One year ago, Ohio State was in Arizona preparing for Clemson in a semifinal matchup in the College Football Playoff. At that same time, prominent college football players Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey were choosing to skip their teams’ respective bowl games to focus on the NFL Draft.
At the time, the Buckeyes to a man said they could never see one of their teammates doing that. It was easy to say back then because they were playing for a national title. The real test would come when they weren’t playing for a national title.
On Sunday, the College Football Playoff selection committee announced their four teams for this year’s playoff, and the Buckeyes were left out, meaning that their bowl game won’t have nearly the weight that last year’s game did.
Ohio State sends players to the NFL every year — and there are over a dozen Buckeyes who could be drafted next spring, but now they could lose somebody before the season is even over.
If that happens, however, there would be some very surprised people in the OSU football facilities.
“I don’t see any guys on this team doing that,” linebacker Chris Worley said. “The love for brother here and brotherhood, that’s real. And another thing about it is you’ve got a bunch of guys that love playing football, love the game, just to be around the game. To just think about a guy sort of saying, ‘I’m going to step away from the game,’ if he’s not legit hurt, then I really doubt that would happen here.”
There are very good reasons for bypassing the bowl game, and in cases like former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, there can be millions of reasons. But there are also very good reasons for playing.
“That’s wild. Especially the people that we have in our locker room,” quarterback J.T. Barrett said. “Like, I mean, I don’t know what the people have done in these past couple of years. I don’t know them personally. But I guess the brotherhood and the bond that we have in the Ohio State locker room, I would be very shocked. You ever see Coach Meyer do the [taken aback]? Like one of those, like, smack me across the face. Somebody was like, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to play in the bowl game, Cotton Bowl against USC.’ I think that would be wild.”
Wild is one word for it. Smart is another word for it, depending on which aisle you happen to align with.
Unexpected may be the word that Urban Meyer would go with.
How would he react to one of his players sitting out the bowl game?
“I don’t know. I remember last year was the first time — and I really didn’t study it because I was, like, what’s going on here? Those are all situations that you handle on a case-by-case,” he said.
“I would hope not, but once again this is all happening real fast. And I think our players are very close and they want to go out to find a way to win this game.”