College Football Championship Game Breakdown

Ohio State College Football

College Football Championship Game Breakdown

Immediately after the dust settled following Ohio State’s upset of mighty Alabama on New Year’s Night, no one could deny that the first FBS college football playoff is unwarranted.  Like any playoff, it provided the underdogs an opportunity to win. The Buckeyes seized the opportunity.  Leaving it up to the players instead of the computers. A new (favorable) era is born.

It is difficult to decide which result is more shocking – Ohio State beating Alabama or Oregon beating Florida State so convincingly. Ohio State opened a lot of eyes on Thursday. They played one of the most complete games they’ve played all year, piggy-backing on their dominant performance against Wisconsin in the Big Ten conference championship game. Cardale Jones, in only his second game starting, was throwing lasers all over the field and darting through the Tide’s defense with ease. After falling behind early, the Buckeyes scored 28 unanswered points and never looked back. They were aggressive, stout, and near-perfect. That is the exact formula for beating Alabama. Ezekiel Elliott knifed through the defense for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Jones does not look like he has been a backup all season, let alone a third string quarterback. He displayed his strong arm as he assisted Devin Smith – Ohio State’s best receiver – in outshining his counterpart, Amari Cooper, the Biletnikoff winner. Roleplayers like Evan Spencer came up huge with big plays all night long. Alabama’s Blake Sims did not rebound from his mistakes like he usually does. He was never able to shake Ohio State’s defensive backs, and they picked him off three times. The Buckeyes validated the Big Ten while simultaneously indicating that the SEC’s reign may officially be over. Having Urban Meyer as the coach certainly does not hurt. He consistently puts him teams in championship positions.

The Buckeyes will face the No. 2-seed Oregon Ducks in the title game. It was a tale of two halves for the Ducks. The game was tight at halftime, with Oregon clinging to a five-point lead, 18-13. Everything tipped the Ducks way in the third quarter. Jameis Winston and Florida State turned the ball over four times (five overall), and Marcus Mariota made them pay every time. The Heisman winner was tremendous. He led the Ducks to Rose Bowl records in yardage and points. Perhaps most impressive was the way Oregon’s defense stood up to Winston and his huge receivers on the outside. Even down their best cornerback, Oregon executed their “bend but don’t break” game plan to perfection. They were effective in limiting Florida State in the red zone. Stopping Winston at the six-inch line early in the game was a pivotal moment and defenders were always in the right place at the right time. Every time the ball was loose, the Ducks always had a player in position to scoop it up. The defense was supposed to be the weakness of this team, but like Ohio State, it was the best game they played all year. It happened to be against the previously unbeaten defending national champions.

The real question for Ohio State and Oregon is whether or not they can keep playing at such an elite level. How can they each possibly play as well as they did on Thursday? Will either team be able to carry momentum from their monumental victories in the semifinals? A 10-day layoff certainly helps to rest bodies and minds. Coaches will have their game plans in place. As always, it will come down to execution. Ohio State’s defense is tough. They were superb all season, but they have not seen an offense like Oregon’s. The Ducks defense stepped up against a good offense. But Ohio State just rushed for 281 yards against one of the best run defenses in America. It will be a tug-of-war between each team’s strengths and weaknesses. All things being equal, Oregon gets the edge simply because they have the better quarterback. Jones has played phenomenally for Ohio State and he has put them in position to be here. Mariota just happens to be the record-setting Heisman winner who throws interceptions less than 1 percent of the time he controls the ball. Both offenses will be able to score – at least on paper. The game will come down to which defense can adjust quicker to the opposing playmakers. Ohio State has great big, strong receivers and running backs. Oregon’s backfield has a ton of speed. Tackling will be at a premium. No matter the outcome, one thing is for certain: the first FBS championship is in good hands. The winner will assuredly deserve the trophy.

PREDICTION:  Oregon 45, Ohio State 38


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