That December break still existed, but it came before the College Football Playoff semifinals instead of prior to the championship game. The biggest game of the year will be conducted in a manner that comes closer to mimicking the actual season, with less than two weeks separating the Sugar Bowl and CFP National Championship.
“Yeah, I’d definitely say it’s a different feel,” Ohio State senior wide receiver Evan Spencer said. “We’ve tried to make it seem more like an away game. It’s definitely got a different feel than a bowl game for obvious reasons, not being here as long. I don’t know… this is the biggest game in college football and one of the most historic. We are excited and ready to get playing.”
“It’s more like a regular game,” punter Cameron Johnston added. “Just trying to do your regular schedule, don’t try to change things up, so the coaching staff is good with that.”
That could bode well for the quality of play. In the last eight years of the BCS, five of the national championship matchups were decided by 14 or more points.
There is, however, the matter of navigating a 15th game and doing it on shorter rest than OSU had for the Sugar Bowl. Although the Buckeyes have the ability to practice as much as they want – unlike Oregon – because classes don’t resume until Monday, head coach Urban Meyer said his team didn’t come close to reaching the 20-hour practice limit that Oregon has to adhere to.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr. said the Buckeyes have been cautious when it comes to practicing, an approach that has served them well as the season has worn on.
“Coach Meyer’s done a great job of managing how much time we’re on the field,” he said. “It’s a long season. The biggest thing is concern over health and guys getting hurt as we move forward, but we’ve done a good job of monitoring that, and that’s why we’re here today.”
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich echoed those sentiments, saying his team has gotten input from CFL and NFL teams on how to deal with an extended season and playoff.
The 11-day gap should give the Buckeyes and Ducks a good balance – enough time to recover from a physical battle against Alabama but not a lengthy break that leads to a sloppy title game performance. If it ends with a better game, that will be one more success for an already popular playoff system.