College Football: Alabama vs Ohio State, Oregon Ducks vs Florida State Advance To College Football Playoff

1st Annual College Football Playoff is set; Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State set for championship showdown:

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Game Previews via ESPN:

Rose Bowl:

NO. 2 OREGON DUCKS (12-1) vs. NO. 3 FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES (13-0)
JAN. 1, 5 P.M. ET, ROSE BOWL, PASADENA, CALIFORNIA (ESPN)

OREGON BREAKDOWN

Season highlight: Winning the Pac-12 championship. The Ducks’ 38-point win against Arizona made up for the fact the Wildcats gave the Ducks their only blemish of the season. But when you come back and absolutely dominate that opponent in the most important game of the season, those wounds seem to heal pretty quickly. Quarterback Marcus Mariota had more than one Heisman moment and finished the day with three rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns.

Season lowlight: That Oct. 2 loss to Arizona. The Ducks could’ve been undefeated had they not laid an egg against the Wildcats in their first encounter. The Ducks’ defense looked confused and scatterbrained, giving up 495 yards of offense and letting redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon and freshman running back Nick Wilson look like All-Americans.

Player to watch: Mariota. He’s not just the player to watch for Oregon or the Pac-12. He’s the player to watch nationally as the front-runner for the Heisman (and folks who say otherwise probably haven’t spent enough time — or any time — watching him play). This season he has thrown 38 touchdowns while being picked off just two times. Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty is the only QB who has thrown more touchdown passes, with 44. But he also has eight more interceptions than Mariota. There’s no quarterback more efficient in college football right now.

Motivation factor: This is the season. The Ducks almost have it all — including the big names, and their flashy style — but what they don’t have is a national title. And in the first year of the College Football Playoff, it’s within their reach. The chances Mariota returns next year are similar to that of an iceberg’s chances in Hades. He’s surrounded by huge playmakers on offense and a defense that has made major strides in the second half of the season. This roster has the talent to win a national title, and if Oregon wants a chance at glory anytime soon, this seems to be the season.

FLORIDA STATE BREAKDOWN

Season highlights: It begins with the fact that the Seminoles were the only team to finish the regular season undefeated, and they did it with three nonconference games against Power 5 opponents. While FSU had to sweat out nearly all of its victories, the Seminoles received every team’s best shot. Their ACC season was littered with come-from-behind wins and it began with an overtime win against Clemson without quarterback Jameis Winston. After he returned to the lineup, Winston orchestrated game-winning fourth-quarter drives against Notre Dame, Louisville, Miami and Boston College — all of which came over a five-game period.

Season lowlights: With an undefeated record, all of the lowlights came off the field. Winston was suspended for screaming a sexually charged phrase near the hub of the campus. Karlos Williams was investigated for assaulting his live-in ex-girlfriend, who was pregnant with the couple’s second child. And the ruling from Winston’s student code of conduct hearing should come down soon. The other lowlights came every Tuesday after the midway point of the season. Each week the College Football Playoff rankings were released, the Seminoles walked away from the television feeling slighted.

Player to watch: The player to watch is Winston any time he is on the field. Although the reigning Heisman Trophy winner didn’t match the numbers from his redshirt freshman season, he rose to the occasion every time the Seminoles needed him. No matter the deficit, and Florida State has seen many this season, it’s foolish to count out Winston. What’s also worth watching is whether Winston has the opportunity to play in the remainder of the postseason. The code of conduct decision is still pending and could jeopardize his eligibility.

Motivation factor: Florida State has become a polarizing program over the past 13 months with Winston’s transgressions, coach Jimbo Fisher’s public defense of Winston and the selection committee’s opinion of a team on a 29-game winning streak. That has generated the popular us-against-the-world mentality in the FSU locker room. That’s been the source of motivation much of the season for the Seminoles. On top of that, the team is chasing history. Never has Florida State posted back-to-back undefeated seasons or national championships. It can do both.

