Every season of college football has its own story. For as much as we hear about the various narratives in the game, it can sometimes be easy to forget that each season can tell its own story while straying from what we are led to believe is the script. In fact, there is no script in sports, and this year college football reminded many of that.
Ohio State celebrated its eighth national championship Monday night in Arlington, Texas, victorious over the Pac-12 champion Oregon Ducks in the first College Football Playoff national championship game of the new postseason structure. The popular and trendy move to do back in the middle of September was to write Ohio State off as a national contender. At the time many were simply looking for an excuse to forget about the Buckeyes, and Virginia Tech served it up on a silver platter with a victory in Columbus against an Ohio State team that had lost the best player in the Big Ten the previous two seasons and was fielding an offense with an inexperienced quarterback and a young running back and seemingly hoping for the best. At the time, it was fair to suggest this Ohio State team might not have what it took to compete for a national championship. As time would prove, no team educated the college football world on how important it is to allow a season to breathe and play out on the field, especially with 10 games to play in the regular season.
That is the biggest takeaway I would recommend we all take for the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes. In the old era of college football with the Bowl Championship Series in place the Buckeyes likely would have had a very difficult time working back into the national championship picture. Had the BCS been in place, we would have seen Alabama and Florida State do battle for the national championship. But the College Football Playoff has changed the way things work in college football. An early loss in September may still come back to haunt a team, but it does not eliminate any team from thinking it can have a chance to do something special.
I get it. We live in a sports world where instant reactions are shoved down our throats and instant opinions established without much thought must be to one extreme or the other. I have been a part of it to some level, of course, but I have always felt uncomfortable with it. The constant “Who’s In?” debates that were jammed shoveled on top of us each week were nauseating from the start. But it was new and exciting, so we dealt with it. Here’s to hoping the 2015 year in sports coverage and consumption allows us all to grow as a sports community with the understanding we cannot waste time operating in such a fashion. In the end, it just looks silly.
Putting Ohio State’s 2014 season into perspective will be difficult for a while. So much happened as the team grew on a weekly basis. Without Braxton Miller, I was one of the many who felt Ohio State’s national title hopes were dealt a serious blow, but then J.T. Barrett got comfortable and blossomed into one of the top young quarterbacks in the country. When he went down in the regular season finale against Michigan, I once again stepped back from placing Ohio State in my playoff projection. But this was just the beginning of running back Ezekiel Elliott stepping up for the Buckeyes in incredible fashion, rushing for over 200 yards against Wisconsin to help power Ohio State to a Big Ten championship. Proving it to be no fluke, Elliott was pivotal in pushing Ohio State past Alabama with another 200-yard game and he did it once more against Oregon to help wrap up the national championship.
Just when you think you know what is going to happen, Ezekiel Elliott rushes for 200 yards and rewrites the script. As Chris Fowler said as Elliott crossed the goal line for the fourth time against Oregon, he then dots the “I” for good measure.
You cannot script college football. It needs a chance to be played out on the field. What happened in 2014 is not directly tied to what happened in 2013 or 2010 or 2004 or 1975. Every season is unique. Every season has its own story.
The 2015 season will be no different.
Related: The Student Section takes a look at five lessons to be learned from the first year of the College Football Playoff.