Ohio State vs. Oregon Top Storylines

    Unlike past bowl games that decided national titles, there won’t be several weeks to analyze and scrutinize. There’s just 11 days of turnaround time, and

    January 2, 2015

    Unlike past bowl games that decided national titles, there won’t be several weeks to analyze and scrutinize. There’s just 11 days of turnaround time, and there won’t be any excuses in terms of being back in football shape, health, or time – it’s as if each team gets a week off after a big regular season non-conference game. But the hype will start now, and here’s what everyone will be talking about. 

    1. Can Ohio State handle the tempo? 
    Time of possession means absolutely nothing to Oregon in any way – the points count the same if you score them after a seven minute drive or after a 34 second one. However, Ohio State has to keep its defense on the sidelines as much as possible by grinding out drives and keeping the chains moving. Again, Oregon doesn’t care about how long it has the ball, but Ohio State can’t think about pulling this off if it doesn’t own possessions and doesn’t keep the ball for at least 32 minutes. 

    2. Will Oregon be able to handle the power? 
    Lost in the discussion of the blowout win over Florida State was how Oregon got blasted on by the Seminole running game. FSU ran for 4.6 yards per crack, and while there weren’t any big home runs, and the ground attack was abandoned in the second half, it was still effective at key times. Ohio State can’t give up on the running game and has to pound, keep pounding, and keep pounding some more. There will be times when Ohio State has to stop the Oregon momentum, and a six minute drive will do it – as long as the march ends with a score. Florida State kept forgetting about that part. 

    3. Mark Helfrich vs. Urban Meyer 
    Meyer has won two national championships, while Helfrich is going into his second season as a head coach. Meyer has done a masterful job of getting his ultra-talented team to play at a higher level, and Helfrich has done a masterful job of getting his ultra-talented team to play at a more effective level. Experience might count for something, and Meyer’s savvy should be a difference in some ways, but Helfrich has blowout wins over Mark Dantonio, David Shaw, Mike Riley, Rich Rodriguez, Chris Petersen, Mack Brown and Jim Mora Jr. over the last two seasons. He won’t likely be fazed, but Urban Meyer is Urban Meyer for a reason. 

    4. Cardale Jones vs. Marcus Mariota 
    Jones was questioned going into the Big Ten championship, and he completed 71% of his passes for 257 yards and three scores averaging 15.1 yards per pass. But that was against Wisconsin, he can’t handle himself against Alabama’s defense on the big stage, right? 18-of-35 for 243 yards and a score with a pick. He’s not the Heisman winner, but he has a better arm than Mariota – and less pressure. Ohio State is supposed to try to win with Cardale Jones at quarterback, while Oregon is supposed to win because it has Marcus Mariota at quarterback. Mariota appears to handle pressure situations with a yawn, a shrug, and a four play touchdown drive that takes 31 seconds, but Ohio State is going to bring the pass rush. The two quarterbacks might be more similar talent-wise than it might appear, even if they have completely different styles and skills. 

    5. Pass efficiency offense vs. pass efficiency defense 
    Oregon finished up with Florida State game with the nation’s most efficient passing game, while Ohio State was No. 2 for most of the year thanks to J.T. Barrett. The Buckeye secondary has been outstanding against most passing games, ranking fifth in the nation in pass efficiency defense and screwed up Alabama’s Blake Sims with three picks. Oregon has plenty of weapons, but they don’t have Amari Cooper, who caught nine passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns, but didn’t explode. 

    6. Michigan State 
    The Spartans lost two games this year – once against Oregon in Eugene, and once at home against Ohio State. What was the difference in the two games? The Spartans did a decent job of keeping the Oregon running game in check, and Ohio State ran at will. While the Ducks averaged 4.3 yards per run with three touchdowns, the Buckeyes averaged 6.5 yards per pop with four touchdowns. They were relatively similar games statistically, but Oregon pulled away late while Ohio State never let up from start to finish. Expect the game tapes of the dates with the Spartans to be front and center for everyone all week. 

    7. A new national title
    Considering there was a split national title in 1990 – Colorado over Notre Dame, with Georgia Tech taking a piece of the championship – and with the bowls not being a part of the national championship mix until 1970, there’s never really been a true championship battle between teams from above the Mason-Dixon line. There’s no SEC program involved, no team from Texas, no USC or Miami or Florida State – it’s true Ohio football vs. the Pacific Northwest, and it’s unlike anything college football has ever seen. It’s a good matchup for college football because it’s different. It’s the first College Football Playoff national championship, and it’s also like a higher-end Rose Bowl with the Big Ten vs. Pac-12 angle. It’s not what anyone expected, but it has all the makings of something fun. 


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