What are the five keys to Ohio State winning the game, and how will they pull it off? Let's take a look.
FIVE: There have been a few distractions for this game on the Oregon side of things, and the drug suspension of Darren Carrington is huge. Not only does it remove a great player from the lineup, but the simple stupidity of the act hurts team preparation. They were already a man down at the WR corps due to injury, and this is how Carrington lifts his team? This creates unwanted tension for the Ducks. Ohio State has been loose and carefree the entire game prep. EDGE: BUCKEYES.
FOUR: The pace of this game could be dramatically different than the two semi-final games, and the score rose in both of those contests due to turnovers. I'm expecting a clean game on both sides, which should allow punters to flip the field, and that lends itself to a more traditional game, not the track meet Oregon desires. If one of these teams commits the errors Florida State and Alabama did, this point and this whole article goes out the window. Being a negative three in the turnover department Monday night gets either team beat. Maybe in a rout. I do not envision that type of game Monday night. The more traditional style of football game favors Oregon's opponent, much like Auburn and Ohio State did to them a few years ago in big games. EDGE: BUCKEYES.
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THREE: Cardale Jones vs. Marcus Mariota might seem like a huge mismatch on the surface, but it just might not be as it seems. Mariota is a fabulous player, and deserving of everything positive that has come his way. But Jones has shown that he is not a third-string clipboard holder the past two games, and in fact may have elevated himself into the NFL draft with his play. His play against Alabama was ultra-impressive, especially considering he was off to a terrible start and had to find himself. For Oregon to win, they need Mariota to dominate the QB battle, and while I expect him to play really well, I think Jones can hang with him throughout the game. If this matchup is even, or close to even, Oregon has a problem I believe. EDGE: EVEN, which is huge for the Buckeyes.
TWO: The line play on both sides of the football. Ohio State has always been strong on the defensive line since the start of the season, but the offensive line has gone from scout-team quality to a group that physically man-handled Alabama just a week ago. I know Oregon has tried to increase the physicality of their lines, and Monday will be a good test for them. Even with the spread era we are now in, dominating the line of scrimmage and whipping the other team's tails still is a great recipe for success. If Joey Bosa and Michael Bennett do what they've done all year, this not only keeps Oregon from exploding on the scoreboard, but it keeps the pace where Ohio State wants it. Both lines matching each other is a good thing for Ohio State, where Oregon wants to speed the game up. Hard to speed up the game when you're in a lot of third-and-longs. I think Ohio State is the more physical team. Bottom line. EDGE: BUCKEYES.
ONE: The coaching matchup of Urban Meyer vs. Mark Helfrich is THE key point to this game for me, and I just believe coaching matters so much in college football. Meyer is a master in these situations, while Helfrich is a rookie. That alone tips the scales for me. Urban Meyer has been winning these types of games for years, while Mark Helfrich is in his first pressure-cooker as a head coach. Winning a national championship is the ultimate prize for a head coach. I see this as Meyer's time, with Helfrich gaining valuable experience for his next run. EDGE: BUCKEYES.
THE PICK: Ohio State 38 Oregon 30.