Big Ten

Ohio State offense a no-show in Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson, Urban Meyer's first-ever shutout defeat

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USA TODAY

Ohio State offense a no-show in Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson, Urban Meyer's first-ever shutout defeat

Urban Meyer’s teams at Ohio State have been so good, that any off night is a shock to the system.

But Saturday night’s no-show performance in the Fiesta Bowl wasn’t just an off night. It was hands down the worst game the Buckeyes have played since Meyer took over as head coach ahead of the 2012 season. It was the perhaps the worst game a Meyer team has ever had, as he lost in a shutout for the first time in his head-coaching career.

Ohio State’s offense did practically nothing against a ferocious Clemson defense in what ended up a 31-0 rout in the College Football Playoff semifinal. The Buckeyes amassed just 215 total yards and rushed for only 88 yards, a shocking development considering they entered as one of the top-10 rushing teams in the country.

It was just the sixth loss of the Meyer Era but the biggest margin of defeat, eclipsing the 14-point loss at Virginia Tech during the championship season in 2014.

Program-wise, it was the first time the Buckeyes were shut out since losing to Michigan in 1993 and the team’s first shutout loss in a bowl game since the 1920 Rose Bowl.

The win advanced Clemson to take on Alabama in the national title game, a rematch of last season’s championship bout, which the Crimson Tide won.

It was also a repeat in the sense of the Big Ten’s performance in the Playoff. Last season, Michigan State was thrashed 38-0 by eventual-champion Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. This season, it was Ohio State that couldn’t muster a point in a national semifinal. It’s been a sorry two years for the conference in the sport’s championship event, with back-to-back shutouts coming by a combined 69-0 score in the two seasons following the Buckeyes’ national title to cap the 2014 campaign.

Ohio State never got going in this one, totaling a mere 88 yards in the first half only eight of which came on the ground. Despite being unable to move the ball, Ohio State’s other phases gifted the offense with fantastic field position early. Gareon Conley intercepted Deshaun Watson to put the Buckeyes inside the 35, and Parris Campbell had a big kick return to set them up inside the 45. But both possessions ended in kicker Tyler Durbin missing 47-yard field-goal tries.

Though he threw two first-half interceptions, Watson accounted for both of Clemson’s touchdowns in the first half. He rushed in from one yard out for the first in the first quarter and in the second quarter pitched a 30-yard pass to C.J. Fuller, who made a terrific catch falling down in the end zone to make it 17-0.

The Buckeyes’ defense stepped up a bit coming out of halftime. After Ohio State running back Mike Weber fumbled on his second carry of the game early in the third quarter, the Buckeyes’ defense turned in a goal-line stand and gave brief hope of a turning point when Clemson missed a field goal.

But the Ohio State offense remained absent throughout the second half, turning the ball over three times to go along with a punt and a turnover on downs. Weber’s fumble was teamed with two Barrett interceptions to make a horrendous night even worse. Curtis Samuel had a 64-yard run to account for the majority of the Buckeyes’ second-half yardage, but even that play couldn’t lead to any points.

Watson meanwhile engineered two more scoring drives after halftime. He capped the first of those with his second touchdown rush of the game, and Wayne Gallman ran in for an easy score to make it a 31-0 mauling in the fourth quarter.

Speaking of maulings, the Clemson defensive line was sensational, breaking through the Ohio State offensive line on a near-constant basis and recording 11 tackles for loss on the night and three sacks of Barrett.

In the end, Ohio State’s offensive nightmare looked like this on the stat sheet: 215 total yards and just nine first downs.

The Buckeyes’ defense played as well as it could have under the circumstances. It came away with a pair of turnovers and forced plenty of punts. But the ineptitude of the offense sent the defense back out on the field over and over again throughout the night, and it just got gassed as the second half progressed. Clemson finished with 470 total yards, Watson accounting for 316 of those throwing and running plus three of the Tigers’ touchdowns.

There’s plenty of positives to look at from the season as a whole for the Buckeyes, who had one of the youngest teams in the country and still reached the Playoff with a terrific 11 wins. The vast majority of this roster — which is obviously chock full of talent — will be back next season, including Barrett, who will be a redshirt senior in his fourth season as a starting quarterback.

But those positives are hard to take comfort in on the night of the 2016 Fiesta Bowl, the worst game of the Meyer Era.

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

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USA TODAY

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?