PREVIEW: 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship

There’s a first time for everything, and 2015 gives us a first of sorts in American sports. The National Championship game for the highest level of college football is a much closer approximation to what a championship game should be, thanks in part to the fact that the teams were not selected by biased voters or by computers but by a well-informed committee. This closer approximation is also due to the fact that the two final teams came from a group of four, having to win a semifinal matchup to reach their last game.

I’ll do my best to provide you with every piece of information you may want as it concerns the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship.

Game Info – National Championship Presented by AT&T

CFB Playoff Infographic

No. 2 University of Oregon Ducks (13-1, 8-1 in Pac-12) vs. No. 4 Ohio State University Buckeyes (13-1, 8-0 in Big Ten).
Current odds: Oregon by six, with an over/under of 74.

Monday, January 12 at 8:30 PM ET/5:30 PM PT

Weather: Cloudy with temperatures in the low-to-mid 30s and a small chance of rain. North winds from 10-15 mph with gusts as high as 20 mph.

TV: ESPN will be doing a “Megacast” with more than a dozen different ways to consume the game. The breakdown is as follows

ESPN – Traditional telecast
Chris Fowler – play-by-play, Kirk Herbstreit – analyst, Heather Cox and Tom Rinaldi – field reporters.

ESPN2 – “Film Room”
In-depth X’s and O’s analysis from ESPN’s studios in Bristol as the likes of ESPN analysts Chris Spielman and Tom Luginbill, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, new Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi, and new Nebraska head coach Mike Riley break down the game using multiple camera angles, telestration, and more.

ESPNU – “ESPN Voices”
…in which you can watch other people watch the game. Who are those people, you ask? Oh, just Jay Bilas, Aaron Boone, Julie Foudy, Barry Melrose, Michael Wilbon, and Mark Schlereth.

ESPNEWS – “Off The Ball”
This is basically ESPN2’s “Film Room,” except from the perspective of former players. Bob Wischusen will host a discussion of the game as it happens that will feature the voices of Kevin Carter, Matt Millen, Jason Sehorn, Matt Stinchcomb, and Amani Toomer.

ESPN Classic – Sounds of the Game
If you’re one of the few people who still gets ESPN Classic – it’s now only in 29 million homes – you’ll be able to take in the sights of the game paired with the sounds from over 100 microphones, as well as the pregame and halftime performances of each team’s bands.

ESPN Radio – Traditional radio broadcast
Mike Tirico – play-by-play, Todd Blackledge – analyst, Holly Rowe and Joe Schad – field reporters, Bill Lemonnier – rules expert.

ESPN3 – Home team radio broadcasts
Fans of both teams will be able to utilize ESPN3 to take in the radio broadcasts of both Ohio State (Paul Keels – play-by-play, Jim Lachey – analyst, and Marty Bannister – reporter) and Oregon (Jerry Allen – play-by-play, Mike Jorgensen – analyst, and Joey McMurray – reporter). The radio broadcasts will be provided by ESPN3 – in cooperation with IMG College – and will be paired with the game feed as well as iso-cams on the respective teams’ head coach and star players

ESPN Goal Line – “Command Center”
This will, in some ways, be a mash-up of everything described above. Those who have ESPN Goal Line will be able to watch commercial-free coverage of the game that will feature a split-screen application, pairing live game action with immediate replays of every play, iso-cams on both head coaches, advanced stats, and the ESPN Radio broadcast call.

ESPN Deportes – Spanish language broadcast
Your traditional broadcast of the national championship game, with commentary en español from Eduardo Varela (play-by-play) and Pablo Viruega (analyst).

The other three options for viewing the game, all available exclusively on ESPN3, provide intrigue for fans who want to see things from a different perspective. Among the choices are “Data Center,” which will include significantly more on-screen graphics and social media reaction, the perspective from the Taco Bell Student Section, and the choice to watch the game exclusively from the SpiderCam above the field.

Stadium Info

AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will be the site of the National Championship game. Photo courtesy of the AT&T Stadium official website.

AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will be the site of the National Championship game. Photo courtesy of the AT&T Stadium official website.

