This was a win the Buckeyes needed. As much to keep their championship hopes alive as to re-establish their place in the college football hierarchy.
Since Ohio State won their last national title in 2014 and failed to repeat in 2015 and then failed to score in 2016, an established top two of Alabama and Clemson has taken root in college football.
Ohio State has been no slouch in that stretch as the No. 3 program in the nation, but had they lost to Clemson Friday night in the Sugar Bowl, the perception between the top two and everyone else would have been much greater.
With the win, however, the perception has been changed. And if people want to look back at last year’s game between Ohio State and Clemson, they’ll find a Buckeye squad that was clearly the better team, no matter what the replay officials had to say.
It’s no wonder that Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney wanted nothing to do with the Buckeyes being in the playoffs
For Ohio State, this is just about up there with a national title win. If you think this win was cathartic for the fans, you can only imagine what it meant for the Buckeyes and head coach Ryan Day.
They left the field last year having lost to Clemson while knowing without a doubt that they were the better team. The pain of that game never left. Instead it was turned into motivation. And Friday night, the loss a year ago turned into jet fuel for the Buckeyes as they flew past the Tigers and left them gulping in the contrails.
This time around, it was a very happy Buckeye team that left the field. One that had now accomplished two of its main goals coming into the season. There is still more to come, but the sweetness of this victory will hang on the palate a little while longer.
“Well, coming into this game — after last year, we wanted to come back and have an opportunity to play in the CFP and then go on to have a chance to win the national championship. And that’s where we’re at right now,” Day said.
“Because of the way it all played out, because it was Clemson, just like we played them last year, I think that had a lot of added flavor to it. And a lot of guys left that field feeling like they let one get away. In life you don’t typically get an opportunity to get a second chance, but you can’t miss the second time. So I don’t know what we’re more excited about, the fact that we have a chance to play for a national championship or the fact that we avenged that loss. But we’re going to enjoy it tonight, have a great champions meeting, and move on from there.”
This game was personal for the Buckeyes. It was a constant reminder and a never ending mile marker. The irony being that the darkness last year’s game brought to the players and coaches actually provided a light as the program navigated its way through a college football season unlike any other before it.
A season with starts and stops, but the Buckeyes had a fixed destination in sight. There were course corrections throughout, but the path was always true.
On Friday night, the 2020 Ohio State Buckeyes showed the entire college football world that it doesn’t matter how many games you play, it’s how damn bad you want the one game that matters most.
“I think it’s huge. I think it’s huge,” Ryan Day said of the win. “We still have another game to play. This thing’s not done yet. But I do think this was big for us. This was a statement for us as a program to win a CFP game, especially after what happened last year. And to play the way we did, it means a lot for our program.
“But, again, we’re not done. We have a lot of work to do. Got to get on this film, figure out some things to adjust, because we got a really talented ‘Bama team that we got to go play.”