Ohio State Football should have been in the 2016 College Football Playoff.
The Buckeyes entered the season primed to defend their title, coming in as the first-ever unanimous No. 1 in AP history. Head coach Urban Meyer boasted the most loaded roster in college football, with 16 of his starters likely set to be taken in this year's NFL draft.
After Ohio State opened its 2015 campaign with an evisceration of Virginia Tech, the tantalizing potential was almost palpable.
But that potential materialized too late.
It took a perfect storm to keep that Ohio State team out of the playoff—a lingering quarterback battle that hampered the offense, historic and unachievable expectations, a torrential downpour against Michigan State and a questionable offensive game plan that mysteriously excluded one of the best running backs in school history.
All of those elements collided and netted Ohio State a defeat it shouldn't have suffered, and it left the team on the outside looking in at college football's biggest stage.
The Buckeyes sat and watched the Spartans get obliterated by an Alabama team they were worthy of playing.
That was obvious on New Year's Eve, but it's becoming more evident as former Buckeyes stars show out at Senior Bowl practices.
The Cotton Bowl That Should Have Been
It's obvious that Ohio State didn't deserve a berth in the playoff. It lost that right when it fell to Michigan State, giving head coach Mark Dantonio's squad its deserving spot in college football's final four.
But it was clear once the Buckeyes finally lost a game, they regained the edge they lacked all year and finally looked like the team everyone expected. They thoroughly embarrassed a motivated top-10 Michigan team, handing head coach Jim Harbaugh his worst loss of the season in a 42-14 thrashing in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Five weeks later, it bulldozed Notre Dame in a convincing 44-28 win in the Fiesta Bowl.
On the eve of their showdown with the Fighting Irish, the Buckeyes tuned in to watch the Cotton Bowl between Alabama and Michigan State.
"I think we would have definitely done a better job," former Buckeyes safety Tyvis Powell said on Thursday, according to Michael Casagrande of AL.com. "I was shocked [the Spartans] didn't score a point. It is what it is. It was very disappointing."
Would the Buckeyes have fared better? Would they have been able to top the rolling Crimson Tide after they hit their late-season stride?
Former Ohio State tight end Nick Vannett thinks so, according to Casagrande.
I didn't get to watch much film on them, but I know it would have been a hell of a game. (Alabama) might have done a little better this year than they were last year. And I think the way we played in the last couple of games, we could have played against any team in the country. I know it would have been another war like it was the year before. So it would have been interesting to see.
The Buckeyes would have certainly given Alabama's defense more to work against. With Ezekiel Elliott, who torched the Tide for 230 rushing yards and two touchdowns last year, and J.T. Barrett finding a groove at quarterback, Ohio State would've been able to spread the Tide—similar to what Clemson did in the title game.
Those questions will linger in the 2015 Buckeyes' minds forever.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.