After a pair of College Football Playoff semifinals that both unfolded unpredictably in their own unique ways, Oregon and Ohio State are gearing up for a battle to decide the national champion.
The Ducks left no doubt about their place as the most dominant force in college football this season, slaying the giant that was Florida State. But instead of a back-and-forth, hard-fought win, Oregon throttled the Seminoles 59-20 in a one-sided Rose Bowl.
The favorites weren't so fortunate in the New Year's Day night cap, as the Buckeyes gave the Alabama Crimson Tide their best shot and wouldn't be denied in a 42-35 win.
Each team comes in with only one loss, and neither squad has seen a defeat since the opening few days of October. With destiny creeping in for two national powerhouses, legacies will be on the line come January 12.
Here's a look at everything you need to know for the national championship.
When: Monday, January 12, 2015
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Start Time (ET): 8:30 p.m.
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Spread (via Odds Shark): Oregon -6.5
National Championship Preview
It may not be the matchup we all expected, but there's little to complain about when Oregon and Ohio State are meeting for the national title.
On one side of the matchup, getting here seemed like a mere formality. Ever since a shocking home loss to Arizona, the Ducks have been on fire, earning nine straight wins by double digits (many of which were much more lopsided).
Marcus Mariota's continued dominance is the main ingredient. Despite throwing an uncharacteristic interception in the Rose Bowl, the Heisman Trophy winner dazzled with 338 passing yards and three total touchdowns.
As ESPN Stats & Info noted, all he has to do is score as many touchdowns as turnovers in the championship and he'll make history:
Keeping up his offensive dominance against an Ohio State defense that conceded 407 total yards to Alabama shouldn't be difficult, but outscoring a Buckeyes offense that hasn't skipped a beat with its third-string quarterback is another story.
Quarterback Cardale Jones proved his game against Wisconsin was no fluke, helping gash the Alabama defense. Ohio State put up 537 total yards in the game, 281 of which came on the ground against a group that had been the nation's top-ranked run defense.
Ohio State couldn't get off to the start it wanted against Alabama, but it didn't much matter when things got clicking. The Buckeyes won't want to do the same against an Oregon team that is used to putting opponents away by the middle of the third quarter.
The Buckeyes' comeback likely would not have been possible without holding Alabama to just one score in each of the final three quarters, which will be easier said than done against Oregon's offense. Then again, the Ducks shouldn't be able to make the Buckeyes one-dimensional like they did the Seminoles.
After Ohio State rolled with some early punches and executed its plan to perfection against the top-ranked Crimson Tide, the Buckeyes won't be short on confidence as they try to do the same against Oregon. With that said, it's going to be a completely different type of challenge.
Ohio State's offense is for real, and there's no one who should doubt that after what unfolded in the Sugar Bowl. But a great offense can only be topped by an unstoppable offense, which will be the case in this one.
The Buckeyes were on their P's and Q's defensively against Alabama but still conceded 35 points. Mariota and the Oregon offense are simply firing on all cylinders right now, taking advantage of every turnover and moving the ball down the field with ease.
Jones has too much around him on offense to fall apart like Jameis Winston and FSU did against these Ducks. Unlike most of the times Oregon has stepped onto the field this season, it won't come easy—but it will undoubtedly come, and Oregon will hoist its first-ever national title.
Oregon 41, Ohio State 34
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Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel's legacy wasn't what he expected, but he did go out with a bang.
Playing in place of injured starting quarterback Treon Harris, Driskel entered the Birmingham Bowl and polished off a 28-20 win with an 11-yard run on 3rd-and-4 with 1:11 to play.
It was the final meaningful play of Driskel's career.
New head coach Jim McElwain announced before the game that he has been granted a release to transfer if he wants to.
"We all have choices, and I'm not going to hold him hostage," McElwain told ESPN.com's Greg Ostendorf prior to the Birmingham Bowl.
According to ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy and Joe Schad, Driskel—who as a graduate is eligible immediately—will head to Louisiana Tech.
It's the right move for Driskel and for Florida.
