Urban Meyer watched the College Football Playoff announcement Sunday on ESPN like everyone else. He reacted like everyone else, too, at least those who root for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
“I sunk in my chair at home,” Meyer said. “I really thought we were in.”
The Buckeyes won the Big Ten Championship on Saturday, beating Wisconsin 27-21 in Indianapolis, but it wasn’t enough. The selection committee picked Alabama over Ohio State for the last of the four semifinal spots.
The No. 4 Crimson Tide will play No. 1 Clemson in one national semifinal, the Sugar Bowl, and No. 2 Oklahoma will play No. 3 Georgia in the other semifinal, the Rose Bowl.
Ohio State (11-2) will continue its season at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 29 against Southern California (11-2) in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The matchup of the Big Ten champion and Pac-12 champion is not a bad consolation prize, but Meyer admitted his players were devastated.
“It’s going to sting for a while,” Meyer said, “and then you get around those you love and care about and move on.”
Ohio State became the second Big Ten champion in a row to miss the playoff. The Buckeyes made the field over the champion, Penn State, last season. Ohio State sought to become the first two-loss team to make the playoff, but one of its two losses, a 55-24 defeat at Iowa, was the main thing that kept them out.
In the end, the committee just thought Alabama (11-1) was the better team, even if it didn’t have three top-20 victories as Ohio State did or a conference championship.
“We spent a lot of time into the night and this morning talking about the full body of work,” said Kirby Hocutt, chairman of the committee. “The selection committee just favored the whole body of work. As we saw Alabama play week in and week out, our rankings show that our committee believes Alabama is the better football team.”
Ohio State last played in the Cotton Bowl in 1987, beating Texas A&M 28-12. It last played USC in 2009, losing 18-15.
The Buckeyes have lost seven games in a row to the Trojans. Ohio State’s last win in the series came in 1974. The teams have played seven times in the Rose Bowl, with USC winning five times.
USC beat Stanford 31-28 in the Pac-12 championship Friday. In the regular season, the Trojans lost to Washington State and Notre Dame.
Meyer said he knows USC coach Clay Helton but had not studied the Trojans on video yet.
“Obviously Ohio State and USC are two tradition-rich programs,” Meyer said. “I understand we’re going to be in Dallas, which is a great city, and play in that great stadium. We’re excited for our players. I just really want to do right by our guys because our guys have been fantastic.”
Several Ohio State players reacted with frustration to the playoff news on Twitter. Linebacker Chris Worley didn’t watch the announcement show. He turned off his phone, closed his door and put on headphones to listen to music. He wanted to get away from it. However, his dad was watching the show in the next room.
“We got in at 4 o’clock last night,” Worley said. “I woke up at 9 because of my dog, believe it or not. So I was tired. I just ain’t feeling like dealing with those emotions at the time. And of course my dad comes in the room. He’s all mad and you would think that he played for Ohio State. He’s a firecracker. So I was just telling him, “Relax. We’re going to be in a good position. We’re going to be in a good game. And we’re going to go against a great team.’”