College Football National Championship Preview: Oregon takes on Ohio State


photo by Joe Burbank/Tribune News Service

Marcus Mariota, Oregon's Hesiman-winning quarterback, looks to create a big play on offense.

After the semifinal games on Jan. 1, the National Championship for the first annual College Football Playoff will be played tonight between the Oregon Ducks and the Ohio State Buckeyes, who are ranked second and fourth, respectively, out of the collegiate football field.

Oregon enters the game with a 12-1 record, earning impressive wins over elite teams, such as Arizona and UCLA, throughout the season. Most recently, the Ducks beat the third-ranked Florida State 59-20 in the Rose Bowl to advance to the National Championship. The only blemish on the Ducks records was a loss at home to Arizona, where they were defeated 24-31. The Ducks’ fast-tempo offense scores quickly and often, averaging 47.2 points per game, 311 yards per game, and 241.9 rushing yards per game. Oregon’s Heisman winning quarterback, Marcus Mariota, is having an excellent season, passing for 4121 yards, 40 touchdowns, and only throwing three interceptions. To add to his passing achievements, he has also ran for 731 yards and 15 touchdowns. In addition to Mariota’s rushing stats, freshman running back Royce Freeman is also having a good year, rushing for 1343 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Ohio State enters the game off an upset over the best-ranked team in the nation, Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, despite playing with third-string quarterback Cardale Jones after quarterbacks Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett were lost to injuries. The Buckeyes snuck into the playoff, nudging out TCU and Baylor despite an early-season loss to Virginia Tech, 21-35. Since their loss to the Hokies, Ohio State has been on a hot streak, averaging 45 points per game, rushing for 262.2 yards per game, and passing for 247.5 yards per game. They’ve had great games against Big 10 powerhouses such as Michigan State and Wisconsin, beating both teams 49-37 and 59-0, respectively. Ohio State’s quarterback, Cardale Jones, has been pushed into the starting job, and has been taking advantage of his opportunity. Jones has passed for 500 yards, four touchdowns, and only threw one interception in his two starts. Behind Jones is sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott, who has rushed for 1632 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Buckeyes also have a strong defense, posting two shutouts, and holding opponents to an average 22.1 points per game.

Kickoff is set for 8:30 tonight on ESPN for the first College Football Playoff National Championship Game, and it will display a great matchup between two excellent teams in Oregon and Ohio State.