College Football Playoff National Championship, North Texas
|Matchup Preview | January 12, 2014|
|No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes|
(13-1, Sugar Bowl champs)
| No. 2 Oregon Ducks|
(13-1, Rose Bowl champs)
Five Fast Facts About Oregon
Normally I’d put five facts about Oregon here, but I wrote all about the Ducks earlier this week. So here’s instead five facts about the University of Oregon itself.
1. The team was originally known as “Webfoots” as Oregon was known as the Webfoot State, thanks in part to the Massachusetts fishermen who settled in the area, muddy shoes and all. The name was shortened to Ducks to fit newspaper headlines.
2. The Donald Duck mascot the school has used came thanks to a handshake agreement between school AD Leo Harris and Walt Disney, who gave the school the ability to use the mark in perpetuity as long as it was used in good taste.
3. The school was known as “Faber College” when its campus served as the filming location for the classic comedy “Animal House.”
4. The school was created in 1872, with the people in Eugene holding strawberry festivals, church socials and produce sales to help fund the university.
5. Per Wikipedia, the university is known for being the site of a pioneering participatory planning experiment known as the Oregon Experiment, which is also the subject of a book of the same name that evolved into the well known book “A Pattern Language” by Christopher Alexander. The two major principles of the project are that buildings should be designed, in part, by the people who will ultimately use them with the help of an "architect facilitator", and that construction should occur over many small projects as opposed to a few large ones.
OHIO STATE RUSH OFFENSE vs. OREGON RUSH DEFENSE
It will be interesting to see how Ohio State deals with Oregon’s defensive line, which runs essentially a 3-4 with two big ends that shade inside on tackles, creating a “hidden Bear” look that allows the Ducks to clog the middle. Obviously OSU had trouble against such looks earlier this year – the scheme makes it hard to make the combo blocks that makes the run offense go – but the Buckeyes adjusted throughout the season to more edge runs and other plays that use that strategy against opponents. The Buckeyes have run on just about everyone – seriously, they gained more than 300 yards vs. Alabama of all teams – so we’re still gonna pick the in-the-zone Ezekiel Elliott to roll. EDGE: OHIO STATE
OREGON RUSH OFFENSE vs. OHIO STATE RUSH DEFENSE
While Ohio State shut down Melvin Gordon we’re just not quite comfortable yet giving OSU an edge here. The Buckeyes had their noted run defense issues late in the season vs. teams like Minnesota, Indiana and even both Michigan schools, and one wonders how the Sugar Bowl would have turned out if Alabama had just given Derrick Henry the ball more often. Oregon has quarterback Marcus Mariota, who can run when he needs to, plus a nice compliment of backs. Leading rusher Royce Freeman isn’t quite the burner the team has had in the past so the speed angle might be overblown here. Still, Oregon is really good at spreading you out and making sure they can gain 5-10 yards per play based on what you’re giving them. EDGE: OREGON
OHIO STATE PASS OFFENSE vs. OREGON PASS DEFENSE
Oregon’s numbers against the pass aren’t great, though this is one of the better ball-hawking teams out there so Cardale Jones has to be safe when he unloads over the middle. Safety Erick Dargan has seven picks, but Jones has been careful with the ball since becoming the starter and hasn’t forced balls into coverage, really. OSU has a full complement of receivers and the deep threats to make something happen here against an Oregon team that can be beaten deep. EDGE: OHIO STATE
OREGON PASS OFFENSE vs. OHIO STATE PASS DEFENSE
Oregon has been known as a run spread for a while but having a quarterback like Mariota has allowed the team to throw for more than 300 yards per game this year. It would be strength against strength but Oregon is missing four major pass-catching threats including its top two deep threats in Devon Allen and Darren Carrington. This can hurt as it might make Oregon more of a side to side team in the title game, though Mariota is an expert at taking what is given and Oregon has Charles Nelson playing well of late. Still, this has been a strength for Ohio State, which had the second worst pass defense in school history last year and is now fourth in the nation in pass efficiency D. Mariota gets good marks, though, for controlling the ball and his ability to escape danger in the pocket. EDGE: EVEN
Ohio State should have an advantage here. Oregon doesn’t have a game breaker in the return game a la Kenjon Barner a few years ago (seriously, he killed OSU on kick returns) while the Ducks punting game is mediocre at best. OSU has struggled with field goals and Oregon is solid despite using two kickers, but the Buckeyes have excellent coverage units and one of the best punting weapons in the nation. EDGE: OHIO STATE
We’ve talked a ton about how good Ohio State is in this realm thanks in part to a legendary resiliency and resolve, but let’s not sell Oregon short here. No team just waltzes into the national title game, and Oregon has one of the better killer instincts of any team in the nation. Some have said Urban Meyer vs. Mark Helfrich is an advantage for Ohio State but let’s not forget Gene Chizik won a national title in his second year, too. EDGE: EVEN
We’re taking Ohio State. A lot of our pickers have been wrong throughout the year – sorry, guys – but we are convinced. After selling the Buckeyes a little short the past few weeks, we’re all in on Ohio State. Each one of our staff pickers chose OSU including a special guest picker below. We’ll let ESPN.com’s Chuck Klosterman carry us out (seriously!).
Klosterman says: “First of all, I need to frame the value of my prediction: The value is zero. Maybe less than zero, if we're somehow watching this game in the fourth dimension. Not only did I get both of the semi-final playoff games wrong, but I'm also in one of those "bowl confidence" pools with 18 other guys. And I'm currently in 19th place. Somehow, watching 1000 hours of college football every fall makes me incapable of judging the outcome of any game that has not yet happened. But here we go ... on paper, I think Oregon clearly has the better team. Of course, two weeks ago, I would have said the same thing about Alabama. So while I am logically compelled to select Oregon, my (increasingly spherical) gut prompts me to pick Ohio State. I am taking the Buckeyes in a shoot-out, 37-33. Which will have the added benefit of setting up the most fascinating three-man QB race in this history of college football (unless somebody transfers, a possibility that I'm guessing has already been "casually discussed" among readers of this particular publication).”