It has already been a great weekend of football so far for fans of the game across the country. Unless, of course, you were a fan of one of the four teams who got knocked out of the playoffs this weekend. Ravens v. Patriots and Cowboys v. Packers were two of the best playoff games in recent memory, and both of the other two games were close, exciting games until one team pulled away in the end.
The weekend has a pretty strong finishing game that viewers will certainly enjoy - the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship game between the Oregon Ducks and Ohio State Buckeyes. Oregon is 13-1 this season, losing one game back on October 2nd (seems like forever ago, no?) against Arizona on the road. Other than that one blemish, the Ducks have been perfect. They survived tough matchups against Michigan State, UCLA, Utah and Arizona State in the regular season and have advanced past Arizona and Florida State in the postseason to get to where they are today.
They have been so good mostly because of the play of their Heisman winning quarterback, Marcus Mariota. He has captained an offense that ranks 11th in the country in passing yards per game and 18th in the country in rushing yards per game. He was pretty darn close to perfect against Florida State in the Rose Bowl and an absurd 40 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions this season. Mariota's numbers, both rushing and passing, look like what you would expect if you put Cam Newton on your local middle school's football team and let him loose on the poor players on the other side. Mariota has put up those video game numbers against some of the best defenses in the country.
His challenger this weekend is Cardale Jones, Ohio State's third-string QB, and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Oregon enters as a heavy favorite against the Buckeyes. As of Sunday night, per Bovada, the Ducks were seven-point favorites against the Bucks.
Oregon seems like the logical pick here. They have a Heisman winning quarterback, an unstoppable offense that just hung 59 points on a good Florida State defense and all the momentum in the world. Also, they are playing an Ohio State team that lost to Virginia Tech in the regular season, one that is starting a third string QB and that is the 4th seed in the College Football Playoff, the last team to get in just by the hair of their chin over TCU or Baylor.
All the experts from around the country have weighed in as well, and everyone seems to be picking the Ducks early on. But as Lee Corso would say, not so fast, my friends. The Ohio State Buckeyes have a good shot at winning this ballgame, and the seven point underdog status only fuels their fire. Here are a few reasons why the Buckeyes will win on Monday night.
Cardale Jones is better than just a third-string QB
This tweet from college football expert Dan Wetzel is spot on.
Cardale Jones, the third-string QB, is a nice storyline, but in reality, he is a very talented QB who makes Ohio State's offense go. He was good, but not great, in the Sugar Bowl win against Alabama. I think he will play better against Oregon's defense and really step up for the Buckeyes as a hero and late season legend after taking over for Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett.
Ohio State loss was ages ago
Don't count the loss to Virginia Tech against the Buckeyes. That loss to Virginia Tech was on September 6th, months ago, and they have come a really long way since then. In fact, that loss was really a catalyst that helped the Buckeyes finish strong for the rest of the season.
Yes, the Buckeyes suffered a bad loss to a bad Virginia Tech team. But in the last five weeks of the season, Ohio State has been the best team in the nation. They proved that by beating Wisconsin and Alabama in the Big 10 championship and Sugar Bowl respectively. This Ohio State team is on a hot streak and won't be stopped on Monday night.
Oregon suffering from injuries
Oregon already received a big blow before the Florida State game when it was announced that Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was injured and wouldn't be able to play.
Oregon got more bad news when starting WR Darren Carrington was suspended for the playoff game.
These are two big parts of the Duck's equation, one from each side of the ball. These losses will hurt the Ducks and help shift the balance of power in the game in OSU's favor.
Urban Meyer is one of the best, if not the best, coach in all of college football. He was great at Florida and has been great at Ohio State ever since he stepped on campus. He gives Ohio State a huge edge in coaching over Oregon's coach, Mark Helfrich, who is a good Xs and Os guy but someone who hasn't proved himself in on a big stage yet.
I think Meyer coaching on the OSU sidelines gives the Buckeyes a big advantage there.
Enjoy the game, everyone!
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