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Sunday, 11 January 2015

2014 CFB National Championship Preview: Oregon vs. Ohio State

It’s hard to believe, but we have yet again come to the end of another amazing college football season. It has been a year that was full of unexpected teams performing well and a historic season for the fact it was the first season ever under the new College Football Playoff format.

It has been an amazing year and it all comes down to the 2014 College Football Playoff National Championship game on Monday between the Oregon Ducks and Ohio State Buckeyes.

The matchup between the Ducks and Buckeyes comes as a surprise to most because of the opponents each team had to beat to get to this point.

The Oregon Ducks beat the Florida State Seminoles in the first ever College Football Playoff semi-final game to earn their berth in the 2014 national title game. The Seminoles were the defending national champions and were on a 29 game win streak. To put that in perspective, the Florida State Seminoles hadn’t lost a game since the 2012 season.

The Ohio State Buckeyes earned their berth in the 2014 national title game with a classic victory over heavily favorite Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Ohio State got down 21-6 before finishing the game on a 36 to 14 run to win 42-35.

The Buckeyes used a heavy dose of the run game and well timed deep passes to defeat Alabama and earn a meeting against the Oregon Ducks. The season has been a rollercoaster to say the least for Ohio State, but they have earned their way into the biggest game of the college football season.

Now that we discussed how Ohio State and Oregon both got to this point, let’s begin to take a closer look at this matchup and ultimately pick who will be your 2014 national champions of college football.

The battle between the Buckeyes and Ducks is expected to yield a lot of points because of the rate at which these two teams score and run their offense. The Oregon Ducks get off a play every 16 seconds due to their warp speed offense they run.

The fact the Ducks get off a snap every 16 seconds puts an extremely high amount of pressure on defenses, which allows the opportunity for quick strike big plays down field. We saw this multiple times against Florida State in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day and this has been a staple of Oregon’s offense dating all the way back to the days of Mike Bellotti in the early 2000’s.

This will be the biggest challenge for Ohio State on Monday night and if they struggle slowing down Oregon, especially on first down, then it will be a long night in the Lone star state. Ohio State’s defensive line is one of the best in all of college football and they will be put to the test like never before when they face this Oregon fast tempo offense.

On the other side, Ohio State is down to its third string quarterback, but you wouldn’t be able to tell based on his two career starts. His first career start came in the Big Ten Championship game against Wisconsin and the decision was never in doubt. Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones helped lead the Buckeyes to a 59-0 beat down of the Badgers.

The game was thought to be a one hit wonder, but he quickly erased those doubts in the College Football Playoff semi-final battle against Alabama. Jones showed some inexperience early in the game, but as the game progressed so did his production. Jones was able to avoid the big mistakes against Alabama in the second half and as a result helped Ohio State overcome a 15 point deficit.

He now has to face the challenge of having to keep up in the scoring column with the most explosive offense in all of college football. The Oregon Ducks score and score fast, which puts a ton of pressure on opposing team’s offenses to match them score for score.

Oregon’s quarterback Marcus Mariota is a month removed from being named the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner and his work speaks for itself. In 2014, Mariota had a completion percentage of 68.6 and accounted for 4,121 passing yards. Mariota’s biggest strength according to most scouts is his precision and accuracy in the passing game, which allows for this Oregon offense the ability to take shots that other teams wouldn’t take at the college level.

Mariota’s stats are impressive, but the most impressive of them all is his touchdown to turnover ratio. This season Mariota passed for 40 touchdowns, while only throwing three interceptions. That is a TD to TO ratio that comes out to 13.3 to 1. That is the type of ratio you do not see at any level of football and to see it for a team that plays at such a fast pace in a power five conference is extraordinary.

So, what will this game come down to when all is said and done on Monday night in Arlington, Texas? This game has been discussed, analyzed and over analyzed, but I feel this game comes down to two simple things and that is each team’s ability to make big plays down field and each team’s defensive line play.