For Driskel, it's a chance for a fresh start. The former top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the country in the class of 2011 never lived up to the hype, as he threw 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions over the last two seasons and became the poster child of offensive ineptitude in Gainesville.
Could Driskel have stuck around, played his last year for McElwain and possibly earned his starting job back? He could have tried, but that wasn't going to happen. He also could have joined MLB's Boston Red Sox, who drafted him in the 29th round of the 2013 MLB draft, according to ESPN.com. He hasn't played baseball since high school, and if he's good enough to get drafted, that is a fallback regardless of when his football career ends.
He absolutely should give it another shot, just not at Florida.
Driskel had become branded as one of the major problems in Gainesville, and there's no reason for him to stick around for one more year to try to change his legacy. It's already etched in stone, and the 11-yard scramble to seal the Birmingham Bowl is a nice way to close it out.
Plus, Louisiana Tech is a fantastic place for Driskel to revitalize his career.
Head coach Skip Holtz and offensive coordinator Tony Petersen produced a potent passing offense in 2014 that finished the season averaging 252.2 yards per game through the air. Quarterback Cody Sokol threw for 3,436 yards, 30 touchdowns and 13 picks for the Bulldogs and helped Holtz's crew to a 35-18 win over Illinois in the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl.
A move to Ruston will give Driskel a fresh start in a potent offense against lesser competition. Is that going to set him up for football at the next level? It's safe to say he's not an NFL draft prospect, but at least he can finish off his career on a high note for a program that is hoping to take the next step.
For Florida, it's the right move as well.
McElwain has already proven that he's looking for a fresh start in many aspects of the program, as former defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin was replaced by Geoff Collins, and defensive backs coach and star recruiter Travaris Robinson moved on to join Will Muschamp's defensive staff at Auburn.
If McElwain had given Driskel one more chance and the Oviedo, Florida native took advantage, it'd be a sign that the McElwain regime is more of the same. Harris had already taken over the job during the season and will have a full offseason to progress after hitting the ground running during his true freshman season.
Will Grier, a 4-star quarterback in last season's recruiting class who redshirted this season, will also get a look from McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Grier threw for 14,565 yards, 195 touchdowns and 27 interceptions in three years as a starter at Davidson Day (N.C.) High School, according to MaxPreps.com.
The two quarterbacks have different styles, but youth is the common factor. McElwain is wise to build with youth rather than delaying the development of his younger quarterbacks by giving Driskel another chance.
Florida doesn't have a quarterback committed in the class of 2015 but could hit the free-agent transfer market if options become available. Whether it's a newcomer, Grier or Harris, there's reason for hope in Gainesville due to change.
That's a step in the right direction.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.
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Bleacher Report's CFB 250 is an annual ranking of the best players in college football, regardless of NFL potential. Brian Leigh and Kynon Codrington have studied, ranked and graded the top athletes in the country, narrowed that list to 250 and sorted by position. Today, we present the Top 25 Defensive Ends.
Other CFB 250 Positions
- Top 22 Pro-Style Quarterbacks
- Top 13 Interior Linemen
- Top 20 Dual-Threat Quarterbacks
- Top 21 Cornerbacks
- Top 12 Offensive Tackles
- Top 20 Safeties
- Top 25 Running Backs
- Top 17 Outside Linebackers
- Top 12 Defensive Tackles
Defensive end was the deepest, most talented position in college football during 2014.
Declarative statements such as that are often hyperbolic, but this one is not. It is simply the truth. As many as 14 players could have made a convincing argument to land in the top five. And a healthy chunk of that top 14 has already announced it will return next season.
Part of this depth has to do with the way we defined "defensive end." Certain players who are technically listed as linebackers were included if they played the majority of snaps with their hand down. Even though they are capable of standing up and playing linebacker, it feels more honest to call them 9-technique ends.
Before we start, please note that these players were graded as college linemen, not on how they project as NFL linemen.
Targeted skills such as run defense are important at both levels, but there is a difference between college run defense and professional run defense. If a lineman is strong enough to set the edge in the SEC or the Big 12, it doesn't matter that he can't set the edge against the NFC North. At least not here, it doesn't.