AT&T Stadium, formerly known as Cowboys Stadium
Arlington, Texas
Seating capacity: 80,000 (expandable to 105,000 including standing room).
Opened: May 2009

Series History: This will be the ninth all-time meeting between Oregon and Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won all eight contests, the last coming in the 2010 Rose Bowl. That day saw Jim Tressel’s OSU – led by Terrelle Pryor – take down Chip Kelly’s Oregon with a final score of 26-17.

National Championships: Ohio State has won seven national championships (1942, 1954, 1957, 1961, 1968, 1970, and 2002). Oregon is seeking their first title.

How they got here – Oregon

I really feel like this was the perfect embodiment of Jameis Winston and Florida State watching their season - and their winning streak - come to an end. Linebacker Tony Washington's fumble recovery and 58-yard run back for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter increased the team's lead to 45-20. Photo credit to Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

I really feel like this was the perfect embodiment of Jameis Winston and Florida State watching their season – and their winning streak – come to an end. Linebacker Tony Washington’s fumble recovery and 58-yard run back for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter increased the team’s lead to 45-20. Photo credit to Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

For most of the game I was left thinking, “Florida State will come back. They always do, and they will again.” It wasn’t hard to remember however that this FSU team was far from impressive in their victories this season and they certainly hadn’t faced anyone as strong as Oregon. That lack of excellence was on display in the first half as the Seminoles had only one first half touchdown despite three drives of at least 65 yards. The Oregon Ducks took advantage — boy, did they ever. Touchdowns on each of their first five drives in the second half with no drive taking more than 2:23, and the Rose Bowl was over with 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota was as spectacular as always, completing 26-of-36 passes (41.9 percent) for 338 yards, two touchdowns. He did throw one interception, though it was only his third of the season. Oregon also found success through forcing turnovers as the Seminoles lost four fumbles to go with Jameis Winston’s third quarter interception.

How they got here – Ohio State

I think we all learned quite a bit about Cardale Jones from his Sugar Bowl performance. He's not an elite college quarterback by any stretch, but he can make deep throws, and he's a tough runner who is difficult to bring down because of how big he is. Photo credit to Chris Graythen/Getty Images.

I think we all learned quite a bit about Cardale Jones from his Sugar Bowl performance. He’s not an elite college quarterback by any stretch, but he can make deep throws, and he’s a tough runner who is difficult to bring down because of how big he is. Photo credit to Chris Graythen/Getty Images.

You heard the storylines for weeks — what Ohio State had accomplished was incredible, but they had no chance against Nick Saban and Alabama with a third-string quarterback. The Buckeyes trailed 21-6 half-way into the second quarter and it appeared the masses of college football pundits – amateur and professional alike – had been correct. Ohio State battled back however, scoring 28 unanswered led by Ezekiel Elliott‘s big play running ability. Elliott finished with a career-high 230 rushing yards and now has 450 yards and four touchdowns over his last two games. The Ohio State defense was stout in the second half as well, forcing three interceptions and sacking quarterback Blake Sims on three occasions as well.

Quarterback comparison

Cardale Jones has fared admirably in his first two career starts but the quarterback disparity in this game is not his fault. Marcus Mariota is just that good. Those who know me know I love statistics, but I’m not going to flood you with them here. I’ll give you one though to illustrate just how great Marcus Mariota has been this season. Mariota has 55 combined touchdowns — 40 passing and 15 on the ground. With only three interceptions, his Touchdown/Interception differential of more than +50 would be a college football record. Cardale Jones has shown in two games – both very important contests – that he runs with significant power and that he has the ability to throw the ball deep. He’s also shown his inexperience and poor decision-making. Mariota is the best quarterback in college football. Edge: Oregon.

Running game comparison

Rushing Yards Rushing Yards Per Game Yards Per Carry Total Rushing TDs
Ohio State 3,671 262.2 5.8 36
Oregon 3,386 241.9 5.5 42

Both teams feature underclassman running backs capable of big plays as well as quarterbacks with the ability to make plays on the ground. The aforementioned Elliott will be the best running back on the field who has finished his season strong with two touchdowns in each of his last three games. Oregon freshman Royce Freeman is also very capable, improving as the year went on and amassing at least 98 rushing yards in eight straight games leading up to the Rose Bowl. Marcus Mariota’s passing ability is complemented by his running skills, averaging more than 50 yards per game on the ground and running into the end zone on 15 separate occasions. Oregon also features Thomas Tyner, a 5’11” 215 lbs sophomore RB who carried the ball 13 times for 124 yards and two TDs against Florida State. Ohio State QB Cardale Jones has followed in the footsteps of his two teammates and predecessors, though his size (6’5″ 250 lbs) makes him more difficult to tackle. This one is much closer than the disparity at quarterback. Edge: Ohio State.

