Dallas–Here are my top five story lines and a prediction for Monday night’s College Football Playoff title game between Ohio State (13-1) and Oregon (13-1):
1) The Ohio State defensive line: Oregon was averaging 49 points per game when the Ducks took on Auburn in the 2010 BCS championship. Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof was able to slow Oregon because defensive tackle Nick Fairley controlled the middle of the line of scrimmage and made quarterback Darron Thomas stay in the pocket. Thomas had 363 yards passing in the game but the Ducks scored only 19 points. Monday night the role of Nick Fairley will be played by Michael Bennett (6-2, 288) and Adolphus Washington (6-4, 295) with All-America Joey Bosa at end. Coach Urban Meyer said Monday that those guys have been playing well as of late but now they have to face. …
2) The unbelievable efficiency of Marcus Mariota: In addition to his obvious talent, there has probably never been a quarterback who has protected the football better than the current Heisman Trophy winner. This season he has thrown 40 touchdown passes with only three interceptions. Over his career, Mariota has thrown 103 touchdowns with only 13 interceptions in 1,130 passes. He has played in 40 games for Oregon and has at least one touchdown pass in every single game. “You’re talking about a guy who I think is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game,” Meyer said.
3) Urban Meyer’s place in history: Only one coach in the modern era of college football has won national championships at two different schools. Nick Saban won a national title at LSU in 2003 and three more at Alabama (2009, 2011, 2012). Ohio State’s Meyer, who won national championships at Florida in 2006 and 2008, would join Saban with a victory against Oregon. Meyer walked away from football after the 2010 season and sat out 2011 because of health concerns. Meyer was asked Monday if, after returning to coaching at Ohio State, he was confident he would get back to this point: “I don’t think so,” he said. Meyer is 141-26 in 13 seasons. He is the only coach with 20-game winning streaks at three different schools (Utah, Florida, Ohio State).
4) Cardale Jones: Ohio State’s sophomore quarterback has a chance to post the best three-game start of any player in history. He was the MVP of the Big Ten Championship game after replacing the injured J.T. Barrett. He threw for 243 yards and broke a lot of tackles in the CFP semifinals vs. Alabama. Now he has a chance to win a national championship in only his third start. Meyer said that in the first two games he and offensive coordinator Tom Herman limited what they asked Jones (6-5, 250) to do. Not in this game. “Nope. He has the keys to the car,” said Meyer.
5) The intangibles: When the game was set, it seemed a no-brainer to take Oregon. The Ducks are so fast (51 of 84 touchdowns drives were 2:15 or less). They have a veteran quarterback who does not make mistakes. Since losing its only game to Arizona on Oct. 2, the Ducks have won nine consecutive games by an average of 27.4 points. They avenged their only loss by beating Arizona 51-13 in the Pac-12 title game. They beat the undefeated and defending national champs (Florida State) by 39 points.
But the more one studies the game the more it seems that Ohio State has the edge on the line of scrimmage and the edge in coaching. Ohio State fell behind 21-6 to Alabama in New Orleans but the Buckeyes just kept playing. Logic says take Oregon. But on Monday logic will take the night off. OHIO STATE 35, OREGON 31