2015 National Championship Preview

national-championship

It has been the theme of the 2014 NCAA Football season, welcoming in the new and saying goodbye to the old. That has all surrounded the introduction of the College Football Playoff as the NCAA took its first step towards a more equal playing field. For a long time the champion was determined simply by rankings with the top team at the end of the year being announced as the National Champion. Then the NCAA changed to the BCS where the top two teams, based on rankings created by a computer equation, played one final game. This year it was a committee of people who decided the rankings with the top four teams making into the playoff. The decision to change into the playoff came in large part because of the domination of one conference. Since the BCS began the SEC had been the dominant conference in the NCAA with nine BCS titles in sixteen years. That included a total of seven of the last eight titles in the BCS era. Many had claimed that the SEC would not be as dominant if they had to play in more than just one game. By throwing more teams at them people expected the SEC to show that they were not necessarily the greatest conference in the NCAA. Whether or not that worked was going to be a big question as the SEC had been the most dominant conference and they had run through so many other teams on their way to those National titles. As the year went on the SEC started out as the conference on the outside looking in but by the end of the year they were once again standing above everyone. The Alabama Crimson Tide had moved into first place by the end of the year and once again it seemed like the SEC would prove that they were the best conference in the country. Then the semi-finals happened and the Tide were eliminated meaning that for the second year in a row the SEC was not going to win a National Title. More than that last year’s champion, the Florida State Seminoles, were also eliminated ensuring no repeat champion from the BCS. Instead the Oregon Ducks, a team with no national titles, and the Ohio State Buckeyes, a team with no titles since 2002. These two teams will face off in a national championship that will, for many, prove that the new system could be the chance to be more even. Two teams that have not been in this position for a long time, for Oregon never, will get their chance to step into the spotlight and make history. The fact that these two teams are in speaks to a new era in the NCAA and it will once again follow the theme of the year as the new College Football Playoff has led to a new National Championship and a new champion.

oregon_ducks

If there was any doubt about how the Oregon Ducks would perform on the big stage that doubt is gone. The Ducks have been that team that could never quite make it to the biggest game of the year. They seemed to be a team that was great until they faced bigger stronger teams and gained a reputation of being soft. Finally they gained a ticket to the playoffs as one of the top two teams in the country and went against the defending champions to prove that they were worthy of a national title. After a generally slow start the Ducks’ offence got going and for any team that is very dangerous. Heisman trophy winner, Marcus Mariota, helped the Ducks to 59 points in a vintage Ducks offensive performance. More surprisingly to many though, was the defence of the Ducks who proved that they were far from soft. They limited Jameis Winston and the Seminoles offence to only 20 points while forcing five turnovers. The Ducks were a force on defence and as usual a force on offence in a game that was more of a statement than anything as the Ducks were here to compete and to run their way towards their first ever title. For years the Ducks were only one win away from making the title game and they continued to be on the outside looking in. Finally with the playoff people are getting to see the force that is the Oregon Ducks. They have been one of the most creative and unique teams in the NCAA for a long time, and that is for more than their endless uniforms. Their offensive strategy has changed the way the game is played and has even crept into the NFL with Chip Kelly, former Oregon coach, taking his fast paced offence to the Eagles. Now they are finally in the National title game and are one win away from doing the thing that so many people thought they couldn’t do, take home a national title.

There is no question about what the Ducks are going to try to do in the National Championship as they never change. The best thing about that is that they don’t need to change because they move the ball in every way possible. For the Ducks it is all about speed. They have done so well in the last few years because they push the pace beyond what a defence can handle. Against the Seminoles that was shown as the game went one. The Florida State defence was simply run out of the building as they couldn’t keep up. The game started well enough as the Ducks couldn’t get going on offence to start the game. As the time wore on the Ducks got going and the Seminoles were left trying to catch their breath. That is where Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota took over the game and began running the offence in that typical up tempo style. That is what they will try to do against the Buckeyes as Ohio State has never seen an offence that runs this fast. The important part for the Ducks though is their defence as they need to hold strong as the Ducks take little time on offence and provide other teams with plenty of opportunity to grind out the clock. They did that against the Seminoles as they strategically brought pressure and when they did they got to the backfield. If the defence can hold the Ohio State offence and end their drives quickly it will give the offence a chance to run up the score. The Ducks will play fast, that is just a fact, and if they can they will run up the score as they try to put no doubt in the minds that they are the best team in the country.

ohio_state_buckeyes

The Buckeyes are one of the most storied programs in the NCAA but recently they have not had that same dominance they once did. It was 2002 when the Buckeyes won their last National Championship and since then it has been a long road to recovery. After some mediocre seasons and a scandal that rocked the school the Buckeyes looked to a legendary coach to lead them back to the top. They hired Urban Meyer, former Florida Gators coach and two-time national champion, to bring back the glory of the Ohio State program. He had done a good job so far but 2014 was seen as a year where they would show improvement and prepare for 2015. That became even more the case when starting quarterback and Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller was forced to have shoulder surgery that ended his season. J.T. Barrett filled in nicely and led the Buckeyes to the top four and a playoff spot. The warning had been fired, Ohio State was back and ready to compete for the next few years. Still that was all that was expected of the team as they had to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide, the #1 team in the country, to earn a spot and they seemed outmatched against a bigger and stronger SEC team. A loss would end a good season and bring hope for a new year, in short many were simply happy to see them get that far. That is how it looked at the start of the game as well with the Tide getting out to an early 14-6 lead in the first quarter. The Tide were in control but as with every Urban Meyer coached team the Buckeyes were ready to fight. They started to climb back into the game and by halftime were down by one point. They finished things off in the second and held off the Tide to earn the win and a chance at their first title since 2002. They were not expected to be here this year but nobody can tell them that as the Buckeyes try to return to glory as the underdog of the playoff.

The Biggest story for the Buckeyes has been at quarterback with Miller not playing a game all year and now J.T. Barrett unable to play due to a broken ankle. That left Cardale Jones to lead the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship and the semi-final. Jones has been good but he continues to make his way along in learning the offence and being a leader. He is still a good option for the Buckeyes and he showed that in the semi-final where he threw for 234 yards and a touchdown. More than Jones it was Ezekiel Elliott that was a force on the ground for the Buckeyes. Against one of the best rushing defences in the country the Ohio State running back went for 230 yards, a Sugar Bowl record, and had two touchdowns. The defence is good but not great as they did enough to hold off the Tide and are a team that can represent the big tough defences of the SEC where Meyer coached at Florida. Their challenge will be to keep up with the Ducks’ offence that runs faster than any offence they have seen. If they get tired they will be finished as the Ducks will never let off of the pedal and will only make them crumbled. The good news for Ohio State is that they have an attitude about them that Meyer brought over from Florida. They fight until the end of every game and they will never give up no matter how far they might be down or how bad it might look. They did this against a team that they were supposed to have no chance against and they will look to do the same thing this time around. The Buckeyes find ways to win and will always stay in the game as they take on the Ducks.

national-championship-comparison

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