Inside the College Football National Championship

 Game Day is finally here!

As the world anticipates the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship Game weigh in with FanRagSports panel of college pigskin experts and writers. In case you’ve missed any coverage leading up to the contest this evening, here’s a quick look back.

 Today’s Spotlight: Which X-Factors will determine the winner?

@Ryan_Wooden: I’ll be honest, I don’t think at this point in the season there are a lot of unknown variables. We’ve already simplified things down and now it’s just a matter of solving the equation. What I will say is, that the area of the game that concerns me the most for Oregon is that pass defense. So, if somebody on that Oregon defensive line steps up to have a monster game or if somebody in that secondary rises to the occasion and turns Cardale Jones over a couple times, it’ll influence the game in Oregon’s favor. We expect Oregon’s gears to churn effortlessly offensively, and that may be enough on its own. However, if they get a truly impactful performance from even one individual on defense (my pick was Tony Washington), Oregon will win.

Ohio State absolutely has to keep pace with Oregon if they hope to prevail in this one. Yes, Arizona held them to 24 points, but think about that. In their absolute worst performance of the year, they still managed to finish four drives with points and 446 yards of offense. In their next worst game, they had 38 and then in no other contest did they score less than 40. So we know that Ohio State, even with their best possible defensive performance, is going to have to score 30 or 40 points to win.

However, I think when they score matters more than anything. Ohio State built a two-score lead and put Alabama into a position they weren’t equipped to handle before ultimately winning that football game and if they can build a two-score lead against Oregon (Marcus Mariota has thrown eight passes all season trailing by more than seven points), the Ducks and Helfrich will find themselves in foreign territory.

Win the toss, take the ball and score, Buckeyes. Force a three-and-out and score again. See if Oregon gets off the canvas.

@ColinSylvester: Win or lose, Urban Meyer has to be considered one of the best coaches in college football history. It would seem unfair, then, to give him even more time than his opponent to prepare for the national championship, right?

Turnovers and big plays are coming.

Turnovers and big plays are coming.

That’s just what the Buckeyes are getting thanks to the fact that they are not back in class yet and Oregon, which is on the quarter system, must abide by NCAA rules and limit practice to 20 hours a week since the academic session has already begun. Essentially, one of the best minds in sports is getting more time than usual with his players to dissect the Oregon offense in hopes of slowing it down.

On the flip side, during a week with so much media hype, it may have been beneficial for the Ducks to have a normal school and practice week leading up to the big game. So who has the edge? We’ll find out soon.

@AlexK_47: Accumulating over 1,300 yards on the ground this season, his role should will not be to dwell on the big play, but rather to establish the running game for the Ducks. Setting a tempo in the running game assists Mariota in taking shots down the field and picking apart opposing defenses, and Freeman provides a nice distraction to take all the attention off the quarterback.

What a story it would be if Ohio State could bring a championship to the Big 10, and I’ll give the nod to Cardale Jones, as he attempts to put an exclamation point on the Buckeyes’ season.

Urban Meyer puts the ball in the third-stringer’s hand, and all he’s done is win a conference championship and lead his team to victory against the top-ranked team in the nation.

We’ll get a chance to see if Jones is as calm and collective as he’s set out to be, as Oregon put Jameis Winston and the Seminoles offense in a serious frenzy on New Years.


All eyes on Mr. Heisman

All eyes on Mr. Heisman

@StephenPSheehan:  Can the Ducks win the turnover battle again? FSU actually moved the ball pretty consistently against this defense, but the Ducks forced five turnovers, including four fumbles. Thatmade the difference more than the play of Mariota. Predicting turnovers is a risky business, and the football can do weird things when it hits the ground. But for a defense that’s more opportunistic than dominant, that could be the big X-factor for the Ducks on Monday.

For the Buckeyes it’s Cardale Jones and it isn’t close. Not many teams (if any) would have made it this far with their backup quarterback, let alone their third-stringer. Whether it’s Jones’ talent, the talent around him or the presence of Meyer, the Buckeyes have overcome serious adversity at the quarterback position in 2014. Jones looked terrific against Wisconsin (257 yards, three touchdowns) but was predictably hot and cold against Alabama. If he plays closer to the Wisconsin game, Ohio State has an excellent chance at winning. If he’s inconsistent and can’t sustain drives, the Ducks will run away in this one.

@Sharp_Schutter:   The play of Ohio State’s offensive line has been the unsung hero of the team’s success this season. The offensive line has done an excellent job of opening holes for Ezekiel Elliott and has become more consistent at protecting the quarterback at the end of the year. Alabama did get three sacks against Cardale Jones, which is why the play of the O-line is so important against Oregon. The Ducks rely on speed rather than power and won’t give much time for Jones in the pocket. The Buckeyes need to hold blocks to keep Jones clean and open holes for Elliott.

