On Monday Jan. 12 at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN, the Oregon Ducks (13-1) will take on the Ohio State Buckeyes (13-1) in Dallas, Texas for the NCAA Division 1 College Football Championship, and for the title of first College football playoff victor.
Ohio State beat Alabama in the semifinal of the College Football Playoff, led by head coach Urban Meyer and strong play from third string quarterback Cardale Jones and running back Ezekiel Elliott. The Buckeyes defense was also able to contain Alabama’s Heisman Trophy finalist Amari Cooper and limit his output hence making Ohio State’s chances of victory greater.
Oregon beat last year’s national champions, Florida State, fueled by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and former Aloha high school running back Thomas Tyner. Oregon’s defense excelled inside their own 20 yard line and was able to formulate timely turnovers, with the most memorable a 58-yard fumble return touchdown by linebacker Tony Washington Jr.
Oregon has never beat Ohio State in the history of the program, however, there are certain facets of the game where the Ducks excel in which can give them a chance at winning this game.
Oregon runs a spread option offense which means that the offense plays uptempo. In the first half, Ohio State’s defense will most likely be fit enough to hang in with the speed of the offense. However, later on in the game, it may be harder for the Buckeyes to keep up with the pace of the Ducks. Oregon’s offensive line aims to give Marcus Mariota adequate time to read through his pass progressions, especially since Oregon will be without two big time receivers, Devon Allen and Darren Carrington. The offensive line will have to create gaps in the strong Ohio State defense, in order for Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner to create a strong presence on the ground.
Defensively, Oregon will need to contain Ezekiel Elliott and force inexperienced Cardale Jones into tough throws. They should aim to pressure Jones, but contain his power, as he has the ability to tuck the ball and run quick and efficiently. The Ducks defensive backs will have to play their best game of the year and not allow long passing plays. This will be a challenge as All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu who missed the semi-final game will also be out of the championship game with a torn ACL.
If Oregon wins on Monday night it will be the first National Championship in the school’s history and provide a perfect capstone to Marcus Mariota’s legacy in college football.