Can Ohio State cap off Year 125 of football with an eighth National Championship? Doing so means stopping Marcus Mariota and Oregon to upset the college football odds makers.
|Oregon scores first -145 (best line bet365)
OhioSt scores first +145 (best line BOL)
|Team to score first wins game -180 (best line Bovada)
Team to score first loses game +160 (best line SIA)
|Longest TD scored o 62½ +105 (best line Heritage)
Longest TD scored u 62½ -115 (best line 5Dimes)
|Game total odd -125 (best line bet365)
Game total even +110 (best line 5Dimes)
Urban Meyer is very familiar with the offense he'll see Monday night in the first College Football Playoff National Championship Game. He installed a version of the spread attack at Bowling Green in his first collegiate head coaching job about 14 years ago, tweaking it a bit when he moved to Utah and again to Florida from 2005-10.
He has upgraded it even more now after taking over at Ohio State prior to 2012, the irony being some of the new twists and wrinkles were borne from a skull session with former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly. So it's safe to say the Ducks won't throw much at the Buckeyes that their head coach hasn't already seen or envisioned himself.
Now comes the question of whether Meyer and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell can keep their team from being surprised with a solid plan.
The Buckeyes are 6½ point underdogs in the CFP Championship, that spread down a half from when it first appeared on SBR's live college football odds. The current 75 point total suggests both teams might have difficulty executing even a mediocre defensive game plan.
OSU Can't Simply Key On Mariota
Monday's melee could very well end up being a back-&-forth shootout that finds both teams scoring in the 40s -- or higher -- when all is said and done. Heck, Oregon damn near crossed the 60-point plateau in the Rose Bowl against a Florida State team that entered the game giving up 23 PPG, amassing nearly 640 yards on a defense that allowed fewer than 380 per game before the CFP semifinal.
The performance of 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota was a big factor behind the Ducks' rout, and obviously a huge reason why Oregon reached the playoffs to begin with. But as Doug Upstone pointed out, Mariota has a lot of weapons at his disposal, so OSU won't be able to put all of its eggs in one basket by keying just on the Ducks QB.
Mariota himself accounted for 55 touchdowns this season, 40 of them through the air against only three picks, one of which came in the 59-20 win over FSU to end a 29-game Seminole win streak. Pressuring Mariota to try and force him into making errors is too simple of a game plan...and it could backfire with some of the quick passes in the Oregon playbook. What we old-timers call a flanker screen is something we'll see often from the Ducks, and could result in leaving a corner or deep safety exposed to fend alone on Ohio State's side.
What Meyer and Fickell are likely to try early on is getting as much as possible out of a 3-4 man rush while disguising coverage downfield in hopes of hoodwinking Mariota. It would also allow the Buckeyes better opportunities to fill running lanes in order to at least slow an Oregon rushing attack that ranks 18th nationally (241.8 ypg).
Sometimes The Best Defense Is A Mistake-Free Offense
We give Oregon its due for the Rose Bowl triumph, but some of the credit -- discredit? --also has to go to a Florida State offense that fumbled away any chances of a repeat undefeated season. Jameis Winston & Co. committed five turnovers, all in the second half with the Ducks scoring touchdowns after each one.
Cardale Jones and Ohio State managed to overcome three turnovers in the Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama, but will have to take care of protecting the football better vs. the Ducks. Oregon was +20 in the takeaway/giveaway column this season, the Buckeyes checking in at a respectable +10 and needing to win that stat to take home the National Championship.
Then again, maybe Ohio State simply has Oregon's number and can rely on its series dominance instead of worrying too much about Mariota and the Ducks when the sides kick things off at 8:30 PM (ET) on ESPN. The Buckeyes have won all eight encounters, including the 2010 Rose Bowl in which they won the turnover column while keeping Oregon's offense off the field in a 26-17 decision.
Season: 67-49-1 (+13.10)