GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ohio State made it to the College Football Playoff without winning the Big Ten championship, and on Saturday night did very little to show it deserved to be there.
The Buckeyes’ 31-0 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl ranks as the most celebrated pratfall in a big game for one of college football’s most prestigious programs in many, many years.
Ohio State (11-2), which entered the game a slight favorite over the ACC champion Tigers, was shut out for the first time in 23 years as Clemson marched into a rematch with Alabama for the national championship.
The Buckeyes’ Urban Meyer was shut out for the first time in his illustrious head coaching career.
“Ohio State is not used to this. I am not used to this,” a somber Meyer said. “That’s not going to happen again. So we’ll get things worked out.”
Meyer said it was frustrating that this was the same team that went to Oklahoma and won, went to Wisconsin and won and beat Michigan in two overtimes.
“And we got beat (on Saturday),” Meyer said. “So we’re going to move on quickly, and my respect for the football player, our team has not changed. Identify things that have to get better, and we will. That’s what we do.”
There were questions about why Ohio State ran the ball only eight times in the first half (for 11 yards) and passed 19 times (completing 12 for 80 yards).
“That was not our game plan at all,” Meyer said. “I think we kind of got taken out of the game plan a little bit. But no, that was our plan, to be balanced. We didn’t follow it.”
An Ohio State offense that averaged 479.5 yards per game managed just 215. The Buckeyes’ ground game, ranked ninth nationally (258 yards per game), struggled to get 88 — and 64 came on All-American Curtis Samuel’s run to the Clemson 16 early in the fourth quarter.
It was the deepest penetration for the Buckeyes into Tigers’ territory all night.
Overall, Clemson gained 470 yards to Ohio State’s 208. The Buckeyes had a season-low seven first downs in an ugly performance that left the Buckeyes’ fans, who vastly outnumbered their Tigers counterparts in the crowd of 71,279, in stunned silence after they were so boisterous at the start.