And here it is.
While I don’t think a four-team playoff is really ideal, this is the closet we’ve got for now in major college football. Let’s enjoy it for what it is.
As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.
Monday, January 12
8:30: Oregon vs. Ohio State (College Football Playoff National Championship @ Arlington, TX; ESPN): There are better, and more in-depth, previews than I can provide here. But I’ll high the highlights. For starters, let’s talk about the games that proceeded this one.
I think most of us expected Oregon to beat Florida State, but goodness I don’t think anyone expected the annihilation that occurred, largely of FSU’s own doing. It’s hard to survive five turnovers against anyone (where was that against us in the ACC title game?), but against the most efficient offense in the country? Forget about it.
Ohio State over Alabama will be the upset of the year, provided the Buckeyes lose this game. Like many others, I gave them no shot, what with their backup-backup quarterback against a Nick Saban defense. Forget about it, right? Well, not so much. Ohio State go off to a slow start, but they came out in the second half and dominated the game.
What’s at stake for these teams? For Oregon, it has to be a little validation, I would think. In their current run of success (with Pac-10/12 titles in 2009, 2010, 2011, and this season), the national title has eluded the Ducks. They made the title game in the 2010 season, only to be beat by Cam Newton and company, starting the narrative that they just weren’t tough enough to challenge the all-mighty SEC. Indeed, I can’t help but wonder if Duck partisans feel a bit cheated that their path to the national title won’t have Alabama or any other SEC school in it.
For Ohio State, in many ways, this is a team that is almost playing with house money, which feels a bit weird to say about a team with the sort of historical success they Buckeyes have had, but hear me out. This is the second season since the 2012 team that went 12-0 but was on sanctions. No one gave them any chance after they lost Braxton Miller, and then no one gave them any chance after the loss to Virginia Tech. (Indeed, the weirdest thing about reading recaps of that game are the bits about how it’s a solid victory for VPI and a way for them to get back in the national discussion. Uh, not so much, as it turns out!) No one gave them a chance to beat Alabama. Yet, here we are.
As for the game itself, I expect points. These two teams boast two of the most efficient offenses in the nation. Their defenses are also pretty similar, though the Big Ten still has enough plodding offenses to skew the numbers somewhat. Overall, I came in thinking this one was going to be hard to call, and the research I have done so far has only supported this. I guess this is true of most games, but this one is really going to come down which team plays better tonight. I think Oregon is still slightly better, so that’s going to be my guess.
Confidence: not applicable, as to win the group I’m in I have to pick strategically and go with Ohio State.
Previous meetings: Eight, actually, and Ohio State has won all of them. The first was all the way back in the 1957-58 Rose Bowl, which the Buckeyes won 10-7. Apparently they hit it off, as the two teams met in the regular season four time in the 60’s. Another home-and-home occurred in 1983 and 1987, but that was it until Ohio State’s 26-17 upset of Oregon in the 2009-2010 Rose Bowl.
Last bowl game: This is Oregon’s tenth straight bowl game, going back to a 17-14 loss to Oklahoma in the 2005 Holiday Bowl. They beat Texas 30-7 in last season’s Alamo Bowl. Thanks to their 2012 sanctions, Ohio State didn’t go to a bowl that year despite going 12-0. If they had, their bowl streak would stretch back all the way back to the 1989 season. Instead, their streak is now two, and last year they lost to Clemson in the Orange Bowl, 40-35.
Announcers: Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit