Ohio State deserves all the credit in the world for beating Clemson in the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes, who were 7.5-point underdogs, delivered arguably the most impressive performance of 2020.

While this is their accomplishment to celebrate, they should give a hat tip to the rest of the Big Ten for pushing them.

You know who played Ohio State much tougher than Clemson? Northwestern. Indiana. Penn State. Heck, Rutgers lost to the Buckeyes by 22, just 1 point more than Clemson. Ohio State was tested throughout 2020 in ways that Clemson was not outside the 2 games Trevor Lawrence sat out due to COVID.

But for whatever reason, the Big Ten outside of Ohio State doesn’t seem to garner the same respect as the Buckeyes. Preseason rankings default to recruiting rankings mostly, and that’s understandable without any other data to go on. But once the games actually start and we can see these teams play, it’s frustrating that teams such as Indiana and Northwestern aren’t given respect when they show they can play right with a team like Ohio State and clean up the rest of the Big Ten. Some of it is probably recruiting rankings — Indiana and Northwestern have a total of 9 blue-chip recruits, while Ohio State has 66 — but in these cases, it feels like the actual games are devalued.

If Clemson would’ve rolled Ohio State on Friday night and exposed the Buckeyes as having skated by with such a thin schedule, then maybe we’re not having this conversation. But since Ohio State was the team that crushed Clemson, it’s worth bringing up. Did you know that Ohio State led Clemson and Rutgers by an identical 49-21 in the fourth quarter? Both Clemson and Rutgers scored late TDs, with the only difference being that Rutgers went for a 2-point conversion and didn’t get it. I’m not saying Rutgers would beat Clemson, because that’s not how sports work, but these are just the facts.

No. 11 Indiana (6-2) absolutely underperformed in its bowl game (having to play an injured backup QB didn’t help, nor did having a month off due to COVID), but it doesn’t change the fact that they deserved to be in a New Year’s Six bowl and not playing a below-.500 SEC team in the Outback Bowl. The part that never made sense was, despite 4 double-digit wins and a 7-point loss to the Buckeyes, Indiana never cracked the CFP Selection Committee’s top 10. There have been just 2 games in which a Justin Fields-led Ohio State didn’t win by at least 10 — Clemson in the 2019 CFP and Indiana in 2020.

When No. 14 Northwestern (7-2) really pushed the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship Game, the conversation was always about what was wrong with Ohio State rather than giving credit to the Wildcats. It would nice if, in the future, we perhaps consider that the problem isn’t necessarily with Ohio State or Fields, but that Northwestern and its defense are really good. That was borne out with the way Northwestern handled an Auburn team in the Citrus Bowl that was repeatedly touted as a quality win for other SEC programs, like Texas A&M and Georgia.

Indiana and Northwestern made Ohio State sweat much more than Clemson. The way the Buckeyes steamrolled the Tigers only validated what the Hoosiers and Wildcats did this season that much more.

The Big Ten is 3-1 in bowl games and probably would’ve been 4-1 if the Music City Bowl wasn’t canceled, considering Iowa was a 2-TD favorite over Missouri. I’d be interested to hear if David Pollack has changed his opinion of the Big Ten being “really bad.” It sure hasn’t played like it so far.

Looking back now, it’s obvious that the Big Ten deserves respect this season, even if it’s a little too late.