Monday, January 12, 2015
Cram Session: 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship
#2 Oregon (13-1) vs. #4 Ohio State (13-1) in Arlington, TX
For the first time since 2005 we will have a national championship game in college football that won't feature the SEC. Ohio State made sure of that by shocking the Crimson Tide in the Semi-Finals on New Year's Day. The Ducks play for a national title for the first time since 2011 and are looking to win the school's first college football championship. There should be plenty of fireworks as two top five offensive teams meet tonight.
I picked Ohio State to lose their past two games, including getting absolutely pasted by Alabama, but as happens from time to time, I couldn't have been more wrong. Even after Ohio State crushed Wisconsin 59-0 with Cardale Jones at quarterback, I felt that was more because Wisconsin was overrated. But Jones made many crucial plays against Alabama, keeping the Tide defense honest enough that Buckeyes RB Ezekiel Elliott continued his hot streak. For the second straight game Elliott rushed for over 200 yards on 20 carries and scored 2 touchdowns. With Elliott running like that, Jones is able to make the big play passes that the Buckeyes have feasted on all year long. The Buckeyes receivers don't catch a ton of passes, but when they do they make them count. Devin Smith had just 2 catches about Alabama, but those catches averaged 43 yards, and one of them was a touchdown. Sophomore WR Michael Thomas had his most catches of the season in the Semi-Finals. The Buckeyes offense has been tremendous all year, with their lowest point total being 21 points in their lone loss this season to Virginia Tech. Other than that they have cleared 30 points in their other 12 games. The Alabama defense wasn't as good as it has been, but I don't think anyone thought that a team starting a third string quarterback would carve them up to the tune of 42 points. The Ducks corners Troy Hill, Chris Seisay and Dior Mathis were able to slow down the Seminoles passing game, and their goal in this game will be to limit the big play that the Buckeyes passing game has thrived upon this season. The Ducks corners will have an easier time if defensive lineman Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, as well as LB Tony Washington can get to Jones like they were able to get to Jameis Winston.
The Buckeyes defense will have their work cut out for them trying to corral Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota. The Buckeys defense is led by All-American defensive end Joey Bosa, freshman LB Darron Lee who had a strong Sugar Bowl, and defensive tackle Michael Bennett. Mariota torched the Seminoles for 338 yards passing and completed 72% of his passes. The Seminoles did force Mariota to throw just his 3 INT of the season, but mistakes like that are so rare for Marcus. His lowest completion percentage in thirteen games this season 60%, which is an even more insane stat than the interceptions total. I didn't give Ducks RB Thomas Tyner any pub in my Rose Bowl preview as he had been out for weeks with an injury. He returned and led the Ducks in rushing with 124 yards. That was important as the Ducks typical leading rusher Royce Freeman was largely ineffective, although he did contribute 2 touchdowns. Oregon had a lot of different players step up for them in the Rose Bowl. Their leading receiver, Byron Marshall was held to just 20 yards receiving, so freshman Darren Carrington stepped up and torched the Seminoles for 2 touchdowns and 165 receiving yards. Carrington will be unavailable tonight as he failed a drug test and is suspended for the game. The Ducks other WR Devon Allen is out for this game due to a knee injury he suffered against Florida State. Ducks TE Evan Baylis came out of nowhere, hauling in 6 catches, as you could tell the Seminoles were wondering who this guy was, who before the game had just 4 receptions on the season. It speaks to the depth of the Ducks and just how many weapons Mariota has to work with. Out of necessity, Mariots and the Ducks will need Marshall to play well and Baylis to pick up where he left off in the Rose Bowl
It is hard to pick against Urban Meyer and Ohio State, as it seems no matter what challenges are thrown at them or what quarterback they have to start they keep winning. But to me, the Ducks feel due. They have been hovering in the national title picture for a while and haven't been able to seal the deal. I believe that Mariota is finally the man to lead the Ducks to that elusive national title. These teams are very evenly matched and I expect a great back and forth battle. Jones is making just his third career start but at this point, his limited experience hasn't mattered, so I don't expect it to start mattering now. I think the Ducks will have the ball last and Mariota will lead them down the field for a last minute victory, as this game goes down as an all-time classic.
Prediction: Oregon 41, Ohio State 35