By, Max Zavidow
The first ever College Football Playoff Finals is set to be played on January 12, between #2 Oregon and #4 Ohio State. The Oregon Ducks have never won a national championship, while the Ohio State Buckeyes have won seven in their school’s illustrious football history. This is only the second time Oregon has found themselves in the national championship ever and in their last appearance, they were defeated in one of the most dramatic BCS national championships of all time. We all remember Wes Byrum of Auburn knocking in the game winning field goal as time expired to give to the Cam Newton’s Tigers a 22-19 victory over the Ducks. For OSU, it will be the team’s first trip to the big show since 2007. The Buckeyes have lost their last two national title games, with their last win coming under Jim Tressel in double overtime during the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, which they won over the Miami Hurricanes by a score of 31-24 in double overtime. These are both hungry teams and fans, to say the least.
The Oregon Ducks earned their bid by completely dismantling Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles in the Rose Bowl. Despite being up by only a small margin at the half, the Ducks came out firing in the third quarter and by the end of the game, were ahead nearly 40 points. The final score was 59-20. On the other hand, Ohio State punched their ticket in a much different fashion. After sneaking their way into the playoffs, the Buckeyes slipped by the #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, winning 42-35 in the AllState Sugar Bowl. Not to be that guy, but I did call it (https://myweeklysports.com/2014/12/25/leading-the-tide/)
Who Has the Upper Hand?
Oregon: Marcus Mariota has been unstoppable this season. He has thrown for over 4,000 yards, 40 touchdowns, and only 3 interceptions. In addition, he has over 700 yards on the ground to go along with 15 rushing touchdowns. The QBR of Mariota this year (on the 100 point scale) is 90.1, which is far and away the best in the country among qualified candidates.
OSU: Since taking over for an injured JT Barrett prior to the conference title game, Cardale Jones has averaged over 300 passing yards per game. In only two games he has a 6 touchdowns to only 1 interception. Jones’ rating of 75.0 would have him ranked 17th in the nation, however he has only played in 2 games to date leaving him unqualified.
EDGE: Marcus Mariota, Oregon. Duhh.
Oregon: Royce Freeman has carried on the tradition of astounding running back play for the Ducks this year. On 242 carries, Freeman has amassed 1,343 yards and 18 touchdowns, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. It’s also hard to ignore Mariota’s superb talents as a runner, too.
OSU: Ezekiel Elliott has played a surprisingly large role in the Buckeyes offense this year, which was expected to be rather one dimensional. He has carried the ball 237 times at a clip of 6.9 YPC totaling 1,632 yards (good for 9th in the country), and 14 touchdowns.
EDGE: Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
Wide Receiver Play
Oregon: Mariota loves to spread the ball around; the Ducks have 4 receivers with 575+ yards. Byron Marshall and Darren Carrington lead the way for the Ducks with 834 yards and 5 touchdowns, and 704 yards and 4 touchdowns, respectively.
OSU: QB JT Barrett, who played at the helm of the offense for the season until his injury, relied on two receivers for the majority of production: Devin Smith and Michael Thomas were the only two receivers to break 450 yards. Smith, to date, has 886 yards and 12 touchdowns, and Thomas has 746 yards and 9 touchdowns.
EDGE: Oregon’s receiving corp
Oregon: This unit has been average at best in terms of quarterback protection when he drops back, ranking 63rd in sacks allowed. However where they have failed in protecting the quarterback this year, they have excelled in creating space for runners. The Ducks have ran for nearly 3,400 yards and 42 touchdowns.
OSU: Similarly, the OSU offensive line has been fairly mediocre in pocket protection; the Buckeyes offensive line ranks 55th in sacks allowed. Their struggles in pocket protection have had no effect on their run blocking. Ohio State’s O-line has blocked for players that have totaled nearly 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns on the season.
Oregon: The Oregon defense has struggled mightily this season. They have allowed 414 yards per game (83rd in the country), 260 passing yards per game (103rd in the country), and 154 rushing yards per game (50th in the country). The Ducks stand 29th in points per game at 22.5. They are tied with 16 other teams for 54th in interceptions (12) and they have 36 quarterback sacks, which is tied for 23rd.
OSU: The Ohio State defense has been solid all around. They give up only 328 yards per game (15th in the country), 188 passing yards per game (17th in the country), and 140 rushing yards per game (33rd in the country). OSU rests 23rd in points per game at 21.2. They are 4th in interceptions (24) and they have 43 quarterback sacks, which is 9th.
EDGE: Ohio State
Oregon: Mark Helfrich leads the way for the Oregon Ducks. It his only his second year coaching Oregon, where the team has held a 25-3 record under his guidance. This season is the first he has ever been to a major Bowl Game.
OSU: Urban Meyer has been coaching FBS programs since 2001. In his time with Florida, he led the Gators to 2 national championships. Among qualified coaches, he has one of the highest winning percentages of any of them. Ohio State, with him as head coach, the Buckeyes have gone 37-3, including an undefeated season in 2012 (the Buckeyes were not bowl eligible).
EDGE: Urban Meyer
Although the Buckeyes offense has had little time to develop chemistry, OSU will come out firing and their stingy defense will be there to back them up. Oregon will put up a strong showing, but Ohio State will be too much to handle. The Ohio State Buckeyes will be the victors of the first ever College Football Playoffs.
Ohio State- 34 Oregon- 31