This is all about his college performance.
Note: If two players finished with the same grade, a subjective call was made based on whom we would rather have on our team right now.
In December of 2010, former BCS stage coordinator and current College Football Playoff puppet master, Bill Hancock, wrote a column for USA Today adamantly defending college football’s former playoff-less era. More specifically, Hancock tackled chatter for a playoff head on, explaining in detail why this concept would be a detriment to the sport.
“College football has the best regular season of any sport,” Hancock wrote. “And the lack of a playoff is one big reason why.”
On January 1 2015, the playoff debuted with no one less than Hancock himself, the executive director, overseeing it all. The entire thing—to the surprise of absolutely no one—was an overwhelming success. Feet still haven’t hit the floor. Eyeballs consumed in mass.
The playoff, as it turns out, didn’t have a negative impact on the regular season. In fact, its presence added an element and importance to each and every week, a season-long journey that culminated in a pair of wildly entertaining semifinals on New Year’s Day.
With these two games came two enormous television ratings, numbers that compete individually with national championships from previous seasons.January 2, 2015
Nothing blew up. Nothing was lost. The bowl season was still successful and necessary. The regular season wasn’t just kept important; it became even more imperative for more teams and fanbases.
While the debate over deserved playoff participants nullified some of the playoff’s true value—with controversy taking over—this was gladly tossed aside the moment Oregon and Florida State kicked off.
Even with one blowout, you couldn’t turn away. Alabama and Ohio State capped off a spectacular day in spectacular fashion, delivering an unlikely result we’ll be buzzing about for some time regardless of what happens next.
While the playoff may not be perfect—and much of this depends on how you like your football served—the new era has been welcomed with open arms. It was a perfect complement to a brilliant bowl season, not a big, sorry distraction.
Change, of course, is always worrisome. It’s why Hancock—and many others, for that matter—fought to keep the old system intact for as long as he could. He viewed the playoff as a threat before having no choice but to embrace the unknown. In losing this battle, however, the rest of us won.
The only relevant question that can be asked now isn’t regarding the prospects of eventually expanding to eight teams. We’ll get there when we get there. It’s far simpler than that.
Why’d we wait so long?
With only one game remaining, here are the awards, Vines and important mascot groin kicks from an action-packed bowl season.
Offensive Player of the Bowl Season: Nick Chubb, Georgia
Given some of the box score destruction that took place in obscure bowl locations, you could have gone a handful of directions for this award. But in terms of numbers and overall impact, no one did more for their team this bowl season than Nick Chubb, Georgia’s “backup” running back. (Note: This isn’t very fair.)
Todd Gurley’s replacement ran for 266 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries, obliterating the nation’s No. 11 rush defense. A combination of size and speed, the true freshman capped off a brilliant first year in style, falling only 16 yards short of Herschel Walker’s single-game mark.
He will now spend the next eight months getting bigger and faster, which is also unfair.
Dominant Defender: Arkansas, The Entire Defense (Again)
Only once this season did we honor an entire defense rather than an individual in this category. That team was Arkansas following its 30-0 victory over Ole Miss in late November, its second consecutive SEC shutout.
As dominant as the defense was in back-to-back weeks, it was even better against Texas in the Texas Bowl. The Longhorns weren’t just defensively challenged; they were running head first into a brick wall for 60 minutes.
Texas: 59 yards on 43 offensive plays; fewest yards by any FBS team in a game this season— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 30, 2014
As statistically incredible as that might seem, it should be noted that Texas had less than 30 total yards late in the fourth quarter. The numbers don't do it justice.
And over the last five weeks of the season—going up against four ranked opponents at the time of the game—Bret Bielema’s team allowed 31 combined points. Not bad.
Video Game Box Scores
— In a game that took roughly 19 hours to complete, USC and Nebraska delivered plenty of offense in the Holiday Bowl. These two totaled a combined 1,040 yards, 702 passing yards, 50 first downs and 87 points. Despite the Trojans' best efforts to blow a robust lead, they held on 45-42.