Oregon loves to make the homerun play in the passing game off the play action. The Ducks will take shots at any point whether it’s first, second or third down and this is a scary thought for opposing defenses. Oregon is well noted for picking up the pace on second and third down and these are the two downs in which the Ducks take the most shots down field.

On the other side, Ohio State loves the deep ball to star wide out Devin Smith. Smith is one of the best deep ball threats in all of college football and with Cardale Jones now playing quarterback the threat is even more relevant due to Jones’ incredible arm strength.

The other key is each team’s defensive line and how well they stop the opposing team’s run game. The Oregon ducks have one of the most underrated defensive lines in all of college football and they are the reason Oregon doesn’t have as many issues with physical teams as they have had in the past. Oregon’s front four has the ability to stop the run and more importantly rush the passer.

The Ducks will have to be stout in the front four because of the threat at running back for Ohio State in Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott was the star in the win against Alabama and will have to be once again against Oregon if the Buckeyes have a legit shot at winning.

The front four of Ohio State will have to be well conditioned more than anything else because of the speed that the Oregon offense operates with. The Oregon offense not only runs at a warp speed, but the players who run the offense have remarkable speed. The Ohio State front four is fast and athletic, which will help in the run game and in their quest to get pressure on Mariota.

I believe this Ohio State defensive line will have success against Oregon, but the ability to stay successful for all four quarters at the tempo Oregon runs their offense will be the key factor.

So, those are the key things to watch out for and here are some key numbers and stats to keep in mind as we enter what is expected to be a classic national title game.

Oregon lost their only game of the season on Thursday, October 2 against Arizona and since that game the Ducks have won nine straight games by an average of 27.4 points per game. The Oregon offensive line began to get healthy after the loss to the Wildcats and they have been a different team on offense since the return of star offensive lineman Jake Fisher.

That is the good news for Oregon; the bad news is they will be without two of their stars in this contest against Ohio State. First off, Oregon’s top defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu will be out for this game after an injury in bowl practice. Olomu also sit out in Oregon’s win against Florida State, so the Ducks know what to expect without Olomu in the secondary.

The other key loss for Oregon is freshman wide receiver Darren Carrington. Carrington failed a drug test and as a result has been suspended for the national title. Carrington had the best game of his young career against Florida State as he had seven catches accounting for 165 yards and two touchdowns.

His big play threat and speed will be the biggest loss for Oregon, but the Ducks are well known for their depth and many skill players so that will make the loss a little easier.

A couple other fun notes related to this game is that the Ducks are 0-8 all-time against Ohio State. That is the most wins all-time for Ohio State against a single opponent without a loss. The Ducks will look to end that streak on Monday and in grand style.

This would be the first national title for the Oregon Ducks in their football’s program history and it would be the first for Ohio State since the classic battle in 2002 against the Miami Hurricanes.

We have analyzed, discussed key numbers and aspects of the game, so who will be your 2014 college national champion and win the first annual College Football Playoff crown?

Well, this goes back to the summer and August when I wrote my preseason college football predictions article. In that article I picked the Oregon Ducks to make the first annual College Football Playoff and win the 2014 national title.

We are here five months later and the Ducks are on the doorstep of making those dreams a reality and earning that elusive first national title in their program’s history. In the preseason I just had a gut feeling this was Oregon’s year and that behind the leadership and play of Marcus Mariota they would find a way to win the national title and put a stamp on their incredible run of success the past decade.

At last, I have the Oregon Ducks winning the 2014 national title just as I did in August and I have them beating the Ohio State Buckeyes 41-27 in an outstanding game that goes down to the wire before the Ducks pull away late.

I believe Mariota will finish the dream season for himself and the Ducks and ride off into the sunset. The Ducks’ speed on offense will be the difference and their tempo will wear down Ohio State in the second half.

The Ducks win the first annual College Football Playoff and legitimize their great run of success since the early 2000’s. It has been a long time coming for the Oregon Ducks and I feel at last the dreams of winning it all comes true. The Ducks will reign supreme and earn the crown of college football’s national champions in 2014.


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