By Mark Miller
(2) Oregon Ducks vs. (4) Ohio State Buckeyes
Monday – January 12 – 7:30 pm cst
AT&T Stadium – Arlington
Years after nearly everyone who follows the sport clamored for a playoff to determine the ultimate champion, the inaugural College Football Playoff Championship game is upon us.
Finally, we can stop seeing all the ESPN promos for the two College Football Playoff semifinals and concentrate on the title game Jan. 12 in Arlington. Amidst all the X’s and O’s that already have and will continue to be dissected ad nauseam, here are some interesting facts that will happen no matter who comes out on top:
• The winner will be a school whose name starts with the letter “O.”
• The game will be sponsored by Dallas-based AT&T and played in a stadium bearing that famous company’s name.
• Plano-based Dr. Pepper will present the championship trophy.
• The team that wins will finish the season with one loss.
• ESPN will broadcast the contest starting at 7:30 p.m. North Texas time.
• One head coach will be going for his first national title, the other for his third.
• Neither team would even be in the game under the old Bowl Championship Series system. In fact, they would have played in the Rose Bowl had a playoff not been introduced this year.
• Maybe most important to many people, a team from the Big 10 or Pacific 12 conference will triumph, NOT one from the Southeastern Conference which seemed to win every year under the old Bowl Championship Series system.
OK, so that’s what we know for sure. Now let’s discuss what we don’t, like the final outcome.
If the semifinals are any indication, expect a high scoring contest. Oregon had 59 points against defending national champion Florida State in the Rose Bowl while Ohio State had 42 against the No. 1 team this year in Alabama. Plus, Oregon ranked No. 2 in the nation in net yards gained per play (7.35) while Ohio State was No. 5 at 7.04.
How about the coaches? Oregon’s Mark Helfrich has a 24-3 record in two seasons since Chip Kelly left to coach the National Football League’s Philadelphia Eagles. He was a member of Kelly’s staff that led the Ducks to the 2010 national title game which they lost against Auburn.
Helfrich will receive a $250,000 bonus if the Ducks win which is on top of the $460,000 in bonuses he previously earned.
Ohio State’s Urban Meyer has won 37 of 40 games at Ohio State after winning two national titles at Florida. In between he took off a year for health reasons but studied teams like Oregon as an ESPN analyst.
Both teams lost their lone 2014 games at home – Ohio State to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6 and Oregon to Arizona on Oct. 2. The Buckeyes have won 12 straight games since, the Ducks nine.
While much of the publicity will center on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariotta and his Ohio State counterpart Cardale Jones, it may be young running backs who make the difference on offense. Oregon freshman Royce Freeman has rushed for 1,343 yards and 18 touchdowns while Buckeyes sophomore Ezekiel Elliott gained 1,632, including more than 200 yards in each of his last two games.
Both teams are a bit suspect on defense, with Ohio State tied for 18th in the nation in net yards allowed per play (4.79) and Oregon at No. 58 (5.40). Neither team has a strong kicking so it will be interesting last-second field is needed determine the outcome. But don’t be surprised if at one team returns a kick for a score.
So who do I think will win? Being a Big 10 graduate (University of Wisconsin) and with my wife having gone to beauty school in Columbus, Ohio, naturally I have to go with the Buckeyes 42 – Oregon 38.