— Prior to Clemson’s bowl game, quarterback Cole Stoudt had a negative quarterback rating in two of three games, headlined by a -62.6 performance against South Carolina (albeit with only two throws). After struggling mightily all season, however, Stoudt was brilliant in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Behold one of the strangest individual finishes to the season you will ever see.
Cole Stoudt’s quarterback rating over his last four games: From -62.6 to 174.2. pic.twitter.com/Oj3DU243Ni— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) January 4, 2015
Anti-Video Game Box Score
— How do you total 583 yards, score 41 points and still manage to finish with negative rushing yards? If you’ve been seeking out an answer to this riddle, pull up a chair. Baylor’s heartbreaking loss to Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl gave us that answer.
Coming to an anti-video game box score bowl recap near you: pic.twitter.com/p3P6QvpzDA— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) January 3, 2015
— Oh, Ole Miss. After a brilliant season, the Rebels ended with an emphatic thud against TCU in the Peach Bowl. The Rebels totaled just 129 yards in their 42-3 loss, running for just nine yards on 37 carries. This game also featured eight turnovers—four on each side—although Bo Wallace’s early interceptions did not help matters. In fairness to Ole Miss, TCU is a mighty fine team.
It was a rare break in his programming, a sign of actual raw human emotion from an individual who rarely allows us access. Although Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is typically robotic in his media encounters, this was not the case following his team’s Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama.
As Meyer met with the media following his team’s 42-35 win, he was alerted of Oregon’s blowout victory over Florida State and—more relevant to his interests—his opponent for the national championship.
His reaction was authentic and perfect. It was subtle and, yet, it was a welcomed change of pace from a coach that doesn’t stray from the script often.
For the Highlight Reel
It was Christmas Eve, and I was wrapping presents with the helping hand of a large glass of Baileys. With the Bahamas Bowl on as backdrop, I watched Western Kentucky blow out Central Michigan for three quarters. And then, with the score 49-14 entering the fourth quarter, the Chippewas responded. Oh, did they respond.
After scoring 28 consecutive points, Central Michigan was down to its final play in regulation with just a few seconds remaining. In need of a miracle at the wrong 25-yard line—the side you don’t want to be on when you need a miracle—the unthinkable happened.
I have watched this video roughly 40 times, and it still doesn’t make sense. It still doesn't look real.
Although the two-point conversion to win the game failed on a poorly executed fade—please ban this play from your playbook—you may never see anything like this in your football life. Treasure it.
For the Highlight Reel: Part Two
World, Maxx Williams. Maxx Williams, world.
If you live within Big Ten walls, this is a name you know quite well. If this is your introduction to Maxx Williams—the nation’s best tight end and perhaps a future first-round draft pick—you’re in for a treat.
Against Missouri in the Citrus Bowl, Williams pulled the rare double-hurdle on a 54-yard touchdown reception. Because one just wasn't enough.
Although “anonymous draft scouts” will soon be dissecting our favorite players, they will not be able to knock his ability to hurdle mortals with relative ease.
Gary Patterson didn’t say much at all. And yet, no one said more.
When your team is left out of the College Football Playoff by the slimmest of margins and your response is a 42-3 clobbering over the nation’s No. 9 team, not saying much at all is almost more powerful. The resume says plenty.
Gary Patterson on if this was statement to @CFBPlayoff: "I don’t think I have to say anything"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) December 31, 2014
Large-Man Play of the Bowl Season
If you share the same passion for large-man feats as I do, you’re going to want to sit down, or at least move far away from all glass tables and other breakables. After all, it’s not every day that a 390-pound human runs freely in the open field with a football in his hand.
That’s precisely what happened with Baylor’s Laquan McGowan. The 6’7” guard heard his number called against Michigan State on an 18-yard touchdown reception in a play call that I would like to hug.
It was unexpected. It was brilliant. And it was beautiful.
The best part of this moment—outside of everything, of course—has to be the awkward booth silence following the score as ESPN searched for the name of the unexpected giant.
No, wait. The best part is how McGowan’s jersey only covers about half of his upper body and looks more like a bib.
