Ohio State won the battle but lost the war.
The Buckeyes beat Wisconsin to win the Big Ten title Saturday night in Indianapolis, prompting coach Urban Meyer to declare that his team deserved “a shot” to win the national title.
The College Football Playoff selection committee came back Sunday and replied: No shot.
And you know what?
The committee got it right.
Ohio State lost its argument Nov. 4, when it got crushed by Iowa 55-24 at Kinnick Stadium. The stench from that loss, termed “damaging” Sunday by CFP committee chairman Kirby Hocutt, never went away.
Iowa made it worse by losing its next two games, including a home defeat to 6-6 Purdue.
In previous years, the committee made it clear that impressive victories could trump ugly defeats. In 2014, Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech at home by 14 but got the No. 4 seed after throttling Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten title game.
But this Buckeyes team had two losses and didn’t look all that impressive in beating Wisconsin 27-21 on Saturday. J.T. Barrett missed open receivers. The Buckeyes scored just six points in the second half. The victory was not in hand until 69 seconds remained.
The committee believed Alabama, with its only loss on the road to Auburn, was both better and more deserving than Ohio State.
Agreed … and agreed.
Penn State also made a New Year’s Six bowl. The ninth-ranked Nittany Lions will face No. 11 Washington in the Fiesta Bowl.
Ohio State won the national title in 2014, riding quarterback Cardale Jones’ hot hand in the first year of the CFP. But the Big Ten got blanked in 2015 (Alabama 38, Michigan State 0) and 2016 (Clemson 31, Ohio State 0).
After getting shut out twice, the Big Ten got shut out of the playoff entirely. No points for three straight seasons.
Those who played in the Saturday night tussle at Lucas Oil Stadium thought Ohio State was worthy of the top four.
“They’re athletic, big, physical, well-coached … a great football team,” Wisconsin left tackle Michael Deiter said.
Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard said: “I think we played exceptional. Kept (Wisconsin) under 60 yards rushing; that’s unheard of.”
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany was among those lobbying for Ohio State, telling the Tribune before kickoff Saturday: “I feel we can make an argument that we’re the strongest conference. We had the most FBS wins; we had the fewest FCS games. We challenged ourselves in every way. I think our efforts to play more conference games, to schedule up to a reasonable degree, to reduce the number of mismatches should serve us well.”
Delany also hoped that Ohio State, as a conference champion, would get the nod.
The only strange part of the decision is that Hocutt had said Tuesday there was “very little separation between teams five through eight.”
Alabama was No. 5. Ohio State was eighth.
The Buckeyes beat undefeated Wisconsin four days later while Alabama was idle. Yet Hocutt said Sunday the committee determined Alabama was “unequivocally better” than Ohio State.
Perhaps Alabama’s advocates on the committee simply asked: Do you really think the Crimson Tide would give up 55 points to anyone?