 

Sugar Bowl: 

NO. 1 ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (12-1) vs. NO. 4 OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (12-1)

JAN. 1, 8:30 P.M. ET, NEW ORLEANS, MERCEDES-BENZ SUPERDOME (ESPN)

ALABAMA BREAKDOWN

Season highlights: It hasn’t always been pretty (we’ll get to that), but Alabama has found ways to win. Sometimes it’s been a strong defense, sometimes it’s been a prolific offense, and sometimes it’s been a bit of both. The common thread between all those games has been quarterback Blake Sims. When he hasn’t always put up monster numbers, as he did against Texas A&M and Florida, he’s turned it on late to lead game-clinching drives against Arkansas, LSU and Mississippi State. He threw three interceptions against Auburn and then came back to lead five touchdown-scoring drives in a row to win the game.

Season lowlights: There haven’t been many complete performances from coach Nick Saban’s squad. Florida and Texas A&M might be the only two marquee games to fall under that category. The rest were a hodgepodge of mistakes, whether it was turnovers on offense or the defense relenting late. The Iron Bowl summed up Alabama’s struggles most succinctly: Sims threw three interceptions, the defense was scored on with ease, and the team faced a double-digit deficit in the second half. All told, Sims had his worst game of the season, the defense gave up the most yards in school history, and somehow the Tide won. It’s living life on the edge, but as we’ve seen this season, no one in college football is perfect.

Player to watch: It’s hard to come up with a better player in college football than Amari Cooper, regardless of position. It’s why the junior wideout is in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race despite few at his position ever winning the award. In the biggest games of the season, he has come up big, whether it’s 201 yards and three touchdowns against Florida, touchdowns in games against LSU and Mississippi State or 224 yards and three touchdowns against Auburn. With roughly two times as many receptions as the team’s second- and third-leading receivers combined, Cooper is essentially the entire passing game. All season Saban has stressed getting others more involved, but in the end it’s been Cooper as the linchpin to Alabama’s offense.

Motivation factor: In seasons past, you could hope to catch Alabama sleeping. The Crimson Tide had won three titles in four years, and it was almost expected that opponents would clear a path to victory. But ever since last season’s Iron Bowl and the Sugar Bowl that followed, things have changed. It’s a scary thought considering all the talent on Saban’s roster, but they’re now playing with a chip on their shoulder. They want to show Alabama football is back, and that means winning another national championship.

OHIO STATE BREAKDOWN

Season highlights: All but ruled out of the College Football Playoff and the Big Ten East Division race after losing quarterback Braxton Miller during training camp, J.T. Barrett stunningly emerged as a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender in his place as a redshirt freshman. During his 45-touchdown campaign, he played an almost perfect game to knock off Michigan State on the road and lead the Buckeyes to a division title.

Season lowlights: Barrett would suffer a season-ending injury of his own in a win over rival Michigan the week before the Big Ten title game, but the lowest point for the Buckeyes was still the Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech. Barrett was making just his second start, but he struggled behind an inexperienced offensive line, finishing with three interceptions and being sacked seven times in a defeat that cut Ohio State’s margin for error down to zero.

Player to watch: On and off the field, few players in the country are as entertaining as pass-rushing terror Joey Bosa, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. The sophomore defensive end had already proved himself capable of making an impact after moving into the starting lineup midway through his freshman season — and Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer had warned the public several times that Bosa might wind up as one of the most productive players he’s ever coached — but his campaign was still surprising in its ruthless efficiency. Either way, all Bosa ever really does is shrug both blockers and attention away.

Motivation factor: Urban Meyer broke through with his first postseason victory with the program in the Big Ten title game, but Ohio State won’t be happy to settle for just that trophy this season. The Buckeyes are coming off perhaps the most complete performance since Meyer took over, romping Wisconsin despite having to turn the offense over to third-string quarterback Cardale Jones, and they will no doubt be looking to prove that their storied program is back for good as a national contender.

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Posted on December 10, 2014, in College Football, Sports Media World and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on College Football: Alabama vs Ohio State, Oregon Ducks vs Florida State Advance To College Football Playoff.

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