I was pretty confident that Ohio State was going to beat Alabama. To me, Oregon is much more of a toss up. But I look at the Bucks and I can’t count them out. This team is special. They have great chemistry. Guys have stepped up when they’ve needed to.
Before the season started, as Ohio State was a top five team, I thought this team had huge potential, but I also wasn’t sure if they truly deserved being ranked so highly after enduring some big losses (Carlos Hyde, Ryan Shazier, Bradley Roby) from the 2013 team. Considering how bad Ohio State was on defense last year, I thought that this team had a lot to prove. Ten days before the season, we found out that Braxton Miller would be out for the year. After an unimpressive opener against Navy, Ohio State look horrid in a home loss to Virginia Tech. Without Braxton, the rest of the season looked bleak. And then the team turned it on. Every week, they got better. An offensive line who was dominated against Virginia Tech grew from boys to men. The offense got more dynamic. Every week, JT Barrett got better. And then they lost JT Barrett in the Michigan game. And the team never skipped a beat with Cardale Jones.
When Ohio State played Wisconsin, I thought “whatever they do, can’t let Melvin Gordon beat them.” When they played Alabama, I thought “whatever they do, they can’t let Cooper beat them.” They largely neutralized the best running back and the best wide receiver. Tonight, they face the best quarterback. He will be the hardest to slow down of the Heisman finalists, by the nature of his position.
It’s wishful thinking to suggest Ohio State is going to shut down the high powered Oregon offense. Oregon is missing their 2nd and 3rd leading receivers. I think many have underplayed the significance of that. It would be like Ohio State playing without Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall. They do have other players to plug in, but in a spread offense where they do like to sub in other players to keep starters fresh.
Ohio State has done a good job coming up with interceptions this season, but Marcus Mariotta has only thrown 3 for the year. I think the keys for Ohio State’s defense are guys being disciplined and not blowing assignments. That’s certainly true of any football game, but I feel that Oregon will make you pay more than any other team in the country. I’ll be interested to see how Oregon handles Joey Bosa. Alabama seemed to largely go away from him. With Oregon’s offensive style, it might be less feasible to be as committed to going away from Bosa, which is why I look at him as a key player tonight.
Ohio State can’t turn the ball over on offense. Ezekiel Elliott has been a horse in the Big Ten Championship and in the Sugar Bowl and I think it is essential he have another big game tonight. Ohio State will be able to pass, but they can’t be one dimensional, and while I expect them to keep the tempo fast, running can slow things down.
Statistically Ohio State was one of the nation’s leaders in field position this season. That didn’t happen in the Alabama game where the Crimson Tide punter kept pinning Ohio State deep in their own territory. When Ohio State does have to punt, I look for Cameron Johnston to be a key player for the Buckeyes.
When Oregon starts to roll on offense, Ohio State must find a way to not lose momentum. It is easier said than done against an offense that is as innovative and potent as there is in college football.
Ohio State has struggled in short yardage situations this season. They kicked two early field goals against Alabama. That won’t be good enough tonight. You can’t beat touchdowns with field goals.
In terms of talent, not only is Ohio State just as talented, I feel that they have a better all around team and that they have better depth. I also trust Ohio State’s coaches over Oregon’s coaches in this game. I believe in Urban Meyer and his ability to coach in big games.
As I said before the Sugar Bowl, regardless of what happens, I’m so proud of this team and what they’ve done. I’ll pick the Buckeyes 42-35. O..H…