Inside the College Football National Championship
FanRag Sports presents our College Football Writers’ Roundtable where some of the best Pigskin minds get together to debate and discuss the national championship game. If you’ve missed any coverage of Oregon versus Ohio State here’s a quick recap:
The College Football Panel is made up of @TodaysPigskin columnists Alex Kolodziej (@AlexK_47), Dustin Schutte (@Sharp_Schutter), Stephen Sheehan (@StephenPSheehan), Colin Sylvester (@ColinSyvlester), Pat Whitehurst (@Pat_Whitehurst) and Ryan Wooden (@Ryan_Wooden).
Got a question that you’d like to see our panel or an individual writer tackle? Tweet it to us and weigh in yourself.
Be Seen, Be Heard, Be a Fan!
Today’s Burning Question: Which Defensive Player(s) will have the Biggest Impact?
@Ryan_Wooden: Given that I took Devin Smith yesterday as Ohio State’s impact player on offense, I know who I would pick. I would pick Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who’d be tasked with shutting Smith or whoever else might be OSU’s hot hand down, but he’s out. Instead, I’ll take Tony Washington. He’s Oregon’s most dynamic edge rusher and Ohio State has a propensity to leak a little on the edge. The Buckeyes are 68th in the nation in sacks allowed and it’s awfully tough to pick on an injury-depleted secondary from your back.
For Ohio State, it’s gotta be Joey Bosa. When Arizona beat Oregon in October, they beat them because Oregon had an offensive line that was in shambles and they put relentless pressure on Marcus Mariota. The Wildcats sacked Mariota five times that night and he looked genuinely uncomfortable at times. Oregon’s offensive line is much-improved now, so it won’t be near as easy for Ohio State, but Bosa is disruptive enough off the edge that he can change the complexion of the game.
@ColinSylvester: The biggest question for Oregon heading into the Rose Bowl was how it would cope with Ifo Ekpre-Olomu’s injury and absence. Senior cornerback Troy Hill stepped up in a big way against the Seminoles’ receivers, making it a trying night for Jameis Winston and company. The Buckeyes will likewise look to throw the ball vertically to open up the run, but they had better locate Hill before each shot they take. He’s apt to find the ball at the biggest moments.
On the other side, the obvious answer is Joey Bosa. In particular, though, I’ll be paying close attention to Bosa and the rest of the line’s pocket pursuit. If they over pursue on passing plays, Marcus Mariota will burn them with his legs. A great game from Bosa may not appear so in the stat line because his pocket containment will be just as important as his run-stuffing tackles.
@AlexK_47: While the media chatters about Ohio State’s defensive line led by Joey Bosa, I’ll shift my attention to the secondary and keep an eye on cornerback Vonn Bell. The Buckeyes’ defensive back leads the team with seven interceptions this year, and while head coach Urban Meyer’s choice to jam or play zone against Oregon’s receivers will effect the game plan, Bell’s impact has been second-to-none in regards to a young secondary.
I’ll counter my choice and stay in the secondary with Oregon’s Erick Dargan. Ohio State’s Cardale Jones is 5-11 with four touchdown passes on throws over 30+ yards, and if Dargan is matched up with speedster Devin Smith, the Ducks will lean on the redshirt senior to avoid Ohio State’s home run threat.
@StephenPSheehan: Oregon – S Erick Dargan
The loss of Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was supposed to doom Oregon’s secondary. Instead, it just allowed for senior safety Erick Dargan to step up. He’s responded with a team-high 90 tackles (2.5 for loss), seven interceptions, 13 passes defended and two forced fumbles. That’s the type of playmaking force Oregon will need against an Ohio State offense that features deadly playmakers in Elliot, Devin Smith, Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall.
Dargan’s ballhawking skills will be particularly important against third-string quarterback Cardale Jones, who tossed a pick in the Buckeyes’ big win over the Crimson Tide. While Jones did throw for 243 yards, he wasn’t very accurate and could be baited into turnovers. Dargan is a steady presence on the back end.
Ohio State – DE Joey Bosa
A unanimous All-American and First-Team All-Big Ten selection, the 6’5”, 278-pound defensive end is by far the most dangerous player on the Ohio State defense. Still just 20 years old, it’s scary to think that Bosa is just a sophomore. The Fort Lauderdale native had 7.5 sacks as a freshman before racking up 14 this year. He’s not just a one-trick pony, either. Bosa’s strength and length make him a strong run defender on the edge.
Oregon’s offensive line held up pretty well against FSU’s duo of Mario Edwards Jr. and Eddie Goldman, but they haven’t had to contend with a talent like Bosa. He also has help from Michael Bennett—another future NFL draft pick. Blocking Bosa should be priority No. 1 for Oregon.
@Sharp_Schutter: Oregon’s defense has a number of different guys who can cause problems for Ohio State come Monday night. The one player who can really be the difference maker in this game will be senior linebacker Tony Washington. You might think this is an attractive selection after he picked up the Jameis Winston fumble and jaunted 58 yards to the end zone in the Rose Bowl. It does give some validity to this pick, but ultimately he’s been consistent all season long. Of his 53 tackles, 11 of them have been in the backfield, including six sacks. He’s a quick defender who should be able to keep up with Ezekiel Elliott and also put pressure on Cardale Jones.
Most will probably say that the Buckeyes need solid play from defensive lineman Joey Bosa and Michael Bennett to slow down the powerful Oregon offense. While that’s true, Vonn Bell may be the gatekeeper for Ohio State’s success. Knowing the Ducks will want to go to the air frequently, Bell’s performance could be a huge
asset for the Buckeyes’ secondary. He leads the team with six interceptions on the season and has 12 pass deflections and break-ups this year which could potentially cause issues for Mariota. Ohio State’s entire defense has to play well to win this game, but Bell could really disrupt a sound Oregon offensive attack.
@Pat_Whitehurst: With the high-flying offense of Oregon, it’s easy to overlook a sound defense that keeps the Ducks in position for Marcus Mariota and company to come in and take control of games. I’d look for Oregon to try to pressure Cardale Jones without blitzing and putting added stress on their defensive backs. If defensive coordinator Dan Pellum can develop schemes and stunts for defensive ends DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead to get to Jones while at the same time containing the Buckeyes rushing attack, Oregon will be off to the races.
In their last two games Ohio State has stood up very well to Heisman Trophy Finalists Melvin Gordon and Amari Cooper while limiting their impact, but as @Sharp_Schutter wrote for @TodaysPigskin, Oregon’s offense presents an entirely new beast. It’s impossible for me not to pick the Sugar Bowl Defensive MVP Darron Lee as needing to have the biggest impact. He might be a bit undersized, but the Buckeyes linebacker is a bullet to the ball and will become a household name with a strong performance in the National Championship game.