Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty and see if our staff has the guts to pick the Buckeyes or the fortitude to not be a Big Ten homer and call it right down the middle.
So, let’s take a look at how our talking10 panel of experts see this game playing out.
Andy: Ohio State 38, Oregon 31
This game should be a lot of fun. So much so that picking a winner has been a back and forth exercise in my mind all week long. However, I can’t get past how dominant the Ohio State defensive line is capable of being, and while Oregon’s offensive line isn’t bad…it isn’t Alabama great, and even Alabama had trouble with the OSU defensive line.
I also can’t help but bet on the coach who has been here and won one of those national titles before, and that could be the ultimate x-factor in this game. All the guy has done is lead his team to three-straight undefeated Big Ten regular seasons and won two national championships already. Mark Helfrich? Not so much.
Look for Urban Meyer to have his team completely ready for this game and to have a few things up his sleeve for those who doubt his team can win a track meet with the Ducks.
That said, I expect the ultimate difference to be the ability of the Buckeyes defensive line to force Marcus Mariota in to quick decisions and to scramble for his life more than once. Mariota is the coolest of customers, but he hasn’t faced this aggressive of a defensive line all season long. Look for OSU to force an unexpected error or two from Mariota in this game and for that to be the deciding factor.
Dave: Ohio State 42, Oregon 36
Both the Buckeyes and the Ducks know how to run an offense, and both run their respective offenses with frightening efficiency. Thus, just like in the Playoff Semifinal games, there will be numerous trips to the end zone for both teams. This will be a big contrast to the Rose Bowl game from six years ago, which was won using Jim Tressel defensive stranglehold philosophies. However, the result will stay the same with the Buckeyes coming out on top. Here’s why:
1. Urban Meyer – In the build-up to the Sugar Bowl, almost all television previews seemed to focus more than 50% on talking about the coaching match up of Meyer vs. Saban. That seemed silly considering there were two very high quality teams with good stories to focus on beyond the leaders of the sidelines, but the genius of Meyer and his coaching staff rang true once again.
They devised a defensive scheme to limit the impact of Alabama’s most dangerous player, just like the previous Heisman candidate faced in the Wisconsin game. On offense, the Buckeyes played to the strength of Cardale Jones, and Alabama, like Wisconsin, did not have the defensive horses to stop what the Buckeyes wanted to do offensively. Meyer is not fazed by the big game stage, and this staff will have worked tirelessly once again to put in a simple game plan that will slow Oregon enough to win the game. By contrast, Mark Helfrich is largely unproven at this level, and it is difficult to outfox a championship veteran the first time around.
2. Oregon’s Defense – The Buckeyes and Ducks clearly both have prowess on offense, but the key difference between these teams is on defense. Ohio State has locked down the huge problems of pass defense coverage lapses from a season ago, and the ability to generate reliable run stops and pass rush with the front four has helped this pass coverage unit become one of the nation’s most reliable. Meanwhile, Oregon brings in a defense that has struggled to slow down better offensive units, and Oregon’s defense would be the lowest-ranked defense (statistically about 80th in the country) to win a championship in the last two decades.
Oregon’s defensive efficiency has come from turnovers, as the Ducks have forced 30 turnovers and given up only 10. Indeed, Florida State was still right in the game in the second half before 5 turnovers blew the game wide open. Don’t expect a similar meltdown from the Buckeyes, which means that Oregon will have serious trouble stopping the Buckeye offense consistently.
Just like Oregon will look to wear down the OSU defense with tempo, Ohio State will pound on Oregon’s defense all game. Accordingly, if the Buckeyes have a lead in the second half, don’t expect that to change.
3. Overall Talent – There’s absolutely no question the best player on the field Monday night will be Marcus Mariota. And that looks like a huge advantage, having a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback instead of some third-stringer. But one player alone does not win football games, and Ohio State has proven in the past two that the other 21 starters more than make up for the other team having one or two of the best stars (e.g., Amari Cooper, Melvin Gordon).
Put simply, Oregon has great talent, but Ohio State is simply bigger and faster at many positions. In addition, Oregon is dealing with a couple critical injuries, including CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, while Ohio State is actually getting almost everyone back to healthy outside that quarterback position. Oregon can typically beat better teams by out-scheming them, but that is unlikely considering Urban Meyer and his coaching staff in this one. Thus, the overall talent should win out in this battle of titans, and Ohio State has proven not only does the roster have incredibly more talent/depth than the best competition in the Big Ten (Wisconsin), it surprisingly also has just as much talent/depth as the best programs in the country (Alabama).
One man can only take you so far, as evidenced by the difference between Jameis Winston’s loaded FSU roster in 2013 and the struggles in 2014. Mariota will just miss the last item on his checklist, as Ohio State is the best overall team in this game.
Ohio State’s roster may be built for 2015, but it’s time is now.
Zach: Oregon 31, Ohio State 30
This game will come down to which offense makes fewer mistakes & which defense will step up & force a critical stop/turnover late in the game.
These are the two hottest teams in the country so I would be surprised by anything less than a highly contested game.
Reminds me a bit of the Auburn vs Oregon national title from a few years ago. Both teams possess explosive offenses with underrated defenses.
Everyone is expecting a high scoring game but I could easily see both defenses stepping up early to change the game into a more field position type game. If that happens, I LOVE Ohio St’s chances to win.
Unfortunately I do not see that happening.
Ohio St pulls ahead early & goes into the locker room leading 20-10.
Oregon/Mariota respond in the second half & score the go-ahead touchdown in the games waning moments.
Cardale Jones launches a 60 yard Hail Mary for the win but it is knocked down.