Ohio State's still not the undisputed champ, even after Urban Meyer elbows aside Nick Saban
Before a blizzard of confetti rains down on Jerry World, Urban Meyer goes to his knees. His Ohio State team's scored again to go up 42-20 in the final minute, cementing a national championship for a disputed fourth seed, and Meyer needs a moment.
So he hits the AT&T Stadium turf and takes one for himself.
In mere minutes, the Ohio State coach will be skipping down the sideline, unsuccessfully trying to semi evade a Gatorade shower, and LeBron James will be on the field, wrapping up Buckeyes quarterback Cardale Jones in a bear hug. Everyone will be pulling at Meyer and the Buckeyes now. This is a time when truths get lost, buried in confetti, backslapping and the super hype of the first College Football Playoff national championship game.
Winning the CFP playing a third-string quarterback, after squeezing in as the fourth and final seed over TCU and Baylor, is the greatest run in college football history.
But one thing's clear: Urban Meyer is the best coach in college football. Hands down.
Whether Ohio State is truly the Undisputed National Champion that this playoff was created to determine is still in some doubt. (TCU would rightly dispute what's blaring on those souvenir hats and T-shirts worn by the Buckeyes.) Whether Ohio State rose to the moment or Oregon shrunk under it is another legitimate debate.
But there's no dismissing what Meyer's pulled off. Winning the College Football Playoff in dominant fashion playing a third-string quarterback, after squeezing into the field as the fourth and final seed over TCU and Baylor, is the greatest run in college football history. That's why Meyer vaults over Nick Saban as the best coach in his sport. Sure, Alabama's head man still leads Meyer four to three in total national championships won.
But Saban's never won it all as this type of underdog. Saban's never had a run like this. No one has. Saban's never won it all under such extreme circumstances. No one has.
"This is one of the great stories in college football history," Meyer says afterward.
In terms of coaching jobs, it's unprecedented. To watch your team commit four turnovers in a title game and still win by 22 is astounding. And that's just the exclamation point.
North Texas, college football and the 85,689 fans in AT&T Stadium deserve a better game, but Ohio State's so overpowering that the Ducks Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota could be excused for thinking the Buckeyes somehow have 12 defenders on the field.
In terms of coaching jobs, it's unprecedented. To watch your team commit four turnovers in a title game and still win by 22 is astounding.
Mariota throws for 333 yards, but he never comes close to touching that sleek new title trophy. Finishing 22 points below your season scoring average has a way of puncturing balloons.
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich calls his quarterback a one-name superstar equivalent to "Cher or Madonna" in the Pacific Northwest in his own postgame press conference, but Helfrich's references aren't the only thing that need updating. For the second time in five years, Oregon's fast break frenzy is exposed for not being tough or physical enough on college football's grandest stage.
Or maybe the Ducks just don't have a coach as good as Meyer. No one does. Not even Alabama.
Cardale Jones jumps out
To turn Jones, the third-stringer who long tormented the Ohio State coaching staff as something of a head case, into a unique, legitimate weapon rather than falling into the trap of limiting him to timid stopgap duties, stands out as a stroke of brilliance. And there's Jones completing 70 percent of his passes in a championship game, living the dream of many a Cleveland kid with that LeBron embrace.
"Way to do it for the hometown," James tells Jones as other Ohio State players drop to the turf to do confetti angels. Buckeyes tailback Ezekiel Elliott actually grabs a gob of the stuff and starts munching on it. When you rip off 220, 230 and 246 yard rushing performances in back-to-back-to-back games — each one bigger than the last — eating confetti offers little challenge.
"Shout out to the slobs!" Elliott screams later, acknowledging Ohio State's dominant offensive line in a trophy ceremony that's so big that two separate stages are hauled out onto the field.
Jerry World is at least 75 percent Ohio State fans — with red (er, scarlet) and gray everywhere — on this Monday night. If you're wondering who spent $300-plus to sit in the top few rows of the stadium, and more than two grand for a good seat, introduce yourself to Buckeye Nation.
This idea that the Ohio State Urban Meyer is a much calmer version of the Florida Urban Meyer rings false.
Some of the attempts to build this first College Football Playoff national championship game up into something that's on the same level as the Super Bowl are near comical (despite ESPN's frenzied 24-7 salesmanship and near temporary complete move of operations from Bristol, Connecticut, to North Texas). It's hard to tout this as the game of all games when everyone in the area you're playing the game in is obsessing over the controversial ending to an NFL playoff game the day before instead.
But there's no doubt this is everything to the Midwestern pilgrims who turn Arlington into South Columbus.
The Ducks cannot stop Jones, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound quarterback. They cannot stop Elliott, who racks up 200-yard rushing games with the nonchalance of a mall stroller. Oregon never comes close to overwhelming Ohio State with speed. Instead, the Buckeyes muscle right through Helfrich's team.
A lot of this can be traced straight to Meyer, the coach who is so crazed with intensity that he needed to step away from college football twice to save his health. This storyline that the Ohio State Urban Meyer is a much calmer version of the Florida Urban Meyer rings false though.
Listen to Meyer scream at his team about failure being easy, and it's clear he is anything but a muted maniac. He will forever be in Mariota's nightmares now.
"It hurts," the Heisman winner says faced with 42-20. "You put so much work and effort into the year ..."
No one puts as much into it as Meyer. The coach pushes Ohio State to three straight dominant wins as the underdog to close the season — Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, Alabama and Saban in the semifinals and Oregon in this first College Football Playoff finale. He rolls right over Saban as the best in the game today in the process.
Now that's something worthy of an undisputed T-shirt.