The G.O.A.T. Game Tournament, Eleven Warriors' quest to crown the greatest game in Ohio State football lore, continues with the bowl bracket that spans postseason victories from the 1969 Rose Bowl to the 2015 CFP championship.
Meet the semifinals of the bowl bracket:
- #1 2003 FIESTA vs. #5 2015 SUGAR: An all-time upset vs. the only lower seed to pull an upset in the opening round.
- #2 1969 ROSE vs. 2015 CFP CHAMPIONSHIP: Two national championship victories square off, and only one will remain!
#1: 2003 fiesta bowl — No. 2 ohio state vs. no. 1 miami
In the first round: The 2003 Fiesta Bowl mollywhopped the 1974 Rose Bowl, 98 to 2%.
Jim Tressel's Ohio State team entered the 2003 Fiesta Bowl ranked No. 2 in the country over heart-pounding wins over Purdue, Illinois, and Michigan to close the regular season at 13-0 for the first time in school history.
- SCORE: 31-24
- C. Krenzel: 7-21, 2 RUSH TD
- M. Clarett: 23 CAR, 47 YDS, 2 TD
- M. Doss: Defensive MVP, 1 INT
The Buckeyes faced their tallest task in the title game against defending national champion Miami, an undefeated team that had outscored opponents 503-217 and featured future NFL standbys like running back Willis McGahee, wide receiver Andre Johnson, tight end Kellen Winslow II, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, cornerback Antrel Rolle, and safety Sean Taylor.
Despite the disadvantage in future pros, the Buckeyes battled the Hurricanes to a 14-7 halftime lead behind two touchdown rushes from Craig Krenzel and Maurice Clarett.
With the Hurricanes trailing 17-14 and McGahee sidelined by a Will Allen tackle, kicker Todd Sievers boomed a 40-yard field goal as time ran out to to send the a national championship game into overtime for the first time ever.
Dorsey found Winslow for a seven-yard touchdown pass on the ensuing drive to draw first blood. After a controversial (but ultimately correct) pass interference call extended the Buckeyes' rebuttal drive, Krenzel dove into the endzone to tie the game at 24.
Clarett's five-yard dash gave the Buckeyes a 31-24 lead on the next possession, which became the final score when linebacker Cie Grant threw Dorsey to the turf on 4th down after a goal line stand by the Silver Bullets.
#5: 2015 sugar bowl — No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 1 alabama
In the first round: The 2015 Sugar Bowl scored a decisive upset victory, 95 to 5%, over the 1955 Rose Bowl.
- Score: 42-35
- E. Elliott: 20 CAR, 230 YDS, 2 TD
- D. Smith: 2 REC, 87 YDS, 1 TD
Third-stringer Cardale Jones erased all doubt about his ability to lead the Buckeyes in the 2014 Big Ten title game to help lead Ohio State to a 59-0 win over Wisconsin. Still, facing No. 1 Alabama in New Orleans in the first ever College Football Playoff semifinal would be a different beast entirely.
And for awhile, it looked like the Buckeyes weren't up for it as the Crimson Tide rolled to a 21-6 lead in the second quarter. But the Buckeyes battled back behind a three-yard Ezekiel Elliott touchdown run and a 13-yard Michael Thomas tightrope touchdown catch on a gadget play pass from Evan Spencer to take a 21-20 score into halftime.
The moment carried over halftime, too, as the Bucks continued their unanswered points streak behind a 47-yard touchdown catch by Devin Smith and a 41-yard touchdown returned for an interception by defensive end Steve Miller.
When Alabama scored late in the second quarter to make it 34-28, Elliott erased any notion of an Alabama comeback with an 85-yard dagger through the heart of the Alabama defense.
#2: 1969 rose bowl — no. 2 usc vs. no. 1 ohio state
In the first round: The 1968 Rose Bowl ran wild over the 2010 rendition, 83 to 17%.
- Score: 27-16
- R. Kern: 2 TD
- J. Otis: 1 TD
Woody Hayes' 1968 team faced its toughest test in No. 2 USC and Heisman Trophy winner O.J. Simpson, though the Trojans tied Notre Dame, 21-21, at the Coliseum in their regular season finale. Media billed the game as Hollywood vs. The Heartland.
USC looked prime for the upset in the second quarter when, leading 3-0, Simpson eviscerated Jack Tatum and the Silver Bullets on an 80-yard touchdown run. The Buckeyes rebutted with a Jim Otis touchdown run and a field goal from center (yes, you read that right) Jim Roman tied the game with 3 seconds left in the half.
“When I got to the locker room,” Ohio State secondary coach Lou Holtz recalled years later during an ESPN segment. "Woody came right at me and strategically placed his left hand on my jugular vein and squeezed my eyes about that big.
"Now you really gotta understand Coach Hayes, he really meant me no physical harm. He just wanted to make sure he had my undivided attention. And he hollered, ‘Why’d O.J. go 80 yards?’ I said, ‘Coach, that’s all he needed. If the ball was on the 10, he would’ve gone 90.’”
The second half belonged to the Buckeyes, as Rex Kern threw two touchdown passes and Roman added another field goal while the defense held Simpson to 34 yards on 10 second-half carries.
The win earned the Buckeyes their first national title since 1961.
#3: 2015 cfp championship — no. 4 OHIO STATE vs. No. 2 Oregon
In the first round: The 2015 championship secured the bag over the 1997 Rose Bowl, 62 to 38%.
As cathartic as dumping SEC kingpin Alabama in the 2015 Sugar Bowl was for Ohio State fans, their team still needed to defeat Oregon — a team that lambasted Florida State in the Rose Bowl semifinal — to win the national championship.
- Score: 42-20
- C. Jones: 16-23, 242 YDS, 1 TD
- E. Elliott: 36 CAR, 246 YDS, 4 TD
- C. Smith: 2 REC, 76 YDS
Despite the miraculous run through the postseason, the Buckeyes entered the game as seven-point underdogs, a ranking that looked about right as Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota diced the Silver Bullets for a touchdown on the game's first possession.
The Buckeyes retaliated later that quarter, when Ezekiel Elliott bulldozed the undersized Duck defense on a 33-yard touchdown run. Three minutes later, Cardale Jones found tight end Nick Vannett in the endzone to help give Ohio State a 14-7 lead.
When the Ducks compiled 13 unanswered points to pull to the score to 21-20, Urban Meyer turned to his warhorse running back. Elliott pounded the Ducks for three consecutive touchdown runs to seal Meyer's first national championship at Ohio State despite losing the turnover battle four to one.