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The first ever playoff in college football history couldn’t ask for a more fitting ending, as fourth ranked Ohio State pummeled second ranked Oregon 42-20, capturing their eighth national title in school history.
Urban Meyer’s vision for Ohio State has finally come to fruition. Through recruiting, he’s combined the meat and potatoes of the Big Ten with the sizzle of the SEC. The Buckeyes proved to be the superior team on the edges, and their offensive line overwhelmed Oregon’s defense.
The Ducks had no answer for the game’s offensive MVP, running back Ezekiel Elliot. He consistently punched through the heart of Oregon’s defense, averaging 6.8 yards per carry. He finished the night with 246 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries. He also finishes his season with three consecutive games of 200-plus rushing yards. The sophomore will return next season as a preseason Heisman contender.
The Buckeyes will have no shortage of talent coming back next season, especially at quarterback where Cardale Jones looked more like Tim Tebow running Meyer’s offense than he did a third stringer. He used his legs, strength, and arm to total 280 yards and two touchdowns. He kept plays alive within the pocket, and demonstrated unique power in the open field as a runner.
Despite turning the ball over four times, the offensive show put on by the Buckeyes goes down as one of the greatest in the history of the national championship game. They converted 53 percent of their third downs and racked up 538 total yards, throwing for 242 and rushing for 296.
A national title continues to elude the University of Oregon. It remains to be seen when they‘ll rebound, especially with quarterback Marcus Mariota likely declaring for the NFL draft in the coming week.
Mariota goes into the NFL Draft process on a disappointing note. Statistically, he didn’t play a bad game. He completed 24-of-37 passes, accounted for 372 yards, and tossed two touchdowns. Nevertheless, he also threw an interception, and didn’t generate explosive plays with his legs. The result was Ohio State holding the Ducks’ high-octane offense to a season-low 20 points.
Ohio State’s victory marks the end of a remarkable journey that seem unlikely in August after a shoulder injury ended starting quarterback Braxton Miller‘s season. His backup, J.T. Barrett, deserves immense credit for putting the Buckeyes in position to make the playoff before fracturing his ankle against Michigan on November 29. That paved the way for Jones, who led the Buckeyes to upset victories over Wisconsin, Alabama, and now Oregon.
The victory for Meyer reconfirms his status as one of the greatest coaches of his generation. He captured his third national title and joined Nick Saban as the only other coach to win a national title with two different programs since 1936. This year was his best coaching job. He led the Buckeyes through a chaotic September that saw them lose to Virginia Tech in the second game of the season. He steadied the ship in October, and then positioned his team to make their move in November and December before finishing in January.
His Buckeyes’ victory is also a major win for the much-maligned Big Ten, which caps off a 6-5 postseason that saw the conference defeat Baylor, Auburn, Alabama, and Oregon.
From an historical context, perhaps the most important storyline to emerge from this year’s postseason is the validation of the first ever college football playoff.
Had the BCS still existed going into the 2014 season, we likely would’ve watched Alabama and Florida State play in last night’s game. It would’ve been an interesting matchup, sure, but not the right one. The playoff gave us the right championship game.
And in that game, college football crowned the right champion.