Bucks and Ducks - For All the Marbles
It's 24/7 hype right now and every Buckeye fan knows what this game means, so....let's skip that talk and get right to the keys for a Bucks win and then talk about the matchup.
First, some fears.... Probably shouldn't have them any more...I mean, with what this team has accomplished and overcome? But, it's human nature for me, so here 'tis....it's basically one multi-faceted fear, I guess. Was the Bama win the ultimate accomplishment for this Buckeye team? And with that, did Ohio State get "THE" chip off their shoulder? Do these kids now think the hard part is behind them and that Oregon simply isn't Alabama? Those fears won't rest for me until I see Ohio State on top of Oregon on the final scoreboard Monday night.
The Keys for Ohio State: Key #1a - Keep the Duck offense on the sidelines; establishing the run and running clock are musts for Ohio State. Key #1b - "Adequate" play from backups on defense; Fickell and Ash are going to have to rotate in fresh bodies often or the OSU D will run out of gas at some point in the second half. Key #1c - Win turnover battle; while this always goes without saying, it's much more so against Oregon, as they are the best in the business of turning turnovers into points.
Buck Offense vs. Duck Defense
Here is a comforting stat - the OSU offense played defenses that currently rank 2nd, 4th, 7th, 8th and 12th in total defense (nationally) and averaged 44.6 points per game against them. As for the Duck defense, they are better than the #'s may suggest; their up-tempo offense skews their defensive stats.
Ohio State will need to run the ball more often than they did against Bama to win the time of possession - a stat the Bucks really need to win by a wide margin. And Ezekiel Elliott should again find daylight often behind an OSU line that has really come together. But the Oregon is D-line is solid against the run and the Oregon defense doesn't give up yardage in big chunks.
When OSU throws the ball, they won't have to deal with Oregon All-American corner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who is out after tearing an ACL in Rose Bowl practice. But Ekpre-Olomu's replacement, Chis Seisay, more than held his own against the Noles. Safety Erick Dargan is a game changer on the Duck defense, and leads the team with 90 tackles and 7 interceptions. The Bucks are undefeated when Devin Smith's scores TD's but Smith may need to find pay dirt more than once in this one.
Duck Offense vs. Buck Defense
Marcus Mariota: 4,121 yards passing, 68.6% completion rate, 40 passing TD's, 3 INT's. Ridiculous numbers even before you add in Mariota's 731 yards on the ground and 15 rushing TDs. The Oregon offense is a machine, and it is going to be very hard to hold them in check. The OSU defense has to find some way to get Oregon out of rhythm and disrupt their timing; if they don't, the Ducks are taking home the National Championship trophy.
Mariota spread the wealth between his big four WR's this season: Marshall, Carrington, Allen, and Stanford, who combined for 183 catches, 2,803 yards and 22 TD's. But the Ducks will be without Carrington (suspended) and will likely be without Allen (injury) as well. Those are big losses for the Ducks. Regardless, the Ducks will still do their damage through the air. The Buckeye pass defenders, Doran Grant, Eli Apple, et al, better be ready. And Joey Bosa, Michael Bennett & company on the OSU D-line will need to bring it.
Oregon should have success on the ground, with true frosh Royce Freeman (1,343 yards, 18 TD's) and Thomas Tyner, who is healthy for the first time since mid October. Tyner had 124 yards and two TD's against the Noles in the semi-final. Like Bama's tandem at tailback, Freeman and Tyner is a very nice one as well.
I am done doubting Urban Meyer...it's making me look silly. I don't know how you can go against Urban in a championship game. Taking the 6 points is a given in my mind. I think Meyer and his staff will figure out how to get the Duck offense in a funk, at least at times, and the OSU ball control offense will keep the Duck offense off the field "just enough". The call: Ohio State 38 Oregon 35. Urban wins his third National Championship and first as Ohio State head coach.