The Oregon Ducks and the Florida State Seminoles will play in the first ever college football playoff semifinal at none other than the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California (5pm ET, Thursday, Jan 1).
There really is no better setting than the oldest and most attended bowl game of all-time. Started in 1902 and played every year annually since 1916, the Rose Bowl is one of the most touted games in all of sports. It is played at the stadium of the same name and is accompanied every year by the historic Tournament of Roses Parade.
Traditionally, the Rose Bowl was reserved for a clash between the conference champions from the Big Ten and Pac-12. In 2002 however, the Rose Bowl deviated from this matchup in order to better facilitate championship games under the BCS system. Starting in 2015, the Rose Bowl will be the host to one of the semi-final playoff games every three years.
And that brings us to this year’s Rose Bowl and the first semifinal of the playoff which is being contested between the Pac-12 and ACC champions.
With six Rose Bowl appearances, the Ducks have the ninth most appearances of all teams. Their 2-4 win-loss record however does leave much to be desired. Florida State meanwhile has never played in the Rose Bowl game, even if they did play and win at the Rose Bowl in order to secure last year’s national championship.
Battle of the quarterbacks: Winston & Mariota
There are no two better quarterbacks to be competing for a championship spot than Jameis Winston (pictured) and Marcus Mariota. They pair have so much in common: they are both Heisman trophy winners with Winston having won it last year and Mariota this season. They are both two of the most decorated quarterbacks in college football. And to top it all off, they could likely go one and two in this year’s NFL draft.
Honestly, the playoff committee could not have asked for a better matchup of talent than in these two.
Junior QB Mariota has put together one of the best careers of any college football quarterback. In just three seasons, the Hawaiian native passed for 10,125 yards with a phenomenal 101 to 12 TD to INT ratio. Gifted as well with great ability in his legs, Mariota added over 2,000 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns on the ground.
In two seasons, the hotshot Winston has also put together great numbers and has led Florida State to a blemish-free 27-0 record including winning last year’s national championship. Winston has recorded 7,616 passing yards and 64 touchdowns. His TD to INT ratio doesn’t come close to Mariota’s and neither does his rushing ability but there is no denying that Winston is a competitor. Florida State won a lot of close games this year and if not for Winston’s leadership and ability to come back from fourth quarter deficits, the team might not have even made the playoff.
The storyline may be about just the third time in college football history that two Heisman winners are competing head-to-head but in the game itself, it is really not Mariota vs Winston. Its Mariota vs the Florida State defense and Winston against the Oregon defense. Who matches up better? Let’s take a look.
Florida State’s Pro Style Offense
There is a reason why draft talent evaluators say certain guys are more NFL ready than others. One of these reasons is the pro-style offense, which is implemented by many college teams but only perfected by few. Florida State is one of those few.
The offense under head coach Jimbo Fisher is designed to do what any pro offense does and that is optimize what the quarterback can do while also masking any flaws he might have. Essentially, the offense focuses on Winston’s strengths, namely taking advantage of his accuracy and arm strength.
This season, the offense has been one of the best in red zone efficiency. And while Winston has not been nearly as pristine as last year, he hasn’t really committed any costly turnovers. He has kept Florida State in every game and has done exactly what he’s needed to do to help his team remain unbeaten. On Wednesday he should benefit from the fact that top Oregon cornerback and defensive captain Ifo Ekpre-Olomu looks to miss the game because of an injury sustained in non-contact drills this past week.
Ekpre-Olomu was the stalwart of this Ducks’ defense and with 63 tackles, six broken passes and two interceptions, is considered one of the top corners for this year’s NFL draft. Starting in his place will be a redshirt freshman with little experience in the position. This could equal a favorable matchup for Winston and top target Rashad Greene (93 receptions, 1,306 yards, seven touchdowns).
Oregon’s Spread Offense
Chip Kelly originated a revolutionary style of offense that placed a premium on scoring before he left to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. That didn’t stop his successor from continuing to implement the same and absolutely prolific offense that was almost designed with Mariota in mind.
In fact, Mariota and the offense were so successful that NFL scouts around the league are salivating just for the chance to work him out after the season is over. Until then however, it will be more of the same and for the Ducks, this means a lot of receptions by a lot of different guys.
Unlike Florida State whose main weapon is singular, Mariota has tons of guys to look to for any type of threat he might possibly need or want. And this coming from a team whose top guy from last year missed most of this season. Rookie production has been the key as Darren Carrington and Charles Nelson have gotten better as the year went on.
Oregon Ducks vs Florida State Seminoles Betting Picks
It’s #2 Oregon against #3 Florida State for a chance to go to the championship. There is a 29-game winning streak on the line as well for FSU. Oregon is favored by nine points and the game’s total points betting line has an over/under which peaks at an unprecedented 71.5pts.
- As much as FSU has shown resiliency this year, Oregon’s offense has only gotten better. Playing them on what essentially amounts to be home turf is only going to make the matchup that much more favorable as well. So bet on Oregon -9pts at best odds of evens (+100) with Bovada. BetOnline and 5Dimes are -110 with the same spread.
- As for the total points in the game, take the over 71.5pts @ -110 with BetOnline or 5Dimes. These two teams are both capable of 40 points apiece and if the offenses reign supreme as expected, this could be a showcase for both of these quarterbacks.
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.