After a season of upsets and two exciting semifinals, college football has reached its zenith with the first ever championship final between the #2 Oregon Ducks and #4 Ohio State Buckeyes (8:30pm EST, Monday, January 12).
Risen like a phoenix from the ashes of their NCAA sanctions, the Ohio State Buckeyes and third year head coach Urban Meyer, turned in their third straight season with a perfect 8-0 record in the Big 10. But after the first season ended in nothing more than a 13-0 record due to the postseason ban and the second resulted in a loss in the conference championship, OSU is finally at the pinnacle of success that had eluded them since 2002.
For their opponent, the story is a little different. With a lightning quick offense and a program languished in Pac-12 obscurity, the Oregon Ducks rose to greatness behind the inventive offensive program of Chip Kelly. As head coach, Kelly led Oregon to three straight conference titles and when he left to become the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, his offensive coordinator, now head coach, Mark Helfrich, picked up where his predecessor left off. But he even did one better, taking the Ducks to a national championship.
Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery
There is a reason why Ohio State’s offense might look a little similar to Oregon’s. Back when Meyer was on leave from the game, before taking the job at Ohio State, he remarked on the culture that had been established under Kelly. He took note and even studied the former coach’s style. There was a mutual respect among the men and soon that respect became a relationship. Meyer picked up on some of Kelly’s tricks and came away impressed with how he was turning a quick spread offense into something else entirely.
Meyer took everything he learned from watching film, from spending time with the team and Kelly, and took it in. When he became the head coach of Ohio State, all of that knowledge came in handy as he employed a similar offense with his new team.
It wasn’t strange to see Meyer implement a spread offense. After all, he was famous for it in all three of his head coaching jobs even before Kelly came onto the scene. But the added tweaks he picked up from Kelly, including the ones from when he visited Philadelphia last year, have made Ohio State the team it is today. The culture and the schematics remain Oregon’s style and now it’s Ohio State’s too.
So on Monday, don’t be surprised if it looks like one team is on offense for the entire game. Of course, Meyer’s version is never going to be quite what the original is, but nevertheless, it is one that has aided in transforming the Buckeyes program as a whole. It is one that has this team playing for a national championship. It is one that has ushered in not one, not two but three young quarterbacks, all of whom share the same quality: an ability to run. And in any spread offense, you need a runner.
Fortunately for both teams, they have them. For Oregon, it is of course QB Marcus Mariota. Winner of this year’s Heisman, Mariota is the rare double threat that NFL teams salivate over come draft day. His stats: 4,121 YDS, 40TD/3 INT and that’s not to mention an added 731 rushing yards and 15 TD. That’s tied for the fifth most touchdowns in a single season in NCAA FBS history. He has been the guy all season long and has been reliable for Helfrich and the Ducks. The offense goes through him and he runs it with the precision and speed it needs. After all, that’s why Kelly drafted him right before he left for the NFL.
For Ohio State, its runningback Ezekiel Elliott (pictured). The sophomore back recorded 14 TD and 1,632 YDS on 237 attempts (an average of 6.9 yards per carry). Elliot ran the OSU offense with great poise and did so with success. When Meyer’s two quarterbacks went down with injury, Elliot was relied on and in the semifinal against Alabama he proved why, running for a Sugar Bowl record of 230 yards.
Peaking at the Right Time
Oregon is coming off a signature win, perhaps its best of the season. The Ducks turned a five-point halftime lead into an absolute second half blowout complete with four forced turnovers in a 12-minute span. The final score of 59-20 and the 39-point loss was the worst for Florida State since 1983.
Ohio State entered its toughest game of the year by coming off a 59-0 domination of conference rival Wisconsin. Alabama didn’t exactly go down as easily but in the end just couldn’t mount the comeback necessary. It was a statement win for the Buckeyes, a team that barely got the votes to get into the playoff in the first place.
Point being, you’ve got two teams who are hot and two teams who averaged in the top-five in scoring in the FBS. It’s no wonder the over/under has spiked at 76.
Ohio State Buckeyes vs Oregon Ducks Preview Betting Picks
When the NCAA decided to do away with the much-maligned Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in which the top two regular season teams faced off for the title and replace it with a four-team playoff format, they couldn’t have asked for a better first ever championship final.
Oregon vs Ohio State is one for the ages. It’s a battle of two offenses run in the same style, established by stellar coaches. It’s a battle of runners and quickness. It’s a battle of culture and wit. It’s the game that quite frankly, college football fans have waited over 10 years for.
The spread makes Oregon by around 6.5pts, less than a touchdown, dependant on with sportsbook’s betting lines you look at. Don’t let that keep you away from Ohio State though as in all of the Buckeyes’ last three games, this one included, the team has been underdogs.
- I don’t predict a blowout, so no matter who walks away with the trophy, bet on Ohio State Buckeyes +7pts @ -105 betting odds with Bovada Sportsbook. The exact same spread is significantly shorter at -138 odds with 5Dimes while BetOnline go OSU +6pts for -110.
- The over/under for the total points in the game is set at 76, a number that seems unheard of. While I acknowledge the scoring propensity evidenced by 92.2 total points averaged by both teams, I would be shocked if the final topped 76. I advise betting under 76 total points with BetOnline Sportsbook @ -110. It is the same odds for under 75pts with 5Dimes.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.