THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEND-OFF REPORT: THE 'EYES HAVE IT BUT JUST EXACTLY HOW DID OHIO STATE SLAM-DUNK 6-POINT FAV
OREGON SO BADLY IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME?
OUR NFC AND AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME 10-YEAR BREAKDOWN CHARTS
THE COLLEGE HOOPS UPDATE
Go ahead and say it: Ohio State's convincing 42-20 win against Oregon in Monday Night's first-ever College Football Championship Game playoff-style was a men-against-boys affair.
Consider that the Buckeyes - yes, the last of the four entrants into this year's playoff field - really lost the turnover margin battle 4-to-0 prior to that last-second/meaningless interception thrown by Oregon QB Marcus Mariota and still whumped the 6-point favored Ducks and you know what the experts said all along was true: Nobody improved from the start of a season right to the end more than these here-and-now Ohio State Buckeyes.
All hail head coach Urban Meyer - the best college football coach in the land and maybe (already) one of the 10 greatest coaches/managers in sports history - and all hail an Ohio State team that rallied behind a third-string quarterback that now actually has folks wondering aloud whether he'll have a better pro career than the aforementioned Mariota who won this year's Heisman Trophy and threw 42 touchdown passes but didn't exactly shine on the big stage in this title tilt.
Okay, so you all saw it for yourselves but here's some observations from the championship game win:
OHIO STATE 42, OREGON 20 - First off, the Buckeyes were the physically stronger team and the more determined team in this game. Don't know about you but we felt that every single negative play that happened to Oregon - from those two ultra-important third-down drops in the first quarter to the failed fourth-down run near the goal line to Ohio State's ability to convert fourth-and-short plays all piled up on the Ducks and sucked away their energy.
Might it actually have been an advantage for Ohio State to have lost both QBs Braxton Miller and T.J. Barrett when you consider the 255-pound Cardale Jones steamrolled over Oregon tacklers on a few keys short-yardage plays?
And what was up with Oregon's inability to read those inside counter-trap runs for RB Ezekiel Elliott who absolutely carved up the Ducks' defense to the tune of 246 rushing yards on a career-high 36 carries?
The Buckeyes must have run the same exact play where a tight end shifts over and blocks in the middle of the line and Oregon - for some ungodly reason - never figured it out!
Nice job, defensive coaches!
Throw in the fact that the Oregon LBs and DBs really didn't want to tackle the physical Elliott once he got to the "second level" and so that made it a whole lot easier to scamper free for big gainers including the 33-yard TD run that started the Ohio State scoring avalanche to go along with his 9-, 2- and 1-yard scoring runs.
Now, let's talk about Mariota: No doubt the stat line wasn't awful - he threw for 333 yards with two TDs and just that one INT at the very end of the game and he was cursed by those aforementioned drops - but aside from that game-opening touchdown drive the Ducks didn't play with any real confidence and some of that could be because Mariota was missing top WRs Darren Carrington (marijuana suspension) and Devon Allen (knee) and some of it may have been caused by a shock to the Ducks' system ... did they not believe the Buckeyes were so strong and so quick (see SEC-type team)?
Overall, Oregon converted just 2-of-12 third-down plays and failed on both fourth-down tries and don't discount time of possession here - yes, we know Oregon usually scores in a flash but having to put the smallish Ducks defense on the field for 37-plus minutes really cost the Pac-12 team as that D-line wore down and were severely punished at the line of scrimmage.
Lastly, let's get back to coaching: Meyer didn't fret when Oregon charged down the field and scored on that opening drive - instead he likely advised his Big 10 team to hang in there and "out-tempo" Oregon (which they did) while we really wonder what head coach Mark Helfrich was thinking on the other side:
The Oregon head coach should have taken the field goal when he could have instead getting stonewalled on a short run and he should have gone for it on fourth down with just four-plus minutes remaining instead of giving it back to Ohio State (and then the Buckeyes added the final insult with Elliott's final TD run).
Yes, the game was "too big" for Helfrich and maybe even too big for Mariota who cost himself some bucks with this shaky showing ... Ohio State's the king of the gridiron and to think it wouldn't even had this shot if not for the playoff format. Can someone from Columbus please send Condoleezza Rice a "thank you" card?
Get Sunday's NFL Championship Game Sides & Totals Winners when you check with us after 9:30 a.m. ET game-day morning plus pile up the profits all this week/weekend long with NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - go ahead and pound the books today!
NFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
Now here's a look in chart form at the past 10 NFC and AFC Championship Games with a reminder that all home teams are in CAPS below:
THE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES - PAST 10 YEARS
THE AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES - PAST 10 YEARS
THE COLLEGE HOOPS UPDATE
Lots of great mid-week matchups on the College Basketball menu ... On the Wednesday night card, it's ...
#15 NORTH CAROLINA at N.C. STATE (7 p.m. ET, espn2) - The host Wolf Pack are riding high following Sunday's electric 87-75 win over 9-point favorite Duke but what's the status of star G Trevor Lacey (21 points) who was writhing on the bench in pain late in that game (or was it just cramps)?
XAVIER at #5 VILLANOVA (9 p.m. ET, Fox 1) - No doubt the 'Nova Wildcats would love to celebrate the 30th anniversary of that 1985 national championship team with another title and Jay Wright's club is deep/talented and here the Big East's second-best scoring offense (averaging 77.1 ppg) looks to lefty G Darrun Hilliard to spark 'em from beyond the three-point line. Hilliard's pestered Xavier with his three-ball shots in recent games and expect the Musketeers to go gimmick defense on 'em here.
On Thursday, it's ...
#3 GONZAGA at PEPPERDINE (10:30 p.m.) - Beware the 'Zags who zoom into this West Coast game with a 16-1 overall mark and 5-0 in conference play.
Mark Few's team is winning games by some 21 points per outing thanks in large part to Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer (16.4 ppg) but take note that Pepperdine (11-5, 4-1) has perked up lately with key upset road wins this past week against BYU and San Diego.
NOTE: Get our NFC Championship Game Preview in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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