No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes (13-1 SU, 9-5 ATS) vs. No. 2 Oregon Ducks (13-1 SU, 10-4 ATS)
CFP National Championship Game
Date and Time: Monday, January 12, 2015, 8:30 pm EST
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
TV: ESPN, DirecTV 206
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: OSU +7/ORE -7
Over/Under Total: 75
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This years first-ever college football playoffs system gave us two exciting semifinals, so the first National Championship game determined by two play-in games will feature the No. 4 seed Ohio State Buckeyes versus the No. 2 seed Oregon Ducks in a winner-take-all finale on ESPN on Monday, January 12, inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
The Buckeyes are coming off the huge upset of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl semifinal, 42-35. In their focus to make life hard for Cardale Jones in just his second start at QB, the Bama defense overlooked running back Ezekiel Elliott who torched the Tide for 230 yards and two scores including a 85-yard dagger late in the fourth quarter that sealed it for the Buckeyes.
Despite the momentum the Buckeyes earned with the upset, theyll still enter the National Championship game as underdogs, due mostly because of the way Oregon looked and played in their impressive, 59-20, victory over Florida State in the Rose Bowl in the opening semifinal on New Years Day. The Oregon offense with Heisman winner Marcus Mariota working off the rust of the banquet season simply wore out the Seminoles for 639 yards on 81 offensive snaps.
The Oregon Ducks opened as 7.5-point favorites initially, but most sportsbooks have already dropped the half-point hook and are currently listing the betting line for the National Championship game with Oregon as 7-point favorites in the neutral site game played inside the JerryDome.
The over/under total also has moved significantly since it initially opened, going up at 73.5 when it opened to where it sits currently at 75.5 at most sportsbooks, with even a few 76s starting to pop up at some of the larger offshore sportsbooks on the web.
The most talked about handicapping angle going into the championship game is likely going to be centered around the high-powered Oregon offense, or in other words, how well can the Buckeyes defense play against the Ducks scheme? Against the Tide the Buckeyes defense was able to confuse Bamas Blake Sims into three interceptions, and they showed they can bring a bunch of different looks on third-and-long situations (held Bama to 2-for-13 on 3rd down), both of which will help slowdown the Oregon attack for a little while maybe.
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The problem the Buckeyes defense will run into is the fact that Mariota and the Ducks rarely get into 3rd-and-long situations. Instead the Ducks thrive on the aggressiveness of the opposing defense, with Mariota and a bevy of running backs like Thomas Tyner and Royce Freeman running the Ducks read-option attack to perfection. If the Ducks get the Buckeyes defense standing around figuring out the scheme, especially on the plays 70 through 80 late in the fourth quarter, its already too late because Oregon will be putting up numbers like they did against Florida State.
On their third quarterback already, the Buckeyes seem to just keep cruising along on offense, which as much as I hate to say it speaks volumes about how good Urban Meyer and OC Tom Herman are at coaching their scheme at OSU. In his two career starts at QB Jones has played about as perfectly as you could draw it up on a whiteboard, which is part of the reason why Ohio State enters the title game as such large underdogs Meyer and Herman cant possible get him to do it in a third start with 11 days to prepare? The often overlooked Oregon defense could turn into the x-factor in the title game, if they can find a way to limit the damage that Elliott has exploded for (580 yards, 6 TD in they last three games (vs. Mich; Big10 Title vs. Wisc.; and Sugar Bowl vs. Bama).
These two teams played in the 2010 Rose Bowl, a 26-17 victory for Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes in a game that was dominated and controlled by the Buckeyes read-option QB, Terrelle Pryor. Pryor threw for 266 yards and two scores and ran for 72 yards to lead the team as the Buckeyes never let the Ducks weapons (LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, LeGarrette Blount) get going as the Ducks only ran 53 offensive plays (2-for-11 on third-down).
Of course, Oregon has not only won, but covered in all nine of the games that theyve played since their lone loss to Arizona on October 2nd. Oregon is also 4-0 ATS in their last four bowl games and 7-2 ATS in their last nine non-conference games.
Say what you will about the Buckeyes, but over the years they have been the one Big Ten team that has been able to win both in neutral-site games (7-3 ATS in L10) and in games against the PAC-12 (which was usually the Rose Bowl) with a 9-2-1 ATS record against the PAC-12 in their last 12 tries.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread:Even if the Ducks have an off night on offense in the title game they still will put up 35 points. For me, that means that Ohio State and Jones have to find a way to put up 35-plus again, and Im just not so sure they can do it again. Ohio State will hang around just fine, but a late Oregon score puts the Buckeyes into chase mode and Jones just wont be as comfortable when he has to throw it to stay in the game. Oregon wins and covers with a late score, Im thinking something like a 45-35 final. Im taking Oregon minus the -7 points.