After years of hand wrenching and thumb twiddling, major college football finally got its long overdue playoff this season. As was the case in 1939 at the first NCAA Basketball Tournament, it will be Oregon and Ohio State squaring off for the first CFP Championship.
Oregon reached the title game with an emphatic 59-20 romp of defending national champion Florida State at the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual on New Year’s Day. The Ducks lead was 18-13 at halftime before a barrage of FSU turnovers turned the game into a blowout. Florida State committed five for the game, four in the third quarter alone, and Oregon converted each one into a touchdown.
Ohio State’s road to North Texas was far more exciting as the Buckeyes upset Alabama 42-35 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl later New Year’s night. OSU trailed 21-6 in the second quarter, but turned the game with superior game plan, and an Alabama defense riddled by injuries at linebacker. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 230 yards, 85 on the decisive touchdown late in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach. In a common theme, the Crimson Tide committed three turnovers, all Blake Sims interceptions.
So the dominant conference in college football has failed to have a school reach the national championship game for the first time in 10 years. Many around the country are enjoying touting this fact, quick to troll the SEC as being down and dynasty being over. The truth was that the strength of the conference proved most overwhelming to itself as Alabama showed the wear-and-tear of running through it. The SEC went 7-5 in bowls this season.
In the first NCAA Basketball Championship, curiously played in Evanston, Illinois, Oregon defeated Ohio State 46-33. Since that 1939 final, Oregon has never won another championship. Northwestern, the school that hosted, has yet to play in a NCAA Tournament game itself, after all these years. In fact, outside of their only recently emerging Track program, Oregon has no other national championships at all. But they are a clear favorite to win this one.
Oregon’s control and subsequent dominance of Florida State was their most impressive performance of the season. Even though Marcus Mariota threw his third interception of the season, the Ducks were barely slowed down doing most whatever they wished against the Seminoles. The building storyline has been the improvement (defensively) throughout the season. Their bend-but-not-break style improved further in Pasadena.
Ohio State is on their third quarterback of the season. There were actually two better than Cardale Jones. Jones has been magnificent so far in the team’s two biggest games. The Buckeyes rolled up 537 yards against Alabama, and a similar performance is necessary here. The defense has been solidly led by Joey Bosa, and is completely the complementary part of this team. The difference has been that Coach Urban Meyer refuses to allow excuses and never ceases to be innovative.
The basketball championship spoken of had 79 total points, so expect at least close to that in Arlington, Texas on Monday night. These two teams combine to average 92. Oregon has more athletes; Oregon has more skill; Oregon has more speed. But Ohio State has shown more heart, more experience, and more power. They also have Meyer, who is looking for his third championship. Still, the difference figures to be at quarterback. It is highly unlikely for Jones to outplay Mariota. In the end, as in basketball, the first playoff championship goes to Oregon 45-35.