It's Pac-12 against Big Ten in the first-ever College Football Playoff national championship game with No. 2 Oregon opening as a 6.5-point favorite against No. 4 Ohio State for the Jan 12 matchup at AT&T Stadium. The total is a huge 75 points.
How They Got Here
Had the BCS system still been in place, Alabama and Florida State would have played for it all and the Ducks and Buckeyes would have faced off in the Rose Bowl. So you can't argue that College Football Playoff didn't work because clearly Oregon and OSU are better than Alabama and Florida State.
The Ducks wiped out the defending national champion Seminoles 59-20 in the Rose Bowl, Oregon's ninth straight win -- all by double digits. Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota did have a rare interception, only his third this season, but threw for 338 yards and two scores while running eight times for 62 yards and a touchdown. Darren Carrington caught seven passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
Sure, the Ducks allowed 528 yards of offense but they also forced five second-half turnovers. A Jameis Winston fumble was returned 58 yards for a score by Tony Washington late in the third quarter for a 45-20 lead that all but iced the game. The Ducks scored 34 total points off those turnovers, and Oregon's 59 points were the most in Rose Bowl history. Oregon has scored less than 38 points just once all season. It has reached at least 50 five times and ranks No. 2 nationally in scoring (47.2 ppg).
The news wasn't all good for Oregon. Receiver and return man Devon Allen injured his knee on the opening kickoff and didn't return. He's not expected to play against Ohio State. The freshman is one of the fastest players in the nation, winning the 2014 NCAA title in the 110-meter hurdles. Allen has 41 catches for 684 yards and seven touchdowns this season. The Ducks played FSU without All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu because of a knee injury and he won't be ready for this game. This surely will be the final collegiate game for Mariota, who is likely to go No. 1 overall in the 2015 draft.
While Oregon hasn't been an underdog at sportsbooks all season, Ohio State was for the third time in the Sugar Bowl against No. 1 Alabama. The Tide closed giving 7.5 points, but OSU won 42-35 after trailing 21-6 at one point. The Buckeyes put up 537 yards of offense on one of the nation's best defenses. Running back Ezekiel Elliott followed up a monster Big Ten Championship Game with an even better national semifinal, rushing for 230 yards and two touchdowns. His 85-yard score with 3:24 left was the back-breaker for the Tide. It was the longest rushing play ever against a Nick Saban-coached Alabama team, and Elliott's overall yardage total was the most ever for a running back against the Tide under Saban.
Ohio State third-string QB Cardale Jones, making only his second career start, was solid. He finished 18 of 35 for 243 yards with a touchdown and interception while rushing 17 times for 43 yards. He's not quite the runner that injured former starters Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett were but Jones is a big guy who is hard to bring down. The Buckeyes rank No. 5 nationally in scoring (45.0 ppg). They have scored at least 31 points in every game but one.
While Oregon's Mark Helfrich will coach his first national title game, it's a third for Urban Meyer, who won two while at Florida. He can join Saban as the only coaches with national championships at multiple schools.
Ohio State is 8-0 all time against Oregon but that means nothing. The schools haven't met since 2010. The Buckeyes are 9-5 against the college football odds this season and 12-2 'over/under.' Oregon is 10-4 ATS and 7-6-1 'over/under' at sportsbooks.
You have to feel somewhat sorry for Michigan State. The Spartans beat an excellent Baylor team in a huge Cotton Bowl rally on New Year's Day. Sparty might be the nation's third-best team as its only two losses are to the Ducks and Buckeyes. Michigan State was a 14-point dog on NCAA football odds at Oregon on Sept. 6 and lost 46-27. The Spartans did lead 27-18 late in the third quarter before the Ducks finally wore down that defense. MSU had 466 yards of offense but turned it over twice and allowed 491 yards. Mariota threw for 318 yards and three scores, running for 42 more yards. Ohio State was a 3.5-point underdog in East Lansing on Nov. 8 and won 49-37. MSU's last lead in that one was 21-14 late in the second quarter. The Spartans had 536 yards of offense, but OSU had 568. The Buckeyes did turn it over twice. Of course current OSU QB Jones didn't play in that one, with Barrett totaling five touchdowns.
NCAAF Free Picks: 5Dimes offers alternate lines so if you are going to give the points, it makes sense to get as low as possible. I will do so, giving 5.5 points at -125. Obviously like Oregon at -230 on the moneyline as well. This looks like a shootout on paper, but 75 points is a ton. Go 'under' for your college football pick.