On Oregon’s side, it’s not a specific player or a unit that will be the X-factor in the game, it will be a statistic. The Ducks have struggled with penalties throughout the year and it’s been the one area they haven’t seemed to correct. Against an opportunistic Buckeyes team, Oregon has to keep the yellow flags off the field and not shoot itself in the foot offensively or give away free yardage on defense. Oregon’s been able to win games even with several penalties but life would be much easier if it plays a clean game on Monday

@Pat_Whitehurst: Championships are won and lost with turnovers, special teams mishaps and/or big returns along with critical third down conversions and stops, but I believe the biggest “X-Factor” in Jerry World will be the speed of Oregon. The Buckeyes matched up well with Alabama because they played a similar style of football. Nobody plays as fast as the Ducks in every facet, and that will ultimately be the difference.

Prediction Time and Way Too Early Look at the 2016 College Football Playoff

@Ryan_Wooden: Oregon wins because they’re the better team. Yes, Ohio State is hot and it’s hard to imagine a team as talented as the Buckeyes coached by Urban Meyer getting blown out in a game of this magnitude with this much time to prepare, but I thought the same thing about Florida State (who hadn’t lost in two calendar years) and look how that went.

Pound the rock with Elliott and put the pressure on the Ducks.

Pound the rock with Elliott and put the pressure on the Ducks.

The Ducks are sick and tired of being a great program who wins 11 games and wears cool uniforms. They’re ready to be the preeminent program in the nation, and this is where they begin to establish themselves as such.

My “way too early for next season CFP prediction” is Baylor, Alabama, Oregon and Georgia Tech. I don’t buy into the TCU hype and I think Baylor is ready to turn a corner as a program despite losing Bryce Petty. Alabama and Oregon are the two best programs in the country, and call me crazy, but Paul Johnson has his best quarterback ever and four starters on the offensive line coming back with eight returning starters on defense. GT rolls a soft ACC, beats FSU and earns a bid.

@ColinSylvester: Both teams are playing so well, and the fact that the two teams playing the best football right now will meet for the national championship is a credit to the new playoff format. I really think it will be one of the most exciting games we’ve seen this season, but I’m going with Ohio State.

The Buckeyes have had one of the best coaches in the game preparing them for this moment, but it’s the players on the field who will determine the outcome. Oregon has Marcus Mariota, but Ohio State has more options when it comes to a surprising breakout performance that so often wins games like this one. Cardale Jones has had two more weeks to prepare as a starter. Curtis Samuel could score on offense or special teams. Joey Bosa is due for a dominating performance. Senior Devon Smith could have a storybook ending in the end zone. There are more options for a surprisingly spectacular performance for Ohio State, and all it takes is one to take down Mariota and the Ducks.

@Alex_47: The Ducks swoop in to gather all the nation’s affection in the National Championship Monday, but why?

Heisman winner? Buckeyes have stopped plenty of candidates this season. Speed on offense? Ohio State has a plethora of those as well.

Handing the ball over to a third-string quarterback, all the while winning your conference championship game 59-0, and then following that up with a (convincing) win over Alabama, I’ll give my nod to the Buckeyes.

Urban Meyer has yet to lose in the underdog role at Ohio State, and that trend continues when the clock hits zero. We can worry about next year tomorrow.

@SharpSchutter: This is a difficult game to choose. In every big game this season, I’ve picked against the Buckeyes and they’ve proven me wrong. Even though I think Oregon is a better team and poses more threats offensively than any team Ohio State has played up to this point, Urban Meyer has turned me into a believer. Beating Michigan State, dismantling Wisconsin and handling Alabama were all clear signs of how good this Buckeye team can be. I expect Ohio State, third-string quarterback and all, to shock the world one final time.

The College Football Playoff has already been a huge success and has already gotten us thirsty for next year’s postseason action. While it’s way too early to get a clear grasp of who the favorites for the bracket will be next season, I have a few teams that are sticking out.

With solid a lot of offensive talent returning for both teams, I like TCU and Ohio State to get to next year’s playoff. Trevone Boykin will be the head of another potent offensive attack while a healthy Buckeyes team will be lethal next season. With Cody Kessler returning, I like USC to make a serious run at the playoff and create some excitement in Los Angeles. Finally, out of the SEC, I like LSU if they can find a quarterback. The Tigers are young and talented defensively, they just need to develop an air attack in order to throw defenses off balance next season.

Get ready for game day!

Get ready for game day!

@StephenPSheehan: This just seems like the dream season for Marcus Mariota and the Ducks. Although I like Ohio State’s pair of Joey Bosa and Michael Bennett up front, I have a hard time thinking anyone is going to stop this Oregon train. Mariota seems focused and has the right pieces around him and the system to allow the Ducks to excel. The future No. 1 overall pick has won every individual award and can cap off a magical season with a national title. FSU’s defense features plenty of NFL prospects and gave up 59 points. I don’t see how Ohio State can slow down this machine.

2015 Projected Playoff Teams: Ohio State, Alabama, TCU, Baylor

@Pat_Whitehurst: C’mon Ducks! Being a Big Ten guy, I do not want to see the Buckeyes win and although I think this game may very well come down to the final possessions, I’m putting trust in Marcus Mariota and Oregon to hoist the hardware, because they’re the faster, more athletic team. Ducks 45 Buckeyes 34

As for next season, plan on the SEC, Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten getting in, sorry ACC–no 2016 Playoff for you.

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