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."
Ohio State's defense -- not its high octane offense -- carries the Buckeyes to the National Championship
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 07: Steve Smith of Australia prepares to address his team during day two of the Fourth Test match between Australia and India at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 7, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse - CA/Cricket Australia/Getty Images)
VAL THORENS, FRANCE - JANUARY 10: (FRANCE OUT) Sanna Luedi of Switzerland takes 4th place, Georgia Simmerling of Canada takes 5th place, Alizee Baron of France takes 6th place during the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup Ski Cross on January 10, 2015 in Val Thorens, France. (Photo by Laurent Salino/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 06: Mark Fraser #32 of the New Jersey Devils takes a punch from Chris Stewart #80 of the Buffalo Sabres during the first period at the Prudential Center on January 6, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 10: Jerzy Janowicz and Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland pose with the Hopman Cup after defeating Serena Williams and John Isner of the United States in the final during day seven of the 2015 Hopman Cup at Perth Arena on January 10, 2015 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - JANUARY 10 : Competitors in the senior women's 6k race climb a hill during the Great Edinburgh X Country at Holyrood Park on January 10, 2015 in Edinburgh Scotland. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
Roma's forward Francesco Totti celebrates by taking a 'selfie' with fans after scoring a second goal during the Italian Serie A football match on January 11, 2015 at Rome's Olympic stadium. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 12: Roger Federer of Switzerland plays tennis with Lleyton Hewitt of Australia between speedboats on Sydney Harbour ahead of their Fast 4 Exhibition match on January 12, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 08: Nevin Brown of the USA trains ahead of the men's aerials event during the 2015 FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup at Deer Valley on January 8, 2015 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Marseille's supporters cheer under a screen displaying the words 'Je suis Charlie' in tribute to the victims of a deadly attack two days prior on the Paris headquarters of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, before the French L1 football match between Montpellier (MHSC) and Marseille (OM) on January 9, 2015 at the Mosson Stadium in Montpellier, southern France. AFP PHOTO / PASCAL GUYOT (Photo credit should read PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images)
EDMONTON, AB - JANUARY 6: Players of the Detroit Red Wings listen to coach Mike Babcock during a time out in a game against the Edmonton Oilers on January 6, 2015 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 10: Fans in fancy dress raise chairs above their heads during the Invitational Darts Challenge at Etihad Stadium on January 10, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
COPIAPO, CHILE - JANUARY 07: #23 Gerard Farres Guell of Spain for Gas Gas pont Grup Seguros Dakar team on the EC450 Rally GasGas competes during day 4 of the Dakar Rallly on January 7, 2015 between Chilecito in Argentina to Copiapo, Chile. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
HOBART, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 12: Heather Watson of Great Britain plays a forehand in her first round match against Magdelena Rybarikova of Slovakia during day two of the 2015 Hobart International at Domain Tennis Centre on January 12, 2015 in Hobart, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
CORVALLIS, OR - JANUARY 11 Forward Brandon Ashley #21 of the Arizona Wildcats and a Oregon State Beavers defender battle for a loose ball at Gill Coliseum on January 11, 2015 in Corvallis, Oregon. (Photo by Elizabeth Stowe/J and L Photography/Getty Images )
MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 11: Head coach FC Internazionale Roberto Mancini falls to the ground after being struck by a ball on the touchline during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale Milano and Genoa CFC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 11, 2015 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Claudio Villa - Inter/Getty Images)
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 06: Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark serves against Julia Glushko of Israel during day two of the 2015 ASB Classic at ASB Tennis Centre on January 6, 2015 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
BAD KLEINKIRCHHEIM, AUSTRIA - JANUARY 09: (FRANCE OUT) Elena Curtoni of Italy competes during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women's Downhill Training on January 09, 2015 in Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria. (Photo by Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
RYE, ENGLAND - JANUARY 09: Alex Howe tees off on the fifth hole against C.A.Smith during the third round matches of the 2015 Oxford and Cambridge Golf Society President's Putter at Ry Golf Club on January 9, 2015 in Rye, England. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 11: Wes Welker #83 of the Denver Broncos attempts to make a catch as Darius Butler #20 of the Indianapolis Colts defends during a 2015 AFC Divisional Playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 11, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)