Buckeyes Shift Focus to Oregon Quickly

Ohio State had little time to bask in its win over Alabama with a national title game to prepare for. The Buckeyes acknowledged they are in an unprecedented situation as part of the first College Football Playoff.

With an eye-opening 42-35 Sugar Bowl victory under their belt, Ohio State football players expressed little concern about their ability to turn the page quickly from Alabama to Oregon.

Of course, they don't have much choice. While the triumph in New Orleans was something to savor, it came only 11 days before the next challenge, one with even bigger stakes. That is, of course, the first College Football Playoff Championship Game.

"We played this game to play the next game," defensive lineman Michael Bennett said in the locker room after the Sugar Bowl. "I think everybody's minds are already on the next game. I don't think it's going to be hard to refocus people. Guys didn't see this game as big time, we saw this game as the next step. We had to beat Alabama to get there and we did do that."

Offensive lineman Taylor Decker called the contest against the Crimson Tide the most physical he has been a part of, and he acknowledged the unique circumstances the Buckeyes earned with the victory.

"I mean it's unprecedented, but I have faith in our coaching staff and how they're going to handle it," Decker said. "They know what we can do even though they have never been in this situation. We've been prepared for every game we've played, fresh, ready to go and ready to play. I don't know how they'll do it. I'm just going to do whatever they tell me."

While quarterback Cardale Jones said in the aftermath of the Sugar Bowl he had no idea what to expect from Oregon's defense, the Buckeyes should find some similarities when they flip on film of the Ducks' vaunted offense because it strongly resembles their own in form and function. Like Ohio State, the Ducks operate out of a run-based spread offense with a dynamic quarterback and speedy receivers on the outside. They want to force opponents to stop the run then punish them down the field if they get too concerned with that.

It's a familiar formula, though it comes at teams with a pace few in the country can match. While Ohio State has used a no-huddle, hurry-up offense at times this season, Bennett said the No. 1 defense has not practiced against it much.

"I think we have the same speed as them, but their tempo is hard to prepare for," Bennett said. "That's going to be the biggest thing, but once you prepare for it and you're ready for it, it's just another team."

Also working in the Ducks' favor is the ultimate X-factor, the man who has the ball on every play. While Ohio State quarterbacks J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones have been among the toughest to defend in college football this seasons, Oregon's Marcus Mariota has performed at a level all his own. The Heisman Trophy was his reward for an ultra efficient and dangerous season, and he wants to add another piece of hardware before he's done. When it comes to trying to figure out how to prevent that, Ohio State has no time to waste.

"With this group of guys we have I don't think it will be hard to focus," linebacker Joshua Perry said. "We've got a lot of guys that go about their business in a professional way. We take care of each other obviously and we know what's at stake. We've fought so hard to get to this position we're not going to let anything get in the way."

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