ARLINGTON, Texas — In the end, they fooled even their very last doubter. Long after their proud opponents had stopped gasping for life, the Ohio State Buckeyes seemingly were just getting started. Another 60 minutes next week, anyone?
But there’s nobody left for the Buckeyes to beat. They came. They saw. They owned this first College Football Playoff. In a championship game they entered as underdogs — for the third outing in a row — the Buckeyes played like the monsters they clearly are. Oregon, college football’s best program never to win it all, came to Texas to finally get off the schneid. It left a 42-20 loser in a game that was every bit as lopsided as the score indicated.
“The chase is complete,” said coach Urban Meyer. “These guys accepted their final mission and did it.”
This wasn’t about the Southeastern Conference missing out on a second straight season finale. It wasn’t about the who’s-who of teams — Alabama, Florida State, Baylor, TCU — that either lost in the semifinals or were kept out of the playoff altogether.
Rather, it was a coronation. Ohio State (14-1) beat Wisconsin 59-0 for the Big Ten title, stormed back from a sizable deficit to dominate Alabama in the semis and then, well, the capper. It was up there with some of the famous manhandlings of a bygone Bowl Championship Series era. Miami over Nebraska. Florida over Ohio State. Alabama over Notre Dame. This was of that devastating caliber, or very close to it.
It also felt like a beginning. The Buckeyes now are an almost mind-boggling 38-3 under Meyer. They have 13 consecutive victories since the September defeat against Virginia Tech at home that has dogged their reputation since. Until now, that is. Ohio State has its first national title — also the first for the Big Ten — since the 2002 season and is set up as strongly as the program has been in decades.
“We got to get back to work so we can come back again next year,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said on the podium at midfield after it was over.
The Buckeyes’ final victory was their most physically impressive, a beatdown of an elite opponent that all who watched will long remember. The offense churned out 538 yards, including a Buckeyes bowl-record 246 of them on the ground by brutish sophomore Elliott, who crossed the goal line four times. Elliott blew up into one of the best backs in the country down the stretch of the season, rushing for 696 yards and eight touchdowns over his final three games.
Ohio State’s defense held one of the best attacks in the sport to 13 points after Oregon (13-2) had scored seven on its opening possession. Ducks running back Thomas Tyner was stifled after a strong start. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota faded during the second half, unable to find a big play after his 70-yard touchdown strike to Byron Marshall gave the Ducks temporary life at 21-17.
Perhaps most impressive of all: The Buckeyes lost the turnover battle 4-1 yet won by three touchdowns anyway. That’s as unheard-of as anything in this season of firsts in college football.
It was the eighth national championship for Ohio State and the third for Meyer, who won two of them — one over the Buckeyes — while at Florida. He joined Nick Saban as the only FBS coach to win titles at different schools.
“We play football for a lot of reasons,” Meyer said. “We play for the great state of Ohio. We play for an incredible university. … Most important, we play for each other. This is one of the closest teams in football history.”