Even though the Ohio State offense will receive most of the credit for its victory over Oregon in the College Football Playoff's first title game, it was the Buckeye defense that won the national championship.
Make no mistake about it: the Scarlett and Gray offense turned in another outstanding performance in this contest. Cardale Jones set the tone for the game in the second series by completing a pair of 26-yard passes that got Ohio State out of bad field position. That opened up the running game for Ezekiel Elliott, who ran for 246 yards and four touchdowns.
However, the evening would belong to the Buckeye defense. Sure, this defense gave up plenty of yardage (463 yards to be exact), but the numbers fail to tell the entire story. Ohio State's defense never let Oregon get in any sort of rhythm, holding the Ducks to an uncharacteristically low 2-of-13 on third down conversions. In addition, the Buckeye defense refused to let UO capitalize on the OSU offense's mistakes, limiting the Ducks to just 10 points on four turnovers.
Of course, the most impressive aspect of Ohio State's defense was how exceptionally well it played in the red zone. Remember, Oregon led the nation in red zone TDs with 51. Monday night, it was only able to muster one touchdown and two field goals in four trips inside the OSU 20-yard line.
These crucial stops made the difference in the ballgame. The Buckeyes' goal line stand early in the second quarter prevented Oregon from tying it up and regaining its early momentum. The defense would come up even bigger in the second half, holding the Ducks to a field goal after a fumble gave UO the ball at the OSU 23-yard line with a chance to take the lead, down 21-17.
Adding the last three paragraphs together, it's easy to see why Ohio State won this game so convincingly. With Oregon's high-octane attack unable to sustain a drive, the Buckeye offense was able to wear down the Duck defense in the second half. That put even more pressure on Mark Helfrich's offense, which failed to mount a drive of longer than 23 yards on its final five possessions.
It's tough to argue with those results.
It's also incredibly ironic. After all, many people thought that Ohio State's offense was the key to winning a crystal football. Once Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett got injured, few people – if any – said, "It doesn't matter, the Buckeye defense will be able to carry the load."
Yet, that's exactly what happened.
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