ARLINGTON, Texas — In the second quarter Monday night, a TV camera caught an Ohio State fan and his homemade sign and flashed it on those Rhode Island-sized video screens here in AT&T Stadium:
“While you play dress up, we play football”
OK, kind of a Neanderthal statement. But when it came to the way the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship Game played out, it was certainly a telling piece of snarkiness.
Oregon is all high-tech flash and dash. Cutting edge uniforms in 50 shades of whatever that may actually change colors during the game. An offense that runs faster than your computer’s microprocessor. All wrapped up in a trendy West Coast address that is only a couple of fly patterns away from Phil Knight’s bank account.
Ohio State looks as stodgy as a Studebaker with its run-oriented offense and its Script Ohio band formations. Heck, even the uniforms Knight’s Nike designers drew up for the Buckeyes to wear in the title game were a throwback to the ones Ohio State’s 1968 national champions wore. This team is all white short-sleeved dress shirts and thin black ties and wing-tip shoes.
Oh, Ohio, how Woody Hayes would have loved this bunch. Solid as an armored truck. Relentless as a steam roller.
Hot funk? Cool punk? Keep it. The old junk is still classic. And it rocks.
For all the 21st century offensive wizardry that has taken over college football like an unchecked virus, it is still at its core a basically simple game: You block, you tackle, and often you run, better than the other guy, you win.
It’s an outcome that even native Ohioan and avowed Buckeyes hater Les Miles could grudgingly appreciate.
Ohio State won its eighth national championship pretty much the way it won the first seven. Oregon’s Ducks tried to fly by Ohio State and its quarterback, Cardale “12 Gauge” Jones, and, well, you saw the rest.
The Ducks’ dynasty will have to wait. The Buckeyes are No. 1 once again, this by a 42-20 score.
“The chase,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said, “is complete.
The College Football Playoff certainly worked. Under the BCS system, Ohio State wouldn’t have been in the title game. But the Buckeyes earned their place with an amazing run: throttling Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship Game, upsetting Alabama 42-35 in the Sugar Bowl and now this.
“This is a heck of a football team in scarlet and gray,” Meyer said. “I want to celebrate with the guys I love.”
Amazing enough that the No. 4 seed won. But that it did so with Jones, the third-stringer, the player no one outside of Ohio had heard of before the Big Ten title rout, it’s beyond description.
Just the Bucks bucking another trend. Sometimes you can’t escape your destiny even if you try, even if the odds seem insurmountable.
Sometimes, the U.S. hockey team beats the Soviets.
One would be tempted to label the Buckeyes a Cinderella if they weren’t so danged overpowering.
Cinderella wore glass slippers. The Buckeyes were steel-toed work boots.
The better to trample your dreams with, my dear.
You know that “This is SportsCenter” spot where Cam Newton is piling up the awards on his desk though he’s only been “working” at ESPN less than a week? That could be Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott.
He said the Sugar Bowl’s Miller-Digby MVP award was occupying some counter space in his kitchen. He may one day have to make room for a Heisman Trophy. He definitely now will be toting home the CFP title game MVP trophy.
Jones may grab the headlines, and rightly so, but Ezekiel’s wheels are what have driven the Buckeyes to this championship. Did anyone in college football ever have three bigger games on three bigger stages than Elliott? He rushed for 220 yards in the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin, 230 yards in the Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama and capped that with 246 yards against Oregon.
Good. Better. Best.
“He gets 15 yards like you’re tying your shoe,” ESPN Radio’s Mike Tirico said. “It’s so easy.”
Ohio State dominated both lines of scrimmage. It was like a battering ram on offense, then Oregon had to deal with Elliott and the 250-pound Jones. It harassed Heisman winner Marcus Mariota all night. He’ll see Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa in his nightmares.
Before we go, let’s take a moment — a quick moment — to talk about the breathtaking speed of the Oregon offense.
I was at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics to watch the men’s 100-meter dash. That seemed to take more time than the Ducks take between plays. I also watched Oregon run its quicksilver offense against LSU here in the 2011 season opener. That offense looked like a slow-motion jaunt by Jim Taylor from the NFL Films vault compared to this.
They say Oregon ran a play on average every 21.7 seconds this season. It looked faster than that here, at least at times. Oregon’s offense looks fast on TV, but in person it’s a surreal experience. It’s like you’re watching a video being played with the fast forward button mashed down, except it’s something actually happening on the field right in front of you.
But you know what athletes say: When things are going good, everything looks like it slows down.
That’s what the game must have looked like to Ohio State. And slowly, inexorably, the first CFP trophy fell into the Buckeyes’ grasp.