The first-ever college playoff football championship is set with Oregon and Ohio State registering surprising wins on New Year’s Day.
The surprises for both winners were for different reasons — the Oregon Ducks for demolishing the previously undefeated and defending national champion Florida State Seminoles. And the Ohio State Buckeyes for taking down the top-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide in winning a game few outside of the state of Ohio thought was possible.
The table is now set for a what promises to be a very good match up between two teams that have only gotten better as the season progressed. Sure, TCU can still argue that they should have been included in the inaugural college playoffs, but the team they think should not have been selected, Ohio State, successfully proved itself.
Ohio State Buckeyes and Oregon Ducks
Ohio State, in particular, has shown much improvement this year following a stunning 35 to 21 loss to Virginia Tech at home on Sept. 6. That loss, coupled with other Big Ten teams losing marquee match ups early in the season had pundits and prognosticators assuming that no team from this mostly midwest conference would make it to the playoffs. The Buckeyes proved their critics wrong by winning out their remaining games, then crushing Wisconsin 59 to 0 to win the Big Ten Championship.
Oregon also faced some adversity early on when they stopped lowly Washington State on fourth-down late in the game on Sept. 20 to avoid an upset. Two weeks later the Ducks lost their only game of the season, falling 31 to 24 to the Arizona Wildcats at home. That loss served as a wakeup call for Oregon, particularly for their offense, which then went on to score at least 42 points in their remaining games. Oregon capped their Pac 12 season by taking revenge on Arizona in the title game, routing the Wildcats 51 to 13.
Favored Alabama Falls, FSU Implodes
Highly-regarded Alabama, winners of the national championship in three of the past five years, was overwhelmingly favored to defeat the Buckeyes. Ohio State, led by former Florida State coach Urban Meyer, had other plans and once again relied on the arm of Cardale Jones to make it happen. Jones is the third-level quarterback for Ohio State as the two QBs ranked ahead of him are out with injuries. However, just as he did in the Big Ten title game, Jones proved his mettle and rallied OSU from a 21 to 6 deficit to a triumph. Jones passed for 243 yards and one touchdown while Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 230 yards and two touchdowns to spearhead the Buckeyes.
Oregon’s achievement was stunning for two reasons. First, the 59 points scored were the most in Rose Bowl history. Second, when the Seminoles quickly answered an earlier Oregon touchdown with one of their own, the Ducks were not fazed. Furthermore, Oregon turned a 25 to 20 lead into a 59 to 20 lead within 11 minutes by taking advantage of FSU turnovers and moving the ball with abandon. Significantly, the Ducks snapped the Seminoles’ 29-game winning streak in statement-making fashion, leaving little doubt that they belong in the national championship game.
College Football Championship
That championship game will be played on Monday night, Jan. 12, in Dallas at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Immediately following the semifinal games, Oregon opened as a 7-point favorite over Ohio State. That’s understandable considering the Rose Bowl carnage inflicted on Florida State. Yet, the point spread is large enough to suggest that the Buckeyes will be overmatched by the high-powered Ducks, a status that the unflappable Coach Meyer will handle and can use to galvanize the troops.
Expect the national championship contest to be a barnburner with the winner emerging late. Oregon’s Heisman winning quarterback, Marcus Mariota, should be in top form, while Cardale Jones will make every effort to proffer his own pyrotechnics.