Monday January 12th will end another year-long journey to determine a national champion. What make this different is that the champion will mark a new beginning as the winner will be the FIRST College Football Playoff Champion. Ohio State, with their winning tradition and Script Ohio, face off against Oregon and their generation-changing uniforms and high-flying offense in North Texas. Here are the keys to the game for each team:
- Turnovers- Oregon did something last week that I have not seen any team do in two years, break Florida State’s spirit. The reason they did it is because they force five Seminole turnovers. Every time Florida State seemed like they were going to keep pace with Oregon and make it a game, the Ducks found a way to get the ball back. Oregon has to bring that same attitude on Monday and force a very explosive Buckeye offense into mistakes.
Inside Run Game- Oregon’s offense is a run-based offense predicated on running between the tackles effectively. This sets-up the outside runs and it sets up the play-action pass (Marcus Mariota leads the nation in completion percentage off of play-action by the way). Against Florida State, Oregon’s running backs, Thomas Tyner in particular, was able to gash the middle of the defense and get to the second level at will. If this happens on Monday, the Ducks will be “in business”.
Contain Big Plays- I thought this would be a big key in the FSU game and it was. Oregon did a nice job with their zones to force Jameis Winston to take what Oregon was giving him. The difference I think Monday night will be the fact that Ohio State has more big-play potential than Florida State. With wide receivers Devin Smith( averaging almost 28 yards per catch) and Michael Thomas along with running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Jalin Marshall, this Ohio State team has weapons. It will be a tough chore for Oregon defensively.
Who Steps Up? – Earlier this week wide receiver Darren Carrington was suspended for the game after failing a drug test. Carrington caught two touchdowns against Florida State, he will not be easy to replace. For a team that already lost Devon Allen, another standout receiver, who comes forward to replace that production?
- Playing Clean- A lot of people look at the Florida State game and will probably think that the Seminoles were just slaughtered from the start. That game was a 25-20 game midway through the third quarter despite a Dalvin Cook fumble before the Oregon turned on the gas and the Noles’ imploded. This tells me that you can move the ball, just make sure you secure it. If Ohio State plays a clean game, I feel like they can score with Oregon as they average 45 points per game and 520 yards.
Dominate the Lines of Scrimmage- Ohio State has to be able to wear down Oregon at the point of attack. Their offensive line did a fine job against Alabama in opening up lanes in the running game and protecting Cardale Jones. That must continue because Oregon’s defensive line can cause havoc. The defensive line play will be a huge factor as well because Oregon will run the ball inside and if they get going, their fast tempo will become a concern for Ohio State.
Red Zone Execution- Ohio State turns 70 percent of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns. Oregon lets you move the ball, but their red zone defense is pretty good. Case in point, early in the Florida State game, FSU got into the red zone, but was turned away by Oregon on a fourth-and-one play. To me, that play sums up how tough it was going to be for Florida State. Ohio State has to capitalize on those chances because field goals will not beat Oregon.
Force Oregon into third down- Oregon was able to move up and down the field against Florida State, and a big reason why was because they were able to get good chunks of yardage on first and second down. When the Ducks get good yardage on early downs, the TEMPO they play with ratchets up and starts to wear the defense down and that’s when the opponent is at Oregon’s mercy.
Prediction: Expect points, a lot of points! Both offenses are really clicking right now. The defense that can find a way to force a turnover or two and the quarterback that plays cleaner will win the game. Oregon, I feel will be that team, but Ohio State will push them to the brink because they can score points. Oregon 44-40