Archie Griffin, Keith Byars, Robert Smith, J.K. Dobbins and Ezekiel Elliott.
The list of former Ohio State running backs is long and distinguished, but none of them hold the team single-game rushing record. Until last Saturday, that mark was held by former Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George at 314 yards.
Move over Eddie. That record now belongs to former Sprayberry High School standout Trey Sermon.
The former Yellow Jacket finally got his chance to be the main back when the Buckeyes played Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship game and he delivered like no one before him. After getting warmed up with 60 yards in the first half, the 6-foot, 221-pound ran for 271 yards in the second half to finish the game with 331 yards rushing on 29 carries.
The 331 yards not only set a new single-game record for Ohio State, it was the most rushing yards in Big Ten championship game history, and it was the most rushing yards any back has ever had in a conference championship game in FBS history.
Coming into the game he had only 344 yards on the season. He was splitting time with Master Teague in the backfield, but after Teague got injured in the first half, Sermon stepped in and put on a performance that drew praise from everyone, starting with the man whose record he broke.
“Congratulations on breaking the single-game rushing record!!,” George wrote on Twitter. “Eat, young man, Eat!!!
He also got some props from a certain NBA superstar who is a huge Buckeyes’ fan.
“TREY SERMON TAKE A BOW! You earned that!!!,” LeBron James said on Twitter. “#GoBucks The Best Thing About 6-0...”
For awhile, it looked like Sermon was going to be having these kind of games for the University of Oklahoma. He got playing time as a freshman and ran for 744 yards setting himself up to be the next big thing in the Sooners backfield. During his sophomore season in 2018, he ran for 206 yards against Oklahoma State as part of a 947 yard campaign, but he did it sharing carries with freshman Kennedy Brooks.
Brooks became the starter in 2019, and while Sermon was effective when he got his chance, a knee injury ended his season and his career in the Big 12.
As a graduate transfer, he picked Ohio State. It looked like Teague would miss time at the beginning of the season, but with the delayed beginning to the season, both backs rotated once the games started. Now as the Buckeyes begin preparations for the College Football Playoffs, it looks like Sermon will be the one getting the most carries when they take the field against Clemson on New Year’s Day.
It may have been a long time coming, but Sermon was ready for his moment, and that’s something championship type players grab and take advantage of.
“I was able to get in a groove and keep it rolling,” Sermon said in the postgame press conference. “My mindset is just to make the most of my opportunities.” He says his game is “making guys miss and winning at the second level.”
Sermon’s game came at the perfect time, as he was able to pick up fellow Cobb County product Justin Fields, who had a tough day throwing the ball, and to give Ohio State a shot at a national championship as part of the final four in the College Football Playoff.
Despite Sermon’s heroics, the Buckeyes struggled to put away No. 14 Northwestern, and it’s why I dropped them to No. 3, which brings me to my ballot.
This is the final AP poll of the regular season, and as always, I offer the following disclaimer: This is my third year as an AP top 25 voter. I don’t care if Georgia or Georgia Tech win. The same can be said for Alabama, Auburn, Clemson or any other program for that matter. I was born in Ohio, but I am not an Ohio State fan.
I offer an addendum here this week. Traveling to see my mother for a couple days before Christmas, I was with friends in Columbus at an Ohio State bar while the Buckeyes were playing. If there was ever any doubt as to whether Buckeye fans liked Trey Sermon, the amount of cheers from the patrons dressed in scarlet and grey each time the former Sprayberry star got the ball, dispelled them. Any doubts disappeared with every carry and every yard against Northwestern.
While not being an Ohio State supporter, I am a UAB fan, and the Blazers went to West Virginia on Friday and came home with a big ‘ol trophy and their second Conference USA championship in three years. Somehow, UAB is going to face a 2-8 South Carolina team in the Gasparilla Bowl.
The Gamecocks have no business being in a bowl game, and they know it.
1. Alabama — Devonta Smith should win the Heisman Trophy this year, but it would be no surprise if nobody from the Crimson Tide takes home the hardware because he and Mac Jones will likely split the Alabama votes.
2. Clemson — The Tigers looked a little different against Notre Dame with Trevor Lawrence.
3. Ohio State
4. Cincinnati — The Bearcats will play like they have something to prove in the Peach Bowl.
5. Notre Dame — The Irish are only a 17-point underdog against Alabama. That spread is too small.
6. Texas A&M — The Aggies are upset they didn’t make the CFP, but with only one top 25 win and a 30-point loss to Alabama, the resume wasn’t as strong as they thought it was.
7. Indiana — The Hoosiers lost by seven at Ohio State for their only loss of the season.
8. Coastal Carolina — Two victories over ranked teams and went to the Big 12 and came home with a win. Would have been nice to see them get a chance against a Power 5 squad in a bowl game. Unfortunately, the Chanticleers will get Liberty.
11. Georgia — The Bulldogs better bring their “A” game against Cincinnati.
13. Iowa State
16. North Carolina
21. North Carolina State
24. Ball State — Former North Cobb standout Christian Albright picked up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown to lift the Cardinals to a 38-28 win over Buffalo to help Ball State win the Mid-American Conference championship.