Scratch that. The best part is all of it. Yep, let’s go with that.
We stay in the Cotton Bowl for a while longer, although all kickers—both past and current—are encouraged to skip to the next section.
Following a blocked field goal late in the game, Baylor kicker Chris Callahan tried to track down the ball that was moving in the other direction. That’s when Michigan State wideout/cornerback/special teams missile Tony Lippett appeared out of nowhere.
Please put on your hard hat before viewing.
It should be noted that Callahan was fine despite what the video told us. In fact, following the game, he and Lippett had a nice exchange on Twitter.
@chrispcallahan2 man that play happened so fast man... Hope u alright though man— Ralph LaurenLIP (@Tony_Lippett14) January 2, 2015
They may not be best friends after all this, but that's nicely done by both.
Biggest Hit (Runner-Up)
It was a difficult bowl season for kickers. On top of the occasional missed field goals and game-losing botched extra points—sorry, Boston College—the position was hit hard.
Although West Virginia kicker Josh Lambert wasn’t hit nearly as hard as Chris Callahan above, he was hit somewhere no kicker wants to be hit in the Liberty Bowl.
Kickin’ ain’t easy, folks. Remember that as you watch a Texas A&M player fly into the screen and make "contact" with Lambert's "belt area."
It should be pointed out that after a flag was thrown, Lambert came back later on in the drive and made a field goal. That is award-worthy.
Biggest Hit (Mascot Edition)
There must be history here. How else can you explain why the Cincinnati Bearcat did a flying kick into Thomas Jefferson's belt area? I never expected to type that sentence, but I’m sure glad I did.
The matchup between Virginia Tech and Cincinnati was certifiably “meh.” But when a mascot disrupts a race featuring former presidents with a move from Mortal Kombat, your utmost attention is required.
I haven’t stopped laughing at this. I don’t plan to anytime soon.
Most Embarrassing Bowl Season Job
Let’s stay in the mascot genre a while longer and celebrate what has to be a low point for some young man’s professional career.
I’m sure there are worse things to do than hold an umbrella for a giant potato mascot—more specifically, the terrifying mascot for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl—although none come to mind. This has to be a personal low.
I’m sure it will read much better on a resume than it appeared on television.
Also, again, why is that thing wearing gloves?
Most Terrifying New Bowl Mascot(s)
Congratulations, mutant potato. You are no longer the most terrifying mascot of the bowl season. You have been overtaken by not one, but two food-related items that appeared in the Outback Bowl.
Here we have a mutant shrimp, I think.
So that's a fried shrimp. pic.twitter.com/MN2Fy8iZbd— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) January 1, 2015
And a human-sized Bloomin’ Onion. Children reading this for whatever reason, I’m so sorry. They'll see you in your Outback nightmares.January 1, 2015
Toughest Coach of the Bowl Season
Although there were better overall coaching jobs this bowl season (see: Urban Meyer), no coach took a kick to the face—yes, an actual kick to the face—better than South Alabama’s Joey Jones.
That’s not an exaggeration. In fact, this moment wasn’t for the faint of heart. Playing Bowling Green in the first-ever Camellia Bowl, Jones was simply trying to help one of his players as he was pushed out of bounds and took a cleat to the face in the process.
Again, you've been warned.
The result was not pretty, although Jones didn’t budge from the sideline. South Alabama fell short in its comeback efforts, but kudos to the head coach for hanging in there with a broken nose.
1st Camellia Bowl has a little bit of everything, including bloody nose for coach Joey Jones. pic.twitter.com/kYCI2uR3Qi— Jon Solomon (@JonSolomonCBS) December 21, 2014
Best Illegal Forward Pass of the Bowl Season
It ended up not being a fumble; let’s start with the positives. With that out of the way, Iowa’s Jonathan Parker provided one of the strangest kick returns you will ever see against Tennessee in the Taxslayer Bowl.
You’ve been there before. Perhaps your, “Oh [expletive removed by copy editors]!” moment didn’t come on a kick return with your team down roughly 987 points. But sometimes instincts kick in, and sometimes these instincts are wrong.
