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ATLANTA – They got in the backdoor and their offensive coordinator is already out the door somewhat.
And they’re playing No. 1 Georgia, a touchdown favorite, in the College Football Playoff semifinal Saturday (8 p.m., ESPN) in the Peach Bowl here at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“I feel like we’re still Ohio State. We’re still the Buckeyes,” Ohio State sophomore quarterback C.J. Stroud said at the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel. “I don’t want to say that I feel like the underdog.”
The winner out of Ohio State (11-1) and Georgia (13-0) advances to the CFP national championship on Monday, Jan. 9 (7:30 p.m., ESPN) at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, against the winner out of No. 2 Michigan (13-0) and No. 3 TCU (12-1) in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal on Saturday (4 p.m., ESPN).
“I do feel like they are counting us out,” Stroud said. “That’s fine. We’ve been counted out plenty of times.”
The Buckeyes did lose by 45-23 to Michigan on Nov. 26, though they were within 31-23 midway through the fourth quarter. Still, some thought they eliminated themselves from the CFP final four with that margin of defeat.
Ohio State Buckeyes Feel Counted Out
“People have counted me out,” said Stroud, who finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting to winning quarterback Caleb Williams of USC and TCU quarterback Max Duggan. “This isn’t new. I think this is the path that God wanted us on. And I’m just rocking with that. That means we’re the underdog. I’m cool with it, and it’s time to mask up and go play football.”
C.J. Stroud is No. 1 in the nation in quarterback efficiency (176.2) on 235-of-355 passing for 3,340 yards and 37 touchdowns with six interceptions. And the Buckeyes are No. 2 in the nation in points per game at 44.5 while Georgia’s defense is only allowing 12.8 a game for second in the nation as well. The Bulldogs, though, are only 19th in the nation against the pass with 215 yards allowed a game.
“I feel like when it comes to us playing any team in the nation, I’m confident with our guys and our ability to sling the rocks,” said Ohio State wide receiver Emeka Egbuka, who is No. 21 in the nation with 1,039 receiving yards on 66 catches with nine touchdowns.
Wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. is No. 8 nationally with 1,157 yards on 72 catches and 12 touchdowns.
“We’re definitely aware of the talent we have,” Egbuka said. “And we’re going to look to exploit it and make big plays whenever we can.”
C.J. Stroud’s OC Headed Elsewhere
Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson will be calling those plays, but he has been double dipping since Dec. 9 as he was named head coach at Tulsa. He has spent late nights recruiting his Tulsa players to stay put and not enter the portal. At the moment, 13 Golden Hurricanes are in the portal.
“You have to recruit your team, so everybody doesn’t jump on the portal,” Wilson said, sitting next to Stroud and Egbuka. “So, that was the issue, just trying to keep the guys on board. But I’m very compartmentalized. These guys know this. When I’m in practice, it’s all practice, and it’s full throttle. When we’re in meetings, it’s all meetings. The extra time has been late at night. About 9:30 last night, I actually got to do a couple things revolving around next year’s job.”
Buckeyes Could Play Michigan Again
If Ohio State advances to a possible rematch with Michigan, Wilson will not be able to go “full throttle” as Tulsa’s coach until Jan. 10. That is just three weeks prior to the second national signing day on Feb. 1.
“Everything is with these guys,” he said. “There’s probably 70 percent of the time spent on the bowl game. This is not bowl week. This is playoff week.”
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day hopes Wilson remembers what got him the Tulsa job.
“Coach Day’s comment was that I am in this position because of what these guys have done,” Wilson said. “And the obligation to them. It’s not been hard. It’s been a lot of energy.”