Receivers comparison

Rec. Yards Rec. Yards/game Rec. TDs
Devin Smith, OSU 886 63.3 12
Byron Marshall, Oregon 834 59.6 5
Michael Thomas, OSU 746 53.3 9
Darren Carrington*, Oregon 704 50.3 4
Devon Allen, Oregon 684 48.9 7
Dwayne Stanford, Oregon 578 44.5 6

Darren Carrington has been ruled ineligible and will not play after failing an NCAA-sanctioned drug test.

Devin Smith will be the best pro-caliber talent on the field in Arlington, though neither team features Amari Cooper-esque talent at the wide receiver position. Because of the depth of talent as seen in the chart above, this one goes to the Ducks. Edge: Oregon

Offensive line comparison

Both teams enter the championship game averaging roughly two sacks per game, though both sides have allowed four total sacks apiece over their last three games. Oregon features two All-Pac 12 first team selections including Hroniss Grasu who was selected for the third time in his career. Ohio State’s offensive line includes two players who were All-Big Ten honorees as well as All-Big Ten second team selection Jeff Heuerman at tight end. Both teams are talented on the O-Line, allowing them to succeed both throwing and running the ball. Edge: Even.

Overall offensive comparison

Points/game Total yards/game 3rd down conversion pct 4th down conversion pct
Ohio State 45.0 509.7 51.9% 52.6%
Oregon 47.2 552.9 51.6% 65.4%

Both teams rank among the Top 10 in FBS in scoring offense, total offense, and converting on 3rd downs. The problem for Ohio State however is that many of these prolific numbers were fueled by the performance of QB J.T. Barrett, whose season is over. Also, Oregon’s offense is, well, Oregon’s offense. Edge: Oregon.

Defensive line comparison

Though Oregon is likely better on defense than they are given credit for either historically or nationally, their defensive strength is not on the D-Line. Ohio State however features one of the best groups up front in the country. Led by AP All-American first team selection Joey Bosa as well as Michael Bennett, the OSU’s defensive linemen have sacked opposing quarterbacks 28.5 times this season. Keep an eye on Oregon’s DeForest Buckner, a junior who finished with four sacks and 12.5 TFL. Edge: Ohio State.

Linebackers comparison

Neither team had a linebacker named an AP All-American, not to mention first or second team all-conference honors. Ohio State has two talented underclassmen among their linebacking corps including redshirt freshman Darron Lee who had three TFL and two sacks against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Edge: Ohio State.

Secondary Comparison

This is where things get interesting as both teams have plenty of talent. Oregon will again be without AP All-American first team selection Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, but they still feature two All-Pac 12 second team selections. Among those conference honorees is senior Erick Dargan who intercepted his seventh pass of the season and forced a fumble in Oregon’s Rose Bowl win over Florida State. For Ohio State, All-Big Ten first team selection Doran Grant has five interceptions this year and racked up three tackles for loss against Alabama. Also of note is sophomore Vonn Bell whose 86 total tackles are second-best on the Ohio State roster. Bell also snagged his sixth interception of the season against the Crimson Tide and he now ranks in the Top 20 in FBS in picks. I would likely give Oregon the edge in this department if Ekpre-Olomu was healthy, but Ohio State has enough talent that this one is to close to call. Edge: Even.

Overall defensive comparison

Points allowed/game Yards allowed/game Passing yards allowed/game Rushing yards allowed/game
Ohio State 22.1 333.6 191.6 142.0
Oregon 22.3 421.9 265.9 156.1

It’s important again to recognize that Oregon is not weak defensively. In fact, Oregon’s 18 fumbles recovered ranks 3rd in FBS. Not having Ekpre-Olomu hurts, but I’m not sure I’d take the Ducks even if he was healthy. Ohio State is such a force up front that they’re able to drop seven into coverage and limit opposing team’s passing games, which means this game against Marcus Mariota and Oregon should be a great matchup. Edge: Ohio State.

