Inside the College Football Championship
FanRag Sports Writers’ Roundtable, Part II
We love college football. That’s a broad statement, but one that might be viewed as an understatement following this Bowl Season and first ever College Football Playoff.
The pageantry, suspense and passion that fans, writers, and casual observers witnessed during the Rose and Sugar Bowls will culminate on Monday night in the heart of Texas, on the biggest of stages as the Oregon Ducks and Ohio State Buckeyes battle for the National Championship.
Leading up to and following the game FanRag Sports writers will discuss, debate, and provide in-depth answers to the burning questions that will determine which team celebrates a national title in AT&T Stadium.
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).
Here’s a look at previous topics:
Got a question that you’d like to see our panel or an individual writer tackle? Tweet it to us and weigh in yourself.
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Burning Question No. 2: Which offensive player(s) will have the biggest impact?
@AlexK_47: You want offense? You’ll have no shortage of it come January 12th.
What makes Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota so dominating is his ability to throw the ball to a number of skill players in the open field. On the Oregon side, I’ll be focusing on freshman receiver Darren Carrington. After a slow start, Carrington’s racked up 291 yards on just 14 catches. Add three scores to that and you have a hot receiver coming in that can give Ohio State’s secondary issues down the middle of the field.
On the other side, look for Ohio State’s Jalin Marshall to have a big game Monday. After nine straight weeks without five or more catches to open the season, Marshall has hauled in at least that in three of his last five games. While Carrington is more of a deep-ball threat, look for Marshall as a valuable option for quarterback Cardale Jones in third-down situations.
@Sharp_Schutter: I hate to take the easy route for Oregon, but I’m going with Marcus Mariota. The Buckeyes haven’t seen a quarterback this talented, consistent and versatile at any point this season. Ohio State’s defense is accustomed to defending excellent running backs and high-quality wide-receivers, but Mariota’s style brings a whole new dynamic to the playing field. He’s only thrown three interceptions on the season, meaning his smart decision-making and accuracy will give the Ohio State secondary a lot of difficulty. Nobody has been able to shut down Mariota this season and it’s what makes the Ducks so hard to defeat. If he’s firing on all cylinders on Monday night, it’s going to awfully difficult for the Buckeyes to win.
For Ohio State, Ezekiel Elliott’s continued improvement is worth noting, but the guy who can make a big impact in this game is Devin Smith. His athleticism and ability to grab jump balls out of the air can take a lot of pressure off of Cardale Jones. As Ohio State’s big play receiver, he should have plenty of opportunities to move the chains and keep the Buckeyes relevant offensively. If the Ducks are able to shut him down and take him out of the ball game, Jones will have his hands full trying to find other receivers and keeping the chains moving.
@StephenPSheehan: Oregon – QB Marcus Mariota
How can you not go with the Heisman Trophy winner? Sure, Mariota’s style is a bit unconventional by conventional standards. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a playmaker capable of beating a defense through the air or on the ground. Mariota wasn’t perfect against FSU, but in a battle against fellow first-round hopeful Jameis Winston, he was the clear winner.
Ohio State’s defense is strong up front, particularly with Joey Bosa and Michael Bennett. However, can that front four contain Mariota and the lethal read-option running attack? Adding a national championship would just be icing on the cake for the likely No. 1 overall pick.
Ohio State – RB Ezekiel Elliott
This could be the difference-making matchup, as Elliot enters the contest coming off an MVP performance. Against a tough Alabama front, the 225-pound sophomore ran for 230 yards on 20 carries, including an 85-yard touchdown that completely took the wind out of Alabama’s sails. Though Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb have stolen the headlines when discussing the nation’s elite running backs, Elliot certainly deserves mention.
Stopping the tough-nosed runner will be a tough ordeal for Oregon. FSU’s ground game was very effective, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Dalvin Cook and Karlos Williams both averaged more than 6.5 yards per carry and also provided some pop in the passing game. Oregon’s front seven, which includes possible first-round pick Arik Armstead, can’t afford to get pushed around by Ohio State’s big offensive line.
@ColinSylvester: Royce Freeman has to make the All-Underrated team in college football this season. He’s only overlooked due to the quarterback he joins in the backfield, but the true freshman running back is having a special season with 1,299 yards and 16 touchdowns. Especially once the Ohio State defense is worn down in the fourth quarter, look for Freeman to start breaking tackles and extending runs, possibly providing the dagger late in the game.
Curtis Samuel plays behind stud running back Ezekiel Elliott, but every championship game needs a surprising star. The freshman has 6 touchdowns on the season and should see some open lanes when he spells Elliot if Cardale Jones continues his vertical passing onslaught. Oh, and if you’re still searching for an Oregon weakness, it’s been prone to some long kickoff returns this year. Samuel is a highly underrated return man.
@Pat_Whitehurst: Mr. Heisman obviously has to play a huge role for the Ducks to be successful, but sustaining offensive balance is what will ultimately swing this game in Oregon’s favor. Mariota, Freeman, and the rest of the Ducks electric playmakers will do what they do if the big guys up front in the trenches control the line of scrimmage. That’s right, I’m taking the Ducks’ fat guys–although as far as offensive lineman are concerned, they’re not very fat and far more athletic because they have to be. If Jake Fisher (LT), Hamani Stevens (LG), Grasu Hroniss (Center), Cameron Hunt (RG) and Tyrell Crosby (RT) can neutralize the Buckeyes pass rush while opening up running lanes, Oregon wins.
In his two career starts, Cardale Jones has been absolutely sensational. He’s going to have to be even better for Ohio State to beat Oregon on Monday night. He knows it, Urban Meyer knows it, and Buckeyes Nation knows it. I don’t think Jones is intimidated by the big moment and believe he will play well. The big fella with the huge arm can make plays with his legs and deliver strikes to streaking wide receivers. He’s dealt with adversity and come out on top, what’s one more game?
@Ryan_Wooden: The impulse here as it pertains to Oregon is to scour the roster and search for the unsung difference-maker and make a splash, but the reality dictates otherwise. This team goes as Marcus Mariota goes, and, in its simplicity, that’s a beautiful thing. He’s every cliche (the heartbeat, the soul, the leader, the whatever…) and so much more. If you’re Ohio State, you’d like to make some bold claim like “If we can turn him over twice (no team has), then we can win the game,” but it’s impossible to know if that’s even true because if he runs up five total touchdowns and 500 yards of total offense (like he can), two turnovers still won’t be
For Ohio State, it’s nowhere near as simple. This roster is top-to-bottom talented and they can beat you in a variety of ways. Ultimately, I think it’s Devin Smith because the place you’re most likely to exploit Oregon is down the field.
The Ducks rank No. 111 in college football in pass defense, and even though their pass defense has gotten better month-over-month, it’s still their biggest weakness. The Ducks have given up 26 plays of 25 yards or more this year through the air, and I think if Smith can get loose a couple times Ohio State can go stride-for-stride with them.
FanRag Sports Wants to Know:
Will the Oregon Ducks or Ohio State Buckeyes win?
Which offensive players will make the biggest impact on the College Football Championship?
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