No seat for Buckeyes at playoff table; Rose awaits

Bill Rabinowitz
Safety Brendon White, left, and linebacker Malik Harrison combine to stop Northwestern receiver Charlie Fessler in Saturday's Big Ten championship game. An inconsistent defense was one reason Ohio State failed to make the College Football Playoff. [Joshua A. Bickel]

Urban Meyer sat in what he hoped was a new lucky chair as he watched the College Football Playoff selection on Sunday, but in his head he already knew better.

His Ohio State Buckeyes would not be picked as one of the four teams with a chance to win a national championship. Instead, No. 6 Ohio State will play No. 9 and Pac-12 champion Washington in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.

“I sat in a different chair this morning,” Meyer said. “I sat in the same one in ’14 and ’16 (when OSU made the playoff), and then I sat in the same one in ’17, and it didn't work. So I moved, and it didn’t work. I’ve got to find a new chair, I guess.”

As Meyer knows, the chair wasn’t the problem. Purdue was. The Buckeyes’ inconsistency — even in most victories — was. The lack of help from other teams around the country against top contenders was.

Ohio State’s best chance to make the playoff would have been if Texas, which led early against Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, had pulled the upset.

“When I saw Oklahoma win over a very good team, I thought, ‘It’s going to be hard to jump them,’ ” Meyer said.

It would have taken something like the Buckeyes’ 59-0 demolition of Wisconsin in the 2014 Big Ten championship for Ohio State to have had any chance.

“It crosses your mind, but the team we played doesn’t really let you do that,” Meyer said of Northwestern, which Ohio State defeated 45-24 in Indianapolis.

Northwestern plays ball-control offense and a zone defense that tries to limit big plays.

Ohio State (12-1) has now been left out of the playoff for the second straight year despite winning the league title.

“I actually thought we were in last year,” he said. “I didn't really think that this year. I had hoped, but I really thought we were going to go to the playoff last year.”

Meyer said he was surprised that two-loss Georgia was ranked ahead of Ohio State. The Bulldogs lost to top-ranked Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game after twice leading by 14 points.

“Georgia was ranked No. 5 because of their wins against highly ranked teams, their impressive performance against Alabama in the conference championship game and because of how balanced a team they are,” CFP selection committee chairman Rob Mullens said.

But Georgia’s best victories were against No. 10 Florida and No. 14 Kentucky. Ohio State’s were against No. 7 Michigan and No. 12 Penn State.

If Ohio State hadn’t lost by 29 to Purdue or dominated other teams on their schedule the way many expected, the Buckeyes would have had a stronger case. Mullens cited Ohio State’s inconsistency as a factor in its failure to make the top four.

Meyer declined to question the selection committee’s rankings.

“The thing you can’t do is stand up here in front of a microphone and start criticizing the committee,” he said. “First of all, that devalues what our team just did, and it certainly devalues the opportunity to go represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl. So that conversation is going to be quick and move on.”

When Meyer was growing up, a trip to the Rose Bowl was the pinnacle for a Big Ten team. Now it is a consolation prize, albeit quite a nice one. Meyer has never coached in a Rose Bowl.

“I dreamt of it,” he said. “We came close a few times. No disrespect to the other bowl games, because they’re awesome, but the Rose is the one we’ve always looked forward to.”


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