The conclusion of the first season with a College Football Playoff in place comes with the national championship game between Oregon, seemingly missing out on this game year after year until finally getting the job done and Ohio State, coached by two-time champions Urban Meyer, carrying not just the torch for the school and it’s previous losses in the BCS system, but also for the entire Big Ten conference.
Ignoring the fun but not really substantial reasons to decide on a winner, this is a real toss up. Why? Because of how this season unfolded, and how the playoff semifinals taught us new things. We learned just how good the Buckeyes can be on both sides of the ball, even with their third string quarterback, Cardale Jones, having to take over and coming up big in two win-or-go-home games, beating the heavily favored Alabama.
Oregon because of how easy they made it look in the second half against Florida State. Jameis Winston might still be in denial about getting routed, but the speed and intensity of that offense and often unheralded defense were simply too much for the Seminoles, a defending national champion that was avoiding its fate all season long until it finally met a truly elite team that wasn’t going to let them off the hook.
When it’s all over in College Football for Marcus Mariota, he’ll be remembered as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the sport. He’ll be carrying his Heisman trophy prestige into the final but without his two best receiving. Devon Allen, injured in the win over Florida State, and now also Darren Carrington, suspended due to a failed drug test. While Carrington has only 37 receptions this season, more than three quarters of them were either for a first down or a touchdown.
People love talking about SEC speed. Meyer loves talking about out, showing off how he has progressed that factor with the Buckeyes. But Oregon might be in a different class of its own, filled with track stars and superb athletes all across the board. They also try and play that way – no stops on offense, keeping defenses on their heels and guessing. If they once again manage to make it about finesse and speed instead of size, they’ll have the advantage.
Oregon have already beaten a Big Ten team this season quite convincingly, Michigan State. That’s the only threat connecting Ohio State and Oregon this season, in a sport that decides a champion over almost 130 teams with just 15 games, it’s hard to compare stats and numbers achieved in completely different leagues against a different set of opponents. It’s something of a battle with the unknown, like the semifinals were. Ohio State beat the better team compared to Oregon’s opponent, but the Ducks were far more impressive in theirs, which probably gives them something of a pregame edge.