Special Teams comparison

Yards allowed/kickoff Net Punting
Ohio State 17.5 41.8
Oregon 21.3 36.7

Ohio State’s kicker, 6’1″ 230 lbs freshman Sean Nuernberger, is 65% (13-0f-20) on field goal attempts this year. His longest made field goal was 49 yards, and he is 5-of-10 from beyond 40 yards. The Ducks saw two kickers split time this season with 6’4″ 240 lbs freshman Aidan Schneider getting the honors in the Rose Bowl. Schneider, a Portland native, is 9-of-10 on field goal attempts this season, his longest FG being a 42-yarder. Oregon freshman Charles Nelson is likely the best returner on the two rosters, as he’s averaging 15.5 yards per punt return and has returned two punts to the house so far this year. Edge: Even.

Coaching comparison

This is the known (Urban Meyer) versus the unknown (Mark Helfrich), David vs. Goliath. Meyer has two BCS championships to his credit – both from his time at Florida – and his coaching staff has done a miraculous job of overcoming big injuries to two quarterbacks, as well as overcoming the Buckeyes’ tough loss at home to Virginia Tech. All Mark Helfrich has done in his two seasons as the Ducks coach is win – Oregon has lost only three times in his first 27 games – but the stark discrepancy in coaching experience is what stands out here. Edge: Ohio State.

Dylan’s pick: I’d like to say this was a difficult decision but I’m not a big fan of lying to people. Any contention that one team has been hotter than the other seems kind of ridiculous seeing as neither team has lost in a few months. Ohio State has plenty of talent, Urban Meyer has plenty of quality experience, and Cardale Jones has shown that he has enough ability to allow OSU to win games. I still can’t pick against Mark Helfrich’s high-powered Oregon offense, however, especially with Marcus Mariota throwing the ball and Royce Freeman available to run it. Oregon, 42-31.

I’ve got you covered with everything else you might want to know.

National Anthem performers: Lady Antebellum

Jerseys: Both teams will be wearing Nike “Mach Speed” uniforms, seen below.

Trophy:

This will be the first year that this National Championship Trophy will be awarded. The trophy was created by international design consultancy Pentagram and commissioned and handcrafted by Polich Tallix, a master fine art foundry in Rock Tavern New York. The trophy is made from 24-karat gold, bronze and stainless steel and measures 26.5 inches tall, weighing 35 pounds. The base of the trophy is 12 inches tall and weighs 30 pounds, resulting in a total weight of 65 pounds.

This will be the first year that this National Championship Trophy will be awarded. The trophy was created by international design consultancy Pentagram and commissioned and handcrafted by Polich Tallix, a master fine art foundry in Rock Tavern New York. The trophy is made from 24-karat gold, bronze and stainless steel and measures 26.5 inches tall, weighing 35 pounds. The base of the trophy is 12 inches tall and weighs 30 pounds, resulting in a total weight of 65 pounds.

Live Stats: GameTracker

Game Notes: Oregon  Ohio State

Season Stats: Oregon  Ohio State

Schedules: Oregon  Ohio State

Rosters: Oregon  Ohio State

Social Media

Other links:

Broadcaster assignments courtesy of ESPNMediaZone. NCAA Statistical Rankings courtesy of NCAA.com. Team season stats, schedules, rosters, and game notes courtesy of OhioStateBuckeyes.com and GoDucks.com. Betting odds courtesy of ESPN’s “Chalk.” Weather forecast courtesy of the National Weather Service and the NOAA. Information on the National Championship trophy as well as the infographic at the start of the piece courtesy of the CollegeFootballPlayoff.com

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About Dylan Jenkins

I'm a proud Seattlite currently living in Queens, NY. Outside of sports, I enjoy crime dramas - specifically police procedurals - as well as a wide range of music, everything from Top 40 to Iron & Wine, Bob Dylan & Rogue Wave. I am a cat person, which is to say I'm a human who enjoys felines. I have a tremendous sweet tooth that isn't very discerning, and I refuse to observe a number of unwritten social rules.
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