Chin up, kid. At least it was ruled an illegal forward pass and not a fumble. Plus, this wasn’t the play that cost Iowa the game. No, there were plenty more of those.
Best Unexpected Coaching Tantrum
With things starting to turn in the Pinstripe Bowl, Boston College head coach Steve Addazio had seen enough. When one of the members of the chain gang got in his way, almost causing him to fall, Addazio let the man hear it as he picked himself up.
It wasn't this gentleman's fault that things went bad against Penn State; although I'm sure it felt like it at the time.
Best Headset Toss
This one is easy. There is no contest. If this whole coaching thing doesn’t pan out, Urban Meyer might have a future in shot-putting.
There is one more game to go. Enjoy every last minute of it. I have zero doubts that you will.
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Now that Tennessee's resurrection season is complete following a 45-28 win over Iowa that gave the Volunteers their first winning record since 2009, it's time to turn the attention toward the offseason.
It's going to be an exciting one in Knoxville.
Head coach Butch Jones is locked into a long-term contract, he's recruiting at the highest level in the country and the team has several centerpieces around which to build.
The decisive victory over the Hawkeyes was what everybody on Rocky Top needed as a catalyst. An offense that had struggled at times this year found a few reliable playmakers, and the defense continued to make huge strides under coordinator John Jancek.
The Vols now have to focus on parlaying the successful finish into bigger and better things.
With a more manageable schedule and a more seasoned team, UT is expected to be one of the hottest teams entering the national picture next season. It's possible the Vols even start the season ranked.
But there's a long way to go between now and the start of next season. Here are some things that need to happen in the interim to keep the Vols heading in the right direction.
If football is a game of matchups, then Oregon and Ohio State will present a feast of strength-on-strength battles in the national championship game. The Ducks and the Buckeyes are two of the most well-rounded teams in the nation, and with so much premier talent even among the third-stringers, neither side has much of a weakness for the other to exploit.
However, the stylistic contrast should be fascinating. For instance, while both teams boasted top-five scoring offenses this season, the up-tempo, spread-oriented Ducks make for a significant contrast with Ohio State's pro-style power-running game and emphasis on the deep ball. Talent typically wins out, but in this instance, scheme will play just as significant a role.
Therefore, when thinking about these matchups, it's important to consider not just talent but also how each team utilizes each player. With that in mind, here are the likely player matchups that will have the greatest impact on this game's outcome.
Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio St.) vs. Jake Fisher (LT, Oregon)
Few defensive players in the nation possess the power-speed combination necessary to corral Marcus Mariota, but the sophomore Bosa is one of them. Though the unanimous first-team All-American was largely contained against Alabama, even a poor game by his standards resulted in a handful of pass pressures:
On the season, Bosa has compiled 20 tackles for loss, making him a potentially disruptive force against the Ducks rushing attack. The Big Ten doesn't have many systems similar to the Ducks, but against Indiana's spread rushing-oriented offense on Nov. 22, Bosa's impact was muted by his lofty standards, as he recorded five tackles but no sacks.
Still, he's the toughest test on the Ohio State defense, and the Bosa assignment will largely fall upon Jake Fisher's shoulders. Oregon's left tackle has been an unsung hero in the Ducks offense, as the offensive line conceded 10 sacks in the two games Fisher missed this year. However, Fisher was excellent in the Rose Bowl, shutting down Florida State's Mario Edwards Jr. as the Ducks held the Seminoles without a sack.
Tempo is Oregon's greatest ally in keeping defenses on their heels, but that alone isn't likely to stop Bosa or Ohio State's talented interior tackle tandem of Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington. Thus, Fisher and the rest of the offensive line will need to play their best game of the season to slow down the Buckeyes defensive line, the best unit on the squad.
Devin Smith (WR, Ohio St.) vs. Troy Hill (CB, Oregon)
Against Florida State, the senior corner Hill shadowed top receiver Rashad Greene. The Buckeyes possess a more egalitarian wide receiving corps, so it's unclear if the Ducks will employ that same strategy with their No. 1 cornerback. Sophomore Michael Thomas leads the Buckeyes with 50 receptions, while freshman running back Jalin Marshall will present headaches for linebackers on passing downs.
