Big Ten

Elliott, Buckeyes play like champs in Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame


Elliott, Buckeyes play like champs in Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame

When Ohio State was voted the unanimous preseason No. 1 team in the country, it was because folks expected performances like the one the Buckeyes turned in Friday.

Obviously the season didn't go like many expected — the expectations were almost repeat as national champions or bust — but there the Buckeyes were on New Year's Day, putting a hurting on Notre Dame, a College Football Playoff caliber team, in a 44-28 Fiesta Bowl victory.

This season's big win on New Year's Day won't punch a ticket to the national championship game. But like last year's January efforts, the Buckeyes emerged looking like one of college football's best.

Ezekiel Elliott wrapped his collegiate career with a huge game, rushing for 149 yards and scoring four touchdowns. J.T. Barrett made it look like there never should have been a quarterback controversy, passing for 211 yards and a touchdown and rushing for an additional 96 yards. Ohio State finished with nearly 500 yards of total offense, including 285 on the ground.

Urban Meyer won his 50th game as Ohio State's head football coach and got the Gatorade bath. It didn't end with another national championship, but it was a still an ending to a season worth celebrating.

[MORE BIG TEN: Joey Bosa ejected for targeting in what is likely last game with Buckeyes]

Ohio State’s offense was explosive from the very start. The Buckeyes went 80 yards in nine plays, highlighted by a big 27-yard rush by Braxton Miller and capped by an Elliott scoring rush from three yards out.

The next drive saw the Buckeyes in the end zone in just four plays. Barrett completed a pass to Marcus Baugh for a 27-yard gain before hitting Michael Thomas for a 14-yard touchdown.

The game’s most controversial play came on the ensuing drive, as Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer threw an interception to Tyvis Powell. But the interception was negated when star defensive end Joey Bosa was flagged for targeting and ejected from the game, the final play of his Ohio State career, as he’s expected to declare for the NFL Draft.

Things slowed from there as the mood was obviously altered by Bosa’s ejection, and Notre Dame halved the Ohio State lead on a second-quarter touchdown rush by Josh Adams. Barrett and Elliott teamed for an answer, though, Barrett marching the Buckeyes into Irish territory before a 16-yard rush by Elliott, a nine-yard rush by Barrett and a 14-yard rush by Elliott, which set Ohio State up at the Notre Dame one-yard line. Elliott punched it in on the next play for his second touchdown run to give the Buckeyes a 21-7 lead.

After the Ohio State defense forced another three and out, a Barrett pass to Elliott went for 30 yards downfield, followed by a 15-yard Jalin Marshall rush to the three-yard line. Elliott again punched it in from a yard out for touchdown No. 3 to make it a 28-7 game.

Notre Dame responded with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a Kizer touchdown run to make it 28-14 right before halftime.

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Buckeyes gear right here]

Ohio State’s first drive of the third quarter ended in a Barrett interception, and Kizer turned it into a touchdown pass to Chris Brown to bring the Irish within a score at 28-21. But Elliott punched right back, going 47 yards just a few plays later to extend the Buckeyes’ lead to 35-21 with his fourth scoring run of the game.

Sean Nuernberger kicked a trio of fourth-quarter field goals, making sure that even an electrifying 81-yard touchdown catch and run by Notre Dame's Will Fuller didn't get the Irish any closer than 10.

It was a stellar day for Elliott, who has made it known that he'll declare for the NFL Draft. The same is known of Bosa, though he didn't get a similar ending, walking off the field for the final time as a student-athlete after not even a full quarter of play and making just three tackles.

The Buckeyes finished the season at 12-1, their only loss coming against Big Ten champion Michigan State, which was pounded Thursday night in the College Football Playoff semifinal against Alabama. Meyer is now 50-4 in four seasons as the head man in Columbus.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings


See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 12 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (10-1)

Still the team with the best resume in the country, no one can compete with OU’s wins over TCU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, the latter two coming away from Norman. Baker Mayfield might not be a choir boy, but he’s the best player in the nation.

2. Miami (10-0)

You might think that being down 28-14 to Virginia in the second half was cringe-worthy, but the Canes made up for things by storming back with 30 unanswered points. Now they finally have to go away from South Florida for the first time since almost losing to North Carolina last month.

3. Alabama (11-0)

Tide gonna roll. But this Cupcake Weekend in the SEC has got to stop. While teams in other conferences are slugging it out against rivals, Bama gets to take a day off against Mercer? It’s just not fair. Also, Bama’s schedule is so soft, there’s no way it deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country.

4. Georgia (10-1)

The Dawgs should wrap an 11-1 regular season this weekend against Georgia Tech. But the SEC title game presents a kind of no-win scenario: undefeated Alabama or Auburn, who throttled Georgia earlier this month.

