College Football Playoff National Championship Preview
By: Andrew Ziemba
For the first time in history, a playoff system will decide the next national champion of Division 1 football. Both teams, the #2 Oregon Ducks (13-1, 8-1 Pac-12) and the #4 Ohio State Buckeyes (13-1, 8-0 Big 10) deservedly won their way in, and both teams will be electrifying to watch come Monday night.
For a team who lost their highly-touted senior quarterback before the start of the season, Ohio State has been nothing but impressive in the way they have won football games this season.
Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett was solid in the twelve games he started in relief of the injured Braxton Miller, but unfortunately would also be taken out by injury late in the fourth quarter of OSU’s second to last regular season game. Even so, the Buckeyes were apparently well-prepared for such an event, as sophomore Cardale Jones took the reins and ran up a huge offensive score against Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship, Ohio State handily winning 59-0.
Jones was again solid against Alabama in the first ever College Football Semifinal, and in a great team win Ohio State punched its ticket to the title game, coming out ahead 42-35.
Jones, with his offensive weapons, such as running back Ezekiel Elliot (1,632 yards, 14 TD) and senior receiver Devin Smith (32 catches, 886 yards, 12 TD), will no doubt be a big factor in the outcome of this game, but it will be interesting to see how the defensive unit of coach Urban Meyer holds against the semi-legendary Oregon offense. They have only allowed 22.1 points per game this season, but when faced with the newly-crowned Heisman winner and his machine-like offense, the story may end slightly different.
The aforementioned Heisman recipient, quarterback Marcus Mariota, has been nothing short of outstanding the entire season. He threw for 4,121 yards this season, completing 68.6% of his passes, and accounted for 55 touchdowns both through the air and on his own feet. Most notably, he has only thrown three interceptions throughout the course of the entire season, and proved to be a solid leader for Oregon through one of their more dominant offensive seasons.
The Ducks offense scored the most points out of any team in America, and only the Baylor Bears scored more points per game. Mariota had plenty of help from running back Royce Freeman (1,343 yards, 18 TD) and his favorite throwing target Byron Marshall (66 catches, 834 yards, 5 TD).
The Ducks dominated the embattled Florida State Seminoles in the Rose Bowl, doling out 52 offensive points and ultimately winning 59-20. Oregon’s defense, just like OSU’s will be the most important factor in the outcome of this game.
In a battle of two top-tier, high-powered offenses, it stands to reason that the defense that plays better will be the winning team. Oregon will be without redshirt freshman receiver Darren Carrington, who inexplicably failed a drug test in the week leading up to the big game. The Ducks defense will also be missing a key component, senior defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who was injured prior to the Rose Bowl game. They performed admirably without their leader, but it certainly will be interesting to see if the unit can stand tall against the firepower that Ohio State has been known to possess.
Even so, Oregon has been listed as a 7-point favorite in the Championship. I’ll take the Ducks over the Bucks, 42-35.