The moment we have all been waiting for is finally here. In the 1st annual College Football Playoffs, Ohio State and Oregon will battle it out for the National Championship. Oregon is a 7 point favorite and rightfully so. They demolished the defending champs, Florida State, and was an early favorite coming into this season. Ohio State started off ranked 5th in the AP preseason poll but once Braxton Miller was ruled out for the season, everyone counted them out. Now with their 3rd string QB, they find themselves 1 win away from shocking the world.
Ohio State did the unthinkable in the Sugar Bowl by defeating Alabama. I didn't think it was impossible for them to do it, I predicted that they would get it done. I wasn't sold on Bama, nor was I confident in Blake Sims, who threw 3 INTs. Cardale Jones didn't have an unbelievable game but he didn't cost the Buckeyes the game either, only 283 total yards for him.
I do want to apologize to Ezekiel Elliot, who I said wasn't going to have a big game against Bama. Elliott not only played well but he rushed for 230 yards on the Tide, averaging 11.5 yards a carry. I did say that Elliot was needed to beat Bama and I was right on that part. I did not expect him to have a game like that though.
The Buckeyes will need Elliott once again to have a monster game. He seems to get stronger by the game and the higher the importance, the harder he runs. Oregon's defense against Florida State proved they could play physical but they didn't stop the run. Delvin Cook and Karlos Williams both combined for 183 yards on 27 carries (6.7 yards a carry). Elliott has proved that he can handle that workload by himself.
If the Buckeyes can get the running game going, Jones won't have to make so many plays. In the 1st quarter of the Sugar Bowl, the Buckeyes wasted two redzone opportunities trying to pass the ball instead of pounding the rock. Opportunities like that are not to be taking for granted against Oregon because they will turn it up on you.
Ohio State best bet is to slow the game down, similar to what FSU tried to do, just without the turnovers. Defensively, they shouldn't look to stop the Ducks but focus on containing them. Keep the big plays to a minimum, and make Mariota stay in the pocket. The Buckeyes in the last two games has kept both Melvin Gordon and Amari Cooper under 80 yards, now on their way to playing the third and winning Heisman finalist.
Oregon has to speed this game up, similar to how they did Florida State. What was 18-13 at halftime, turned into a 27-point quarter for the Ducks. Mariota and the Ducks are going to need another great performance from their bruiser back, Thomas Tyner. Tyner gave the Ducks that physical presence they needed to beat the Noles and he'll have to do it again against the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes only allow 328 total yards a game, and similar to Stanford, they are very good against the run.
Mariota must have the best game of his career. He has to put the pressure on Cardale Jones and the Buckeye's offense to score points. Unlike the Florida State game, I think his arm will be needed. I would say the defense won them the game against the Noles but this time Mariota will have to prove he is the Heisman.
If I had to pick a winner for this game it would be Oregon. I like the Buckeyes defense but I think playing with a third string QB will finally catch up to them. Even though they beat Bama, scoring 28 straight, Jones still made some mistakes. Mistakes against Oregon will cost you even if its just one. If Jones can limit his mistakes to zero and keep up with Mariota, then the Buckeyes will have a chance, that's a big if though. I expect a great game with the final score being 42-31 Oregon.