5. Wisconsin (11-0)

You didn’t need Wisconsin to do what it did to Iowa and Michigan to prove it had one of the best defenses in the country — but that sure didn’t help. Stockpiling national love with those two wins, a win in the Big Ten title game figures to make the Badgers a Playoff lock.

6. Clemson (10-1)

Why’d Kelly Bryant have to go and get hurt for that Syracuse game? The Tigers would be No. 1 and the undisputed best team in the country. Still, though, a win over Miami in the ACC title game ought to get the champs back into the Playoff.

7. Auburn (9-2)

Great job pounding Louisiana-Monroe, Tigers. You shall not escape the wrath over Cupcake Weekend in the SEC. That dumb game aside, Auburn and Alabama will meet in a titanic Iron Bowl this weekend with a trip to the SEC title game on the line — and perhaps a Playoff spot, as well.

8. Ohio State (9-2)

Not that pummeling Illinois is any big deal, but the Buckeyes are still alive in this thing and look like a team capable of making some Playoff noise. First, Ohio State has to win The Game and then the Big Ten title game to knock out undefeated Wisconsin.

9. Notre Dame (9-2)

Out of the Playoff chase thanks to that loss at Miami, Notre Dame squeaked by Navy this past weekend. Hope a New Year’s Six bowl game is enough for the Irish. We know it’s not enough for those ND fans. So maybe join a conference? Just saying.

10. TCU (9-2)

The Frogs can still make their mark on the Playoff race, even if they can’t get in themselves. The Big 12 title game will almost surely be TCU’s attempt at revenge on Oklahoma. Unfortunately, if revenge does come, it will probably cannibalize the conference’s Playoff hopes, too.

11. Penn State (9-2)

Why Penn State gave up 44 points to Nebraska, I do not know. What I do know is that probably no one cared because Penn State is going to go down as the most inconsequential 10-2 team of all-time. Such a bummer considering the preseason expectations for both the team and Saquon Barkley.

12. USC (10-2)

Yeah, I guess there’s still a way for USC to make the Playoff, but it’s hard to imagine that madness unfolding, even in the oft-mad college football. The Trojans get the winner of the Apple Cup in the Pac-12 title game.

13. UCF (10-0)

Finally we get our much-anticipated UCF-USF showdown this weekend. Make it count, Knights. This is probably gonna be Scott Frost’s last regular-season game in Orlando.

14. Washington (9-2)

It’s hard to say who has the edge in the Apple Cup, but certainly the stakes are high, with the winner going off to play USC in the Pac-12 title game. Can either team make the Playoff? Well, probably not, no.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Is this it for Mike Leach on The Palouse? He could be a hot candidate this offseason and leave for perceived greener pastures. Winning the Apple Cup would go a long way toward making that happen.

16. Mississippi State (8-3)

A win in the Egg Bowl means a 9-3 regular season for the Bulldogs with their three losses coming against three top-10 teams.

17. Oklahoma State (8-3)

Poor Okie State has been so good all year and had two losses to the two best teams in its conference, and then it went and lost to K-State for some ridiculous reason. The Mullet deserved better in 2017.

18. Northwestern (8-3)

The Cats are the fourth-best team in the Big Ten, simple as that, with wins over Michigan State and Iowa and conference losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. As commendable an effort as you’ll find in a highly competitive league. Plus, Fitz’s team is on a six-game win streak that could end up extending to eight.

19. Stanford (8-3)

Already with a win over Washington, Stanford could close the regular season with two wins over top-10 teams in its final three games. Also Bryce Love is back in the groove after back-to-back 100-yard games.

20. Memphis (9-1)

The Tigers have lost just one game all season, to the best Group of Five team out there. Heck of a season by Memphis.

21. Michigan State (8-3)

A 17-7 win over Maryland couldn't have been the most exciting way for anyone to spend their weekend. Sparty's had a mighty fine season, though, considering how badly things went in 2016.

22. LSU (8-3)

The SEC has seemingly gotten increasingly better as the year has progressed, with LSU and Mississippi State making for a solid-enough middle tier. But remember when LSU lost to Troy? That wasn’t good.

23. South Florida (9-1)

If not for that loss to Houston, USF’s showdown with UCF this weekend would be for Group of Five supremacy. Even without that, though, this should be a highly entertaining affair.

24. Virginia Tech (8-3)

The Hokies have a chance to salvage their tumble at the close of the season with a win at Virginia. But given how well the Cavs played at Miami this past weekend, a VT win is no sure thing.

25. Iowa State (7-4)

I understand the math and all, but can't the Big 12 just suspend its rules and send Iowa State to the title game? We all want to see the OU-ISU rematch. Why are you preventing us from being happy, Big 12?