Oh My Oregon And Ohio State To Clash For CFP Championship

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Bowl Season Reveals SEC No Longer Dominant

By John Ventola

This much is clear after watching the bowl games through New Year’s Day. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) has taken a major hit to the league’s reputation, and the first College Football Playoff (CFP) national champion will be a big, fat O.

Question is, will it be Ohio State, or will it be Oregon?

For the first times in nine years the championship game of college football will not have an SEC representative. The last eight national championship games, all under the former BCS format, featured seven consecutive national titles (2006-2012) by the SEC, and Auburn coming thirteen seconds from defeating Florida State last season.

Ohio State’s thrilling 42-35 come from behind victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl

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Ohio State Comes Back To Defeat Alabama

sends the Buckeyes into Arlington, Texas to face the Marcus Mariota-led Oregon Ducks on January 12th in AT & T Stadium. Oregon embarrassed defending national champ Florida State 59-20 in the Rose Bowl and guaranteed problem child Jameis Winston will be causing havoc some place other than Tallahassee next year.

The Ohio State-Oregon title matchup should be a dandy with the Buckeyes solid in all areas and the Ducks running their fast-paced offense. Ohio State, now using what should be their third string quarterback, Cardale Jones, has a terrific runner in Ezekiel Elliott and outstanding receivers. Elliott rushed for a Sugar Bowl record 230 yards, including and 85-yard jaunt with 3;25 left to secure the Buckeyes upset win. The Buckeyes lost starting quarterback Braxton Miller before the season started with an injury and then lost J.T. Barrett with a broken ankle after he led the team to an 11-1 record. Jones has stepped in and led the team to the Big Ten championship game win over Wisconsin and the Alabama victory, directing the offense to over 100 points in the two games. No bad for a third stringer. The 6-5 QB reminds this writer of former pro quarterback Randall Cunningham in appearance, and performance. Good runner, strong arm—even wears the same No. 12.

Oregon has speed throughout its lineup. Mariota, this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, possesses maneuverability and a strong arm. He can make both short and long throws and is well protected by the Ducks offensive line. The only defeat the Ducks suffered this season was to Arizona when a couple of their offensive linemen were out with injuries. Oregon avenged that loss when they defeated the Wildcats in the Pac 12 championship game.

While the Oregon versus FSU game was close at 25-20 in the third quarter, the Seminoles, and Winston in particular, became unglued from that point on, and the Ducks scored 34 consecutive points to book their reservations for Texas. Florida State had flirted with defeat a few times during this season, but always

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Jameis Winston Suffers First College Defeat

managed to end up on top. When things started to unravel in the second half Thursday, Winston and FSU coach Jimbo Fisher could be seen exchanging unpleasant words on the sideline. Winston brought the school one national championship, but at what price? His on and off field behavior have been an embarrassment to his university and himself. The new Heisman winner not only outshone the former Heisman winner on the field, Mariota carries himself well as a respected student athlete.

Meanwhile, Ohio State’s coach Meyer showed why Urban studies will become more popular with the coaching profession. The guy can plain outcoach folks. He won two national championships at Florida, worked himself into failing health, resigned the Gator job, sat out a year as a network analyst, and has revived the Buckeyes in three years. Urban Meyer has a more than impressive 37-3 record in his three seasons in Columbus and is on the verge of his third national championship. He just has to devise a way to slow down Mariota and his mates. And keep Jones, Elliott, and other Buckeyes clicking on all cylinders.

The price tag attached to the contract of newly named Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh raised some eyebrows earlier this week. Forget Lee Majors and the six million dollar man, college football coaches can now make eight million a year. Or a little under that figure, like Alabama’s Nick Saban. Ridiculous, when one stops to think about how much emphasis our society puts on winning a college football game. Saban has four national titles to his credit, one at LSU and three at Alabama, and entered the CFP playoff with his Crimson Tide ranked No. 1. However Thursday, after his Bama bunch had jumped out to a 21-6 lead with eight minutes left in the second quarter and seemingly in position to put away the Buckeyes, things started unraveling for the Tide.

Alabama quarterback Blake threw a pick-six, one Buckeye score came when an Alabama defensive back slipped and fell, and another was the result of a wide receiver completing his first collegiate pass to an

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Alabama Makes Uncharacteristic Mistakes

acrobatic receiver tight roping the end zone line. It seemed Destiny was meant to defeat Dynasty. So much so that it was only the third time that a Saban coached team had lost a game after getting at least a fourteen-point lead in eighty one games, both of the prior losses coming at the hands of Auburn.

Last season, his decision to try a long, almost impossible field goal, resulted in a game-winning runback by Auburn and possibly cost him a shot at title number five. Then Thursday with Ohio State rattled, Meyers throwing headsets on the sidelines, and Bama sitting on the Buckeyes 23-yard line after a short punt, Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin decided to go the trickery route on first down. Instead of pounding a porous OSU defense with hard-running Derrick Henry, the Tide flanked All-American receiver Amari Cooper out to the left side of the field and rolled quarterback Blake Sims right to throw a pass to the tight end. Result, first down interception when Alabama could have probably driven for a short touchdown to take a 35-34 lead.

The subsequent 85-yard run by Ellliott gave Ohio State a two-touchdown margin, and the fourteen points stood up to a late touchdown by Alabama and a failed final play Hail Mary heave into the endzone. Should Alabama attempt to make an adjustment in Saban’s yearly income because of the two costly coaching decisions that snapped defeat from the jaws of victory? Hardly, the guy can coach, and more times than not his decisions are right on the money (pun intended).

Although the recent run by the SEC has been impressive, and the league had five or six teams highly ranked most of this year, it was evident that the conference teams, particularly the Western Division, were beating up on each other during the season. Ole Miss beat Alabama, LSU beat Ole Miss, Alabama beat Mississippi State, Auburn beat LSU, Mississippi State beat LSU, and so on, brothers beating up on each other in backyard brawls. Bowl season comes, LSU loses to Notre Dame (a team that had lost four straight), Ole Miss is beaten by TCU, Mississippi State is outscored by Georgia Tech, Auburn drops an overtime game to Wisconsin (yes, the same Badgers who lost 59-0 to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game), and Alabama drops its game to Ohio State. Each was favored except Ole Miss.

A tough three days for the SEC. Five Western Division teams lost. Texas A & M and Arkansas salvaged some respect for the division with bowl wins, and Eastern Division teams South Carolina, Georgia, and Missouri held up there side of the bargain. Two other Eastern teams, Tennessee and Florida, could make the East look good by posting wins in their contests, but the overall damage has been done. The Western Division bowl record, 2-5. The Eastern Division chart currently reads 3-0, with two games to play.

The conference King of college football may not be dead, but it is feeling its age after being denied access to the throne for two straight years.

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