It was a wild game, and the Buckeyes made things interesting with four frustrating turnovers, but Ohio State steamrolled Oregon on its way to the National Championship in the inaugural College Football Playoff season. With a day to let things sink in, here are some observations:
– Many will justifiably cite Ezekiel Elliott and the offensive line when explaining the physical domination Ohio State inflicted on Oregon, but as Urban Meyer stressed after the game the defense was just as impressive. The bottom line is that Oregon hadn’t faced a defense as this physical and fast all year long. We heard a ton about Oregon’s tempo, but this team relies on yards after the catch along with Marcus Mariota using his speed along with his arm. But with Ohio State’s front seven along with defensive backs who can tackle, Oregon wasn’t able to get those easy yards after catch that they got against less talented teams. We’ve seen Ohio State’s defense grow before our eyes, and youngsters like Joey Bosa and Darron Lee were too much for Oregon. The result was an Oregon offense that was frustrated all night long. They couldn’t gain much yardage on first down, and thus ended up with a miserable third down conversation rate as they rarely had third and short. Also, Mariota wasn’t able to break any long runs, and he often got pummeled when he tried to run.
– Meanwhile, Ezekiel Elliott and Cardale Jones were punishing the Oregon defense. Watching the ESPN coaches film room, they pointed out that Urban Meyer will run the same running play over and over again if a defense can’t stop it, and that’s what we saw with Elliott and the counter play. Also, Cardale Jones was running over linebackers and linemen when he decided to run. Ohio State was bigger and stronger on both sides of the ball, and frankly the speed factor was a wash at best.
– The Buckeyes also showed real character in overcoming four turnovers, leading to a wild game when it should have been a complete blowout. But the defense stepped up to stop Mariota and Oregon’s offense, while Cardale Jones seemed unfazed by the few mistakes he made or pressure situations like bad field position. These Buckeyes don’t back down and they don’t wilt under pressure.
– Oregon is already facing criticism for not being able to stand up to a more physical team. In one sense that isn’t fair as Elliot, Jones and company racked up serious yardage against Alabama as well. But the Oregon offense that relies on tempo, scheme and misdirection proved to be vulnerable again to a physical front seven and speedy defensive backs who can chase you down and make the tackle. Oregon has become one of the premiere programs in the country, but until they can beat a power like Ohio State or an SEC team on the big stage, they’ll have to face the doubters.
– Ohio State fans can sympathize to some extent, as the Buckeyes have had to deal with the fallout from losing two National Championship games to the SEC. That’s another reason why this championship is so satisfying, as all the doubters were silenced with Ohio States demolition of Alabama and Oregon. Winning it in the first year of the CFP makes it even more sweat, as college football finally moved beyond the frustrating BCS system. Now teams like Ohio State have a chance to settle the arguments on the field.
The Buckeyes are National Champs!!