Big Ten Bowl Preview: College Football Playoff National Championship


TEAMS:  No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes (13-1) vs. No. 2 Oregon Ducks (13-1)

TIME: January 12, 8:30 PM EST

LOCATION:  AT&T Stadium- Arlington, Texas


Well, after more than four months, it all ends with this. The inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship has finally arrived. When the changeover from the BCS was made this season, some worried that the results would still cause controversy. Luckily for all of those involved, the committee seems to have gotten it right. Oregon and Ohio State are the two best teams in college football at this moment.

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Ohio State could have mailed it’s season in long before it really got started. Heisman hopeful quarterback Braxton Miller was lost for the season due to an offseason injury, leaving J.T. Barrett to lead the offense. The Buckeyes were then upset at home in Week 2 by Virginia Tech. At that point, it seemed like Ohio State was already done.

Despite the tough loss, the Buckeyes woke up and didn’t lose another game all season. Barrett turned into a very productive quarterback and put Ohio State in the conversation as one of the best teams in the nation. However, Barrett was injured in the regular season finale against Michigan.

In stepped third-string quarterback Cardale Jones. In the Big Ten Championship against Wisconsin Jones threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns. Not bad for his first career collegiate start. He followed that performance up with a solid game in the Sugar Bowl and helped lead the Buckeyes to an upset victory over Alabama.

Ohio State has the luxury of two talented wide receivers in Devin Smith and Michael Thomas. The duo combined for over 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. Smith is the big-play, downfield threat and he proved that against the Crimson Tide, catching just two passes but racking up 87 yards and a touchdown.

Perhaps the biggest help to the success of Ohio State’s passing offense was the run game. The Buckeyes finished as one of the best rushing teams in the nation, averaging 262.2 yards a game on the ground. Leading the way was running back Ezekiel Elliott, who rushed for 1,632 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Elliott enters the National Championship on a hot streak, having scored two touchdowns in each of his last three games and surpassing the 200-yard mark in the last two games.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Buckeyes have the luxury of one of the best defensive players in the nation in lineman Joey Bosa. He’s sure to do all he can to get into the backfield and disrupt the Ducks.

As always, the word Oregon evokes visions of a fast-tempo, high-scoring offense.

That was exactly the case with the Ducks this season. Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota had a fantastic season, throwing for 4,121 yards and 40 touchdowns. Even more important was the fact that he threw just four interceptions. Mariota is a very dangerous player because he’s not just a great thrower, but he’s also a talented runner. This season he rushed for 731 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Mariota has a plethora of talented receivers to throw the ball too. Byron Marshall led the team this season with 66 catches for 834 yards. He also added five touchdowns. Devon Allen caught a team-high seven touchdowns. Unfortunately for the Ducks, they will be without one of those receivers. Darren Carrington is ineligible for the game.

The loss of Carrington will be huge for the Ducks. He recorded 704 receiving yards this season and four touchdowns. He was coming off of his best game of the season, a 165-yard, two-touchdown performance in the Rose Bowl victory over Florida State.

Oregon is a very tough offense to defend, as the Ducks are potent both through the air and on the ground. Running back Royce Freeman rushed for 1,343 yards and 18 touchdowns.

There’s no question that the Oregon offense is flat-out awesome. Because of that, the defense often gets overlooked. However, the Ducks are very solid on that side of the ball and finished as the No. 2 scoring defense in the Pac-12, allowing just 22.5 points a game.

The defense is led by senior defensive back Erick Dargan, who led the team with 82 tackles and six interceptions.

This matchup between Ohio State and Oregon looks like it is going to be a great game for the first College Football Playoff National Championship. Oregon is the favorite by a touchdown, but Ohio State has been on fire and is peaking at the right time.

I expect this game to be close for a while, but look for the Oregon offense to be too much for the Ohio State defense. The loss of Carrington will hurt a bit, but the Ducks are loaded with talent. Sure, Jones has played great in two games for the Buckeyes, but it’s tough to bet against Mariota.

PredictionOhio State 21  Oregon 35