Ray Stein’s observations about Saturday's game:
The game at hand
• Short-attention-span synopsis: Big stage, not-so-big win. Dwayne Haskins Jr. never fails to impress, but can the kid earn a Heisman invite? Well, at least the turf held up this year.
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• Pregame buzz: The path to College Football Playoff glory traveled these very steps four years ago, with one big difference. Then as now, Ohio State’s hidden roadblock to a playoff spot was a one-loss Big 12 team. Back then, TCU played and beat a two-win Iowa State team on championship Saturday. The Big 12 has since wised up, and it now holds a title game. And no matter how you slice it, Oklahoma’s win over Texas on Saturday looks better than anything the Buckeyes could have done to Northwestern, up to and including 59-0. And that sort of domination was off the table early.
• Worth the trip? Say this much for Buckeye Nation: Those who listened to Oklahoma beat Texas on the westward ho drive over from Ohio were not dissuaded by the news. OSU fans showed up in force — not enough to fill Lucas Oil Stadium, but surely enough to provide the Buckeyes a home-field advantage at a neutral-site game. Just like at home, though, the patrons were made to sweat through the details.
• Spread the wealth? Coming off a destructive hammering of Michigan as an underdog, Ohio State figured to be a prohibitive favorite against a Northwestern team that was long on pluck, short on skill. But the Wildcats haven’t played a game this season decided by more than 14 points — coincidentally the exact margin the Buckeyes were favored by. OSU was up 17 at the half, saw its lead shaved to three but pulled away to cover the spread.
• This week in vanity plates: ITS ROSY
• How the team sees it: Just give us a chance. We play in the best division of the best conference in the country, provided you ignore Rutgers, Indiana and Michigan State’s offense.
• How the playoff committee will see it: You’re a fine vehicle, and most years we’d be thrilled to take you on a test drive, but when we checked the Carfax it showed this buggy was in a wreck in West Lafayette in October.
• How Buckeye Nation sees it: It looks like Alabama is going to luck out and avoid us in the playoff again.
• What he said: “All you have to do is look at the body of work.”
• What it means: “Man, some parts of that body could still use a lot of work.”
They said it
• Your turn/the channel: As far as Ohio State is concerned, it’s too bad Gus Johnson and the Fox team aren’t on the playoff committee. Johnson is never afraid to show his love for anything, but his apparent affinity for the Buckeyes makes one wonder whether he should change his name to Gush Johnson. At least a few viewers, however, were puzzled by his decision to describe the game as a “South Side Chicago street fight.”
Numbers for dummies
37: Big Ten titles (or co-titles) for Ohio State
4: Appearances for Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game, one behind leader Wisconsin
7: Teams that have yet to qualify for the Big Ten title game, including some traditional pretenders (Rutgers, Indiana) and one contender (Michigan).
543.9: OSU’s total-offense average entering Saturday’s game
607: OSU’s end-of-game yardage total
160: Total yards, on 27 plays, for Northwestern in the first half
3.2: Not counting John Moten IV’s 77-yard touchdown run, the average yard per play for the Wildcats in the first half
As consolation prizes go, things can always be worse than Pasadena. Assuming the playoff committee follows the logic it took into the weekend — when one-loss Oklahoma was ranked ahead of one-loss Ohio State — it looks like the Buckeyes are destined for a Rose Bowl date with Washington. Traditionalists will love it — the Big Ten champion against the Pac-12 champion at 5 p.m. Eastern on New Year’s Day. Granddaddy! The playoff-or-bust crowd will find it a more bitter pill.
Best responses to the game on Twitter:
@gghi2018: Can the band go to the CFB playoff?
@jayzohio: Well, Texas had 4 losses. Wait … damn you, Northwestern
@NateOrsini: Self inflicted wounds have plagued the Buckeyes all season. So many shots to the foot they’re just shooting the ground now. There’s no feet left.
@rudybux: Remember the first half? Yeah that was fun.
@RTinDC: Breaking: Coach Meyer apparently read Goodnight Moon over halftime break
@Scarletjersey: Next weekend. I’ll have no more pain.
@PackFan424: Purdue is trending on Twitter because of the 4 TD beatdown they gave the Buckeyes
@TsunamiTommy13: Even with binoculars, we can’t find Jim Harbaugh here.
@BustingLuce: This defense is why we can’t have nice things
@plhoopscoach1: There is only one team that has beaten a team that the committee has ranked ahead of them in the last four weeks #Buckeyes
Was it good enough?
Probably not, but Haskins
Makes it compelling