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Monday, January 12, 2015

Oregon vs. Ohio State Preview

History will be made on Monday night in Iriving, Texas when Oregon plays Ohio State at Cowboy Stadium.  The Ducks and the Buckeyes will be playing in the first ever the national championship game of the College Football Playoff era.

Path to the Championship.  The Oregon Ducks won the PAC-12 championship game over Arizona after posting a regular season record of 11-1.  That was good enough for the playoff committee to award the Oregon Ducks with the #2 seed in the playoff field.  This matched them up against the undefeated defending champion Florida State Seminoles in the Rose Bowl.  Oregon didn't just win the game.  The Ducks thoroughly outclassed the Seminoles in a 59-20 route on their way to the national championship game.

The Ohio State Buckeyes were the champions of the Big Ten.  They were undefeated in regular season conference play before beating Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game.  The Buckeyes were the last team to get into the playoffs and were the #4 seed.  That sent them to New Orleans to play the #1 seed Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl.  Not many experts gave the Buckeyes much of a chance against the Tide.  After falling behind in the first quarter, the Buckeyes slowly and steadily pulled out a victory by a score of 42-35.

The Wins.  In the second week of the season, Oregon invited Michigan State to Autzen Stadium and sent them home in defeat by a score of 46-27.  Michigan State was ranked #7 in the nation at the time and finished the season at 11-2, including a victory over Baylor in the Cotton Bowl.  During conference play, the Ducks beat ranked teams on the road at UCLA and Utah.  Oregon dismantled Stanford at home by a score of 45-16 and beat the arch rival Oregon State Beavers on the road to end the regular season.  In the PAC-12 championship game, the Ducks annihilated Arizona by a score of 51-13, who was ranked #7 in the nation at the time.  Oregon followed that up with the aforementioned beatdown of Florida State in the Rose Bowl.

During the regular season, Ohio State only played two ranked teams.  Both of those games were on the road.  The Buckeyes beat Michigan State 49-37.  The next week, Ohio State beat Minnesota 31-24.  The Buckeyes probably earned their spot in the playoffs with their performance in the Big Ten championship game.  A tight victory probably would not have gotten the committee's attention, but Ohio State beat Wisconsin like a drum on the way to a 59-0 shutout.

The Losses.  The only game that Oregon played all year that was decided by less than a touchdown was their lone loss.  Arizona beat Oregon 31-24 at Oregon in early October.  The Wildcats held the Ducks to their lowest point total of the season in that contest.  Of course, Oregon avenged this loss with a dominant performance in the PAC-12 championship game.

Ohio State stumbled early in the season when they lost at home to a very mediocre Virginia Tech team by two touchdowns at home.  Despite the fact that Ohio State was still breaking in a new starting quarterback, that game remains a head scratcher.  Then of course, there is the game in Happy Valley where the Buckeyes in reality lost to a depleted Penn State squad.  Officially, however, that game went in the books as a 31-24 double overtime victory for the Buckeyes.

Banshee's Rooting Interests.  I'm not actually a journalist.  I'm actually a fan.  A passionate fan.  I am a fan of football.  I am a fan of tradition and history.  And, I am a fan of scholar athletes.  As such,  I am very torn about who to root for tonight.

As a Penn State fan, it is engrained into the very fiber of my being to root against Ohio State.  But, I was raised to root for your rivals when they advance to the post season, and I root for the Big Ten in every bowl game.  Ohio State puts that to the test, though, with guys like Urban Meyer coaching the team and self-proclaimed anti-scholars like Cordale Jones at quarterback.

Then there are the Oregon Ducks.  They are led by a shining example of a scholar and a citizen in their quarterback Marcus Mariota.  The man thanked Oregon for his education during this Heisman acceptance speech.  On the other hand, Oregon had long been on my bad list for their lack of tradition and garish uniforms.  But, I gave up all those prejudices when Phil Knight, Nike founder and top Oregon booster, spoke at Joe Paterno's memorial service.  It was a moving and firm tribute to a friend.  Since that day, I want Phil to be happy.  A national championship would do that.

The Prediction.  If you want detailed breakdowns of the X's and O's, then you probably have already tracked that down on ESPN.  Here is how I break it down.  I saw a version of Ohio State that lost to Virginia Tech and Penn State (yes, that was a loss).  I have never seen a version of Oregon who would lose to either of those teams this year.  Oregon will win in a shootout.  Oregon 42-25.

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