By: Luke Johns, KCOU Sports
…the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals?
Thought the Ohio State Buckeyes playoff run was similar to the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals playoff run? Turns out it was. Check out the list of the coincidental similarities:
Lost one of their best players to injury before the season started.
In spring training it was announced that starting pitcher Adam Wainwright would miss the entire season due to an injury that required Tommy John surgery. Quarterback Braxton Miller aggravated a shoulder injury in the pre-season and Ohio State announced it would end his season. By first looks of things it appeared that both teams could have suffered an unrecoverable blow, as Wainwright went 20-11 the previous season and Miller was the team’s unquestioned leader as the starting quarterback the previous three seasons. Though of course, both teams found ways to overcome the injuries.
If the season had ended a week before it did, neither team would make the playoffs.
September 21, 2011 was the date the Cardinals were 1.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the National League Wild Card. There was one week to go in the regular season. December 6, 2014 was the date the Buckeyes were ranked #5 in the college football playoff rankings with one more week to make their case to the committee. With both teams there was a sense in the sports community that both teams were undoubtedly playing well, but the odds of them were getting in the playoffs were unlikely because everything had to go right that last week. Well, everything did go right. The Buckeyes romped Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten championship and snuck into the playoffs as the four seed, while the Cardinals, despite going 5-3 that week, got a lot of help from the sinking Braves as St. Louis snuck into the playoffs the final day of the regular season following a Braves loss.
Both teams faced the top seed in the first round of the playoffs.
Both teams entered the playoffs in a David and Goliath type scenario. The Cardinals had to face a Phillies team that won 102 games, 70 of which had been won by the starting pitchers. The Buckeyes faced the number one ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, whose offense was averaging about 40 points a game. Neither team was intimidated as the Cardinals knocked the Phillies out of the playoffs in five games and Ohio State knocked off Alabama by a score of 42-35.
Both teams had a first year starter from the St. Louis area dominate the playoffs.
I say first year starter because even though Ezekiel Elliot was a sophomore, he was not the starter in 2013. Elliot, a St. Louis native, ran for 230 yards against Alabama in the semi-final, including an iconic 85-yard touchdown run. He followed that game up with 246 yards and four touchdowns in the championship against Oregon. David Freese was the opening day starter for the first time in 2011 but had an injury plagued regular season. The post-season was when he caught fire hitting .546 in the NLCS and hit .348 in the World Series, including a legendary walk-off homerun in game six. Both players were the MVPs in each playoff round.
Eliminated the sports MVP winner.
Ryan Braun took home the NL MVP award in 2011. The Cardinals knocked his Milwaukee Brewers out of the playoffs. This year’s Heisman trophy winner was Marcus Mariota of Oregon. Ohio State eliminated him and the Ducks.
Eliminated another MVP/Heisman candidate in the semi-final.
Additionally, both teams faced a finalist for the sports MVP award. Prince Fielder finished third in NL MVP voting and the Cardinals ended his season along with Braun’s in the NLCS. Alabama receiver Amari Cooper was a Heisman trophy finalist. Cooper and the Crimson Tide were done after the Sugar Bowl at the helm of Ohio State.
Manager / Head coach winning their third championship (Tony La Russa’s 3rd World Series/Urban Meyer’s 3rd National Championship)
Each coach has a chance to go down as the best in their sport when it’s all said and done, and each of these championships gave them their third. Oh yeah, and these championships ended up allowing La Russa and Meyer to say he’s won two with one team and one with another.
Two players who suddenly played huge roles late in the year.
Hardly anyone had heard of these guys before their team’s championship seasons, and they both played a huge role in securing the championship. Labeled a utility player at the time, Allen Craig had an okay regular season but took off in the playoffs. Still with no clear position, he played a key role in the playoffs coming off the bench, most notably driving in the go ahead run in game six of the NLCS sending the Cardinals to the World Series. He finished the playoffs with a 1.013 OPS. Quarterback Cardale Jones, on the other hand, didn’t play during the regular season because he began at third string and J.T. Barrett played well after it was announced Miller would miss the season. Jones came in to replace an injured Barrett against Michigan, and with it announced Barrett too was done for the year, Jones never looked back. He threw five touchdown passes over the next three games leading Ohio State to the promise land.
Both coaches being coach/manager of the year finalists.
Both coaches were deserving of the award, but were both beaten out. Meyer was the runner up to Gary Patterson of TCU while La Russa finished third behind Kirk Gibson of Arizona and Ron Roenicke of Milwaukee.
Repeat playoff appearance?
Cardinals-yes. 2012 they won the Wild Card again and made it all the way to the NLCS. (They’ve made the postseason every year since 2011.)
Buckeyes- Stay tuned…