College Football Picks: Final Four Offensive Rankings

Darin Zank

Friday, December 12, 2014 6:50 PM GMT

The field is set for the first-ever NCAAF national championship playoff. As we begin to handicap the first two match-ups, we thought it might help to rate and rank each team's offense. Here's our take on the four offenses involved in college football's version of the Final Four.

Oregon: High-Octane Quack Attack
The Ducks are 12-1 on the season, the only loss coming against Arizona. Oregon then got revenge on the Wildcats with a blowout victory in the Pac-12 championship game, and in doing so hit the 40-point mark for the 11th time this season.

Oregon racked up 491 yards of offense against Michigan State back in September, 446 in its loss to Arizona, 468 against UCLA, 525 against Stanford, 508 against Utah and 617 in the Pac-12 Conference championship game re-match against the Wildcats. And that's not to mention some of the gaudy numbers Oregon posted against the weaker defenses it went up against this season.

For the season, the Ducks rank third in the nation in total offense at 546 yards per game, 22nd in rushing at 237 yards per game, third in scoring at 46 points per game, all while playing what Sagarin at USAToday.com Sports ranks as the 33rd-toughest schedule in the country. Along the way, probable Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota has completed 68 percent of his throws at quarterback for almost 3,800 yards, while compiling a ridiculous 38/2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. And leading rusher Royce Freeman, just a freshman, has averaged 5.6 yards on 230 carries.

We won't be surprised if the Ducks put up 40 on Florida State in the Rose Bowl.

 

Florida State: Powered by Winston
The Seminoles own a 29-game winning streak, and are 13-0 this season, but it hasn't been easy. FSU has had to come from behind on several occasions this year, but in the end winning is all that matters, and that's all the 'Noles have done and you should consider this when looking at the college football odds

Of course, the Florida State offense begins and ends with quarterback Jameis Winston, last year's Heisman winner. But Winston isn't exactly a pocket passer, and tends to throw some flutter balls; in fact, he tossed four interceptions in a victory over Florida, and three in a win over Louisville. On the season Winston owns a rather mediocre 24/17 TD/INT ratio.

The Seminoles also only averaged 135 yards per game on the ground this season, which ranks just 104th in the country. On the whole Florida State ranks 44th in the nation in total offense at 435 yards per game, and that came while playing what Sagarin ranks as the 37th-toughest schedule in the country. All in all, we rank the Seminoles offense as the worst among the Final Four teams.

 

Alabama: Question Answered
The biggest unknown for the Tide headed into this season was at the quarterback position, after the departure of AJ McCarron. In fact, transfer Jake Coker topped the preseason depth chart at that spot. But senior Blake Sims emerged as “the man,” and led 'Bama to 12 victories and another SEC championship.

Alabama has topped the 40-point mark seven times this season, including its last three games in a row, over which it's averaged 48 points per outing. Sims has thrown eight touchdown passes over that span, and on the season hit on 65 percent of his throws, for over 3,200 yards, compiling a 25/7 TD/INT ratio.

Wide receiver Amari Cooper played himself into Heisman consideration, catching 115 balls for almost 1,700 yards and 14 scores. Three times this season Cooper topped 200 yards in receptions, including a 224-yard effort in the victory over Auburn. 

The Tide also has two guys, TJ Yeldon (932) and Derrick Henry (895), who have combined to rush for 1,800 yards.

For the season Alabama ranks 17th in total offense, 37th in rushing at 209 yards per game, and is averaging 37 points per game, all while playing Sagarin's fourth-toughest schedule.

 

Ohio State: Third-String? No Problem
The Buckeyes took a hit before this season even started when quarterback Braxton Miller went down with a shoulder injury. Then, after a slow start, freshman JT Barrett found his footing and led OSU to the Big Ten championship game. But in the regular season finale he suffered a broken ankle and was also lost for the season.

Ohio State then went into that conference title game against Wisconsin with a big question mark at quarterback in sophomore Cardale Jones. But the 6-5, 250-pounder put any fears to rest on the first drive of the game, which culminated in a beautiful 39-yard hookup with Devin Smith for a score. Jones went on to complete 12 of 17 passes against what was supposed to be a very tough Badgers defense, for 257 yards and three touchdowns, as the Buckeyes blew out Wisconsin 59-0.

Not bad for a kid's first-ever collegiate start. Fortunately, Jones doesn't have to do it alone, not with running back Ezekiel Elliot averaging 6.5 yards on 217 carries.

On the season Ohio State ranks eighth in the nation in total offense, 11th in rushing at 261 yards per game, and fourth in scoring at 45 points per game, although those figures came against just the 52nd-toughest schedule in the country. Also, one must wonder what Coach Saban and his defensive brain trust has in store for the Buckeyes' young quarterback in the upcoming Sugar Bowl.

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Final Analysis
It probably comes as no surprise that we rank the Oregon offense as the best among the playoff qualifiers. Mariota has all the tools, and multiple weapons to work with. Next comes Alabama, with a great boost from Cooper. Next comes Ohio State, even with the youngster at quarterback. And Florida State brings up the rear, mainly because of a very pedestrian running game.