The North basically rolled over and let the South own hip-hop for the last decade. It was similar to how SEC football has made a laughing stock of the national championship scene by winning seven straight national championships from 2006-2012, before Jameis Winston and another southern-based squad in Florida State (ACC), went undefeated in 2013. It was looking like a Nick Saban-Alabama kind of season again. Until the emergence of hometown hero Cardale Jones—a QB built like a fullback and a cat Woody Hayes would be proud of – saved the Buckeyes’ season.
Jones, a sophomore making only his third career start, completed 16 of 23 passes for 242 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also ran 21 times for 38 yards and one score in leading “The” Ohio State University to a 42-20 victory over Oregon in the first College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T.
Jones is a young brother who was thrust into some primetime pressure and met the most colossal of challenges against teams ready to feast on his inexperience. Jones started preseason camp as the Buckeyes' third-string quarterback, and was tossed into the starting role in late November after former starter J.T. Barrett fractured his ankle in the regular-season finale against Michigan. Before the season even started, Ohio State lost returning starting quarterback Braxton Miller, a two-time Big Ten Offensive MVP who went down for the season with a shoulder injury.
In what could be considered Urban Meyer’s finest coaching performance, with Jones under center, the Buckeyes went on an improbable run. First they rocked Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten championship game to secure a 12th-hour bid into the four-team, College Football Playoff.
One time for the North…
Then, Ohio State put the beats on two higher-ranked opponents and in the process, regained some luster for the recruiting prowess of cold-area schools, which of late, couldn’t compete with the heat.
However, when your third-stringer is going blow-for-blow with a Heisman winner, your recruiting steez and roster talent can’t be questioned. In his brief three-game audition, Jones, another hometown Cleveland product, has put himself on the radar of NFL scouts throwing for 860 yards, seven TDs and two picks with a crazy passer rating of 160.2. His gargantuan size (6-foot-5, 250 pounds), toughness and arm strength reminds you of an Andrew Luck/Cam Newton clone. At least he played that way en route to upsetting No. 1 Alabama 42-35 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day and in routing the No. 2 Ducks on Monday night.
Ohio State won its first national championship in 12 years and Meyer asserts himself as the best HC in the nation. Meyer now has three titles, adding this one for his home state team to the two he won for Florida. He matches Alabama's Nick Saban as the only coaches to win a national championship at two schools. It has taken just three seasons for Meyer to put the Buckeyes -- and the Big Ten -- back on top, with a team that looks built for the long haul.
Jones is the toast of the town today and OSU’s “future QB” of the week. He’ll be thoroughly digested by the media rush for awhile and then everyone will stop patting him on his broad shoulders and say, “O.K. Youngblood. Let me see you do it again.”
When a young buck blossoms during a championship run, right in front of our eyes, his popularity grows exponentially and expectations can orbit. Fellow Ohio homie LeBron James was all up in the mix following OSU’s win and he openly expressed his appreciation for Jones, the Buckeyes team and what the win means to Cleveland. He was shown hugging Jones after the game under a stream on confetti. Mariota was the Heisman darling but Jones captured the ultimate glory. It’s affirmation that Jones sits among the champions and is “a special quarterback” as ESPN’s college analysts lauded. His college football career has already been validated; he’s a true baller and all he needed was a chance to get on the field.
Jones had a solid H.S coaching foundation under Ted Ginn Sr., at Glenville High School in Cleveland, a Buckeye pipeline that also produced 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith and Ted Ginn, among others. Jones led the Tarblooders to the CHSAA D-I Championship game in 2009. While at Glenville, Jones also lettered in basketball and track.
"I just think he's a great kid and he's a great player," Ginn Sr. told Sporting News, prior to Jones rewriting the Buckeyes history books. "You might be surprised what might happen. When you know the kid, you won’t be surprised. I won't be."
When top-flight QB's started dropping and the Buckeyes faithful started panicking, Jones exemplified the calming beauty and never-ending element of surprise that endears athletics to so many people. He's a long way from his infamous tweet in Oct of 2012 about school being “pointless.” He was the brunt of jokes and received a one-game suspension for his loose lips. Jones has obviously matured in time to lead Ohio State into the light during what could have been one the program's darkest hours. He got the job done Big Daddy Kane style.
"It means a lot," Jones said. "Going back to early August around camp, everybody counted us out when our Heisman Trophy quarterback went down. When the first college football rankings came out, we were like 16th or 17th. Long story short, we weren't supposed to be here. All the odds were stacked against us through the whole season, and for us to be sitting right here as national champs, it not only means a lot to me, but our community, Buckeyes Nation and our hometowns."