By Brad Carroll
If anyone thought a College Football Playoff wouldn't work in its first year of existence there is one number that ends all conversations. 28.2 million. That is the average number of people who watched the Rose Bowl, featuring Oregon and Florida State, and the Sugar Bowl, with Ohio State and Alabama, in the national semifinals on New Year's Night. Both games shattered the record for most watched shows in cable television history.
There will be one more opportunity for college football to make history, as the College Football Playoff national championship game will take place Monday night between No. 2 Oregon and No. 4 Ohio State. Right away, the biggest historical mark about those two teams playing for a championship is the fact last year neither team would have gotten this opportunity. Under the old BCS system, Alabama and Florida State would have played for a national title. And, of course, this is the first time a championship will be crowned after a mini-tournament.
This year, obviously, is a new era for college football.
Oregon got to the championship game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas by routing previously undefeated Florida State 59-20. Oregon's Marcus Mariota won the battle of Heisman trophy winning quarterbacks, out-dueling Florida State's Jameis Winston. Everything went right for the Ducks, while nothing seemed to go in the Seminoles' direction, resulting in a 39-point win for Oregon.
Ohio State shocked the world by beating Alabama in the late-game semifinal, winning 42-35. The Buckeyes were huge underdogs, but scored four straight touchdowns, spanning the second and third quarters, and held on for the victory late. Cardale Jones, getting just the second start of his career, wasn't flashy, but did nearly everything right in beating the Tide, accounting for nearly 300 total yards and a touchdown. The Buckeyes rushed for 281 yards against a solid Alabama defense.
Both teams come into the title game in similar positions as they did for the semifinals. Oregon is a huge favorite once again, while Ohio State will be playing the role of big underdog for the second straight game. Just like in the semifinals, there should be plenty of offense and plenty of big plays to give this matchup the chance of becoming one of the greatest title games of all time.
Here is our breakdown of how each team can win and finally our four college football experts pick the game against the spread. Follow us on our new Twitter account for the website, and as we build from the ground up, we'll help you in that regard as well, following you back as well.
How Oregon Wins: If Marcus Mariota plays like Marcus Mariota, leading the Ducks to victory with his arm, legs, leadership and smarts. He's done it in every game this season, so there is no reason for him to stop now. Mariota completed 26-of-36 passes for 338 yards with one touchdown and one interception against Florida State. He also rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown. But Oregon isn't all about Mariota. Running back Thomas Tyner had 124 rushing yards and two scores on just 13 carries against the Seminoles. Receiver Darren Carrington had 165 yards on seven receptions and two touchdowns. The Ducks have it all on offense, and should be too much for the Ohio State defense to handle, especially considering Alabama had over 400 yards of total offense and scored 35 points against the Buckeyes. If Oregon gets anywhere near the kind of production from its offensive weapons, Ohio State doesn't stand a chance. Defensively, Oregon is underrated. The Ducks defense made the Florida State game a laugher by forcing five turnovers, including three in a row in the third quarter where Oregon scored touchdowns after each. Florida State had over 500 yards of total offense, but just 20 points to show for it. It's no wonder Oregon is a seven-point favorite against Ohio State.
How Ohio State Wins: The Buckeyes need to do exactly what they did against Alabama. The Crimson Tide jumped on the Buckeyes early and appeared to put the game away after going up 21-6 midway through the second quarter. But Ohio State never blinked and scored four straight touchdowns, spanning the second and third quarters, to take control of the game. Ohio State third-string quarterback Cardale Jones was a huge part of the victory, even though he didn't put up impressive numbers. Jones, who is now 2-0 as a starter, passed for just 243 yards and ran for another 43 on 17 carries, but seemingly each completion and each run provided a huge spark for the Buckeyes. He needs to be even better against the Ducks, however. The man who stole the show was running back Ezekiel Elliott, who torched the Tide for 230 yards and two touchdowns on just 20 carries. His 85-yard touchdown run was the clincher for the Buckeyes, putting them up 14, after a two-point conversion, with 3:24 to go. If Elliott does that again, Ohio State will be champions. On defense, much like Oregon, the Buckeyes forced turnovers, getting three interceptions off Blake Sims. Even though the Tide got 170 yards on the ground, the Buckeyes did their job in that area as well, as Alabama couldn't get any of its hugely-talented running backs going. Ohio State will have a completely different challenge against Mariota, but if the defense plays as it did against Alabama, the Buckeyes might have one more shocking victory left in them.
Who Will Win?: It's a sweep from our college football experts, as each has picked Oregon to win the national championship and cover the touchdown-spread as well.
College Football Playoff National Championship
Monday, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
No. 2 Oregon (13-1) vs. No. 4 Ohio State (13-1)
The Spread: Oregon -7; Ohio State +7
Brad's Score: Oregon 45, Ohio State 35
Craig's Score: Oregon 45, Ohio State 30
Glenn's Score: Oregon 42, Ohio State 30
Matt's Score: Oregon 56, Ohio State 40
Sugar Bowl National Semifinal, Alabama vs. Ohio State, picks
Rose Bowl National Semifinal, Oregon vs Florida State, picks
Birmingham Bowl, East Carolina vs. Florida, picks
GoDaddy Bowl, Toledo vs. Arkansas State, picks
Alamo Bowl, Taxslayer Bowl, Armed Forces Bowl, Cactus Bowl picks
New Orleans Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl, Idaho Potato Bowl, Camellia Bowl picks
Miami Beach Bowl picks
Poinsettia Bowl and Boca Raton Bowl picks
Bahamas Bowl and Hawai'i Bowl picks
St. Petersburg Bowl, Heart of Dallas Bowl, Quick Lane Bowl picks
Holiday Bowl, Independence Bowl, Military Bowl, Sun Bowl, Pinstripe Bowl picks
Liberty Bowl, Russell Athletic Bowl, Texas Bowl picks
Music City Bowl, Belk Bowl, Foster Farms Bowl picks
Peach Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl picks