However, no player is more dangerous than Smith, whose 12 touchdowns lead the team this season. Smith's absurd 27.7 yards per catch is the highest mark in the FBS for players with at least 30 catches, per Sports Reference, and no other receiver has scored on a higher frequency of his catches. With a 47-yard touchdown against Alabama, the senior again reminded us that he is one of the nation's best deep threats:
Hill won't be intimidated by the challenge if he does shadow Smith, as he stymied Greene, holding him to just six catches for 59 yards. While potential first-rounder Ifo Ekpre-Olomu has received much of the hype in the Oregon secondary this season, his absence has fostered an appreciation for Hill's gritty man-to-man coverage skills:
Ohio State is 22-0 when Smith catches a touchdown, so it's clear that this matchup is going to represent one of the game's determining factors. While the Buckeyes offense won't be toothless if Hill contains Smith, that would go a long way toward reducing Cardale Jones' margin for error.
Cardale Jones (QB, Ohio St.) and Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio St.) vs. Oregon Front Seven
Speaking of Jones, the sophomore has fared better than anyone could have hoped for since taking over for an injured J.T. Barrett. Though Jones threw a pick and took some untimely sacks in the Sugar Bowl, he averaged 6.9 yards per attempt while wearing down the Crimson Tide's front seven with his bruising running style.
The Buckeyes will seek to run the ball first, especially with the 6'0", 225-pound Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield. Elliott failed to make either All-Big Ten team, because of the conference's enviable backfield depth, but with 1,632 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns on the season and 450 yards on the ground over his past two games, the sophomore is on an absolute tear. Between Elliott and the 250-pound Jones, few teams can match the muscle in the Buckeyes running game.
That will be a huge test for the Ducks front seven, which often unfairly gets labeled as "finesse" because of the program's general emphasis on speed. Still, Oregon did have issues with Florida State's running game, as its running backs averaged 6.3 yards per attempt.
In past years, beefy SEC teams such as LSU and Auburn have bullied Oregon's front seven in the trenches. Now, the Ducks are facing a team that derailed one of those SEC kingpins. Oregon will be an underdog in this specific matchup, but there's no better way to change the national perception than by containing the Buckeyes running game and forcing the game onto Jones' arm.
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Cassius Peat, a 4-star senior outside linebacker (6'3", 235 pounds) out of Corona del Sol High School (Tempe, Arizona), has decided to wait until national signing day to announce where he will take his talents, according to Jared Cohen of Sports360AZ.
The son of former NFL football player Todd Peat and the younger brother of Todd Jr., who transferred from Nebraska to Glendale Community College in 2012, and Stanford offensive tackle Andrus Peat, committed to UCLA on Oct. 13 but then decided to revisit his decision once November rolled around and the 2014 high school football season had ended.
Besides UCLA, schools such as Michigan State, Arizona State, Oklahoma and Texas A&M are also on his radar. He currently has two official visits remaining and will have in-home visits as the recruitment process nears an end in the final month.
In his final season with the Aztecs, he recorded 45 total tackles, seven tackles for loss and four sacks.
At the moment, Peat is playing his last season of basketball on a nationally ranked Corona del Sol team that is looking to win its fourth consecutive Division I state championship.
The Aztecs knocked of Federal Way from Washington 73-51 on Dec. 30 and came up just short against Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, California), which is currently ranked sixth nationally, 65-64 on Saturday night.
While basketball will occupy Peat for the time being, his decision on where he will be playing college football remains a mystery. The program fortunate enough to have him join its linebacking corps will gain a player who possesses physical strength and athleticism.
According to ESPN.com, Peat is the ninth-best player in the state of Arizona, with the first being highly touted wide receiver Christian Kirk (Saguaro High School, Scottsdale, Arizona), who committed to Texas A&M on Dec. 17.
Peat will make his final decision on Wednesday, Feb. 4.
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