CFP history in short form.
How many people really remember this year for the Alabama game?
Not many because it was the year that Ohio State finally exacted a little revenge on Clemson in the CFP after three previous misses.
This game was one of the finest moments of Justin Fields’ career as he would throw for 385 yards and six touchdowns with several coming after a vicious targeting hit by Clemson linebacker James Skalski.
Ohio State and Clemson would be deadlocked in a 14-all tie before the Buckeyes would run off 35 of the next 42 points scored in the game en route to a 49-28 win and a trip to the CFP Championship Game against Bama.
As much as everything went right in the Clemson game would be a 180 in the Alabama game as COVID absences would mount with 14 players out for the game including Tyreke Smith, Tommy Togiai, Blake Haubeil and Miyan Williams.
The absence of Williams would be felt as starting running back Trey Sermon would get injured on the first offensive series of the game and the Buckeyes would have to rely on an injured Fields (from the previous game) along with Master Teague and Marcus Crowley to run the ball.
Fields would struggle in this game with his rib injury, just completing 17 of 33 attempts and throwing for just one touchdown while Alabama was able to have its way with the Ohio State defense to the tune of a 52-24 rout in the championship game.
But as we said earlier, a poll of Ohio State football fans about the 2020 postseason would almost unanimously bring up the win over Clemson will before the loss against Bama.
This one still hurts Ohio State fans down to their core. Woulda, coulda, shoulda but when the time ticked off the clock, Ohio State was on the short end of a 29-23 decision to Clemson in a game where Ohio State outplayed the Tigers for much of the game.
The Buckeyes would take a 16-0 lead but there were three field goals in that 16 points and a 28-0 lead would have put this game on ice, but Ohio State couldn’t punch it in while in the red zone with FGs of 21, 22 and 33 yards.
Even with all of that, the Buckeyes were cruising until Shaun Wade was ejected on a controversial targeting call as he dropped Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence on what appeared at first to be just a routine sack.
Wade was lost for the game with the targeting call and the Buckeyes would have to adjust on the fly.
Clemson would score the next 21 points to take a five-point lead, but it appeared Ohio State’s defense would save the day when Lawrence found Justyn Ross for what appeared to be a completion as Jeff Okudah would dislodge the ball and Jordan Fuller was there to scoop up the loose ball and take it on for a touchdown, seemingly giving Ohio State a 22-21 lead at the time.
SEC officials disagreed that it was ever a completed catch and while every Ohio State fan on the planet disagreed with that assessment, the only one that mattered was wearing black and white on that evening.
Ohio State would hold a slim 23-21 lead going into the closing minutes of the game and Trevor Lawrence was not going to give this one up without a fight, finding Travis Etienne on a 34-yard touchdown pass in the final two minutes.
First-year Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields had a comeback in him, and it appeared that the Buckeyes were on the march, getting to the Clemson 23-yard-line late in the game.
It just wasn’t meant to be as there was a miscommunication between Fields and Chris Olave that led to a Nolan Turner interception as Olave broke off the route and the Buckeyes were left without any more chances in this one, a difficult and controversial loss to end the playoff run and a shot at former Ohio State quarterback Joe Burrow in the championship game.
There really is nothing nice to say here, so let’s keep it brief.
Ohio State had 215 yards of total offense as JT Barrett threw for only 127 yards and two picks while the rushing game never got it in gear, Barrett was held to negative rushing yards as Curtis Samuel was the lone bright spot in the offense with 110 yards of combined offense (rushing/receiving).
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson was not overly sharp with two picks of his own, but he did find the end zone, more than can be said about Ohio State’s offense, with one passing and two rushing touchdowns in Clemson’s 31-0 throttling of the Buckeyes.
Ohio State fans will be quick to point out losses against Purdue and Iowa during the regular season under Urban Meyer as “the game that hurt the most” but this Fiesta Bowl loss was the biggest cluster of the Meyer-era with the Buckeyes as absolutely nothing worked.
Credit to the defense, which actually played well in the first half despite giving up 17 points, it is hard to remember as many fans have blocked this game out of their memories, but it really didn’t feel like all hope was lost until the second half when the dam burst, and everything fell apart.
It would be easy to write 2,000 words about this season but let’s try and keep it brief.
Ohio State was on the outside looking in, facing a Big Ten Championship Game with its third string quarterback after JT Barrett went down in the Michigan game.
Not in the field, a game against an unbeaten Wisconsin team with a player who only had notoriety for his social media presence more than his football ability, what could go wrong?
Well, Ohio State made the field after a 59-0 win over Wisconsin, making both TCU and Baylor sad as the Buckeyes jumped both to make the field.
Ohio State’s reward? A game against world-beater and No. 1 seeded Alabama, in New Orleans no less.
It was a strange star to that game because Ohio State found itself down 21-6 but there were few people around who felt that Alabama was outplaying Ohio State. The Buckeyes couldn’t find the endzone, until they could.
The Buckeyes would run off the next 28 points, Evan Spencer would find Michael Thomas on one of the most memorable passes in Ohio State history, the Buckeyes would be up 34-21 late in the third and would be cruising.
Bama does not give up that easy. Quarterback Blake Sims would scamper in from five yard out and close the margin to just six points.
Then Zeke Elliott would make his presence known with an 85-yard run that will live on longer than any of us, giving Ohio State a two-score lead with three-plus minutes left in the game.
Bama would scrap back with one more score, the Buckeyes would try and go for the dagger with a vertical route that would come up empty, giving Bama the ball one more time until Tyvis Powell intercepted Sims with time expiring and the SEC curse for the Buckeyes in the postseason would finally come to an end.
Fast forward to the championship game with Oregon, aka the Zeke Elliott game as the Ohio State running back would have four touchdowns in Ohio State’s win.
After Oregon scored on its first possession, the Buckeyes would score the next 21 to be up 21-7 late in the second quarter.
That did not stop the Ducks from mounting a valiant comeback, getting within a point midway through the third quarter. But then Elliott would score three touchdowns including one with just 30 seconds left in the game to chants of “Zeke” at AT&T Stadium (oddly enough, where Zeke now plays in the NFL) capping off the championship run and giving Ohio State its first (and only to this point) National Championship of the CFP-era.