NCAA Football News

Recruits React to Ohio State Winning National Championship Game

Urban Meyer has long had a reputation of being an elite recruiter, but his job on that front got a little easier after his Buckeyes trounced Oregon on Monday night to win their first national title since 2002.

If Monday is any indicator of the momentum that Ohio State is building on the recruiting trail, Meyer is poised to restock his roster with elite recruits in the next few classes. 

The Buckeyes received a trio of commitments from top underclassmen in the 2016 (5-star running back Kareem Walker) and 2017 classes (4-star athlete Bruce Judson and 4-star corner Shaun Wade) before, during and after Monday's game.

In addition to their classes swelling in the aftermath of capturing a title, current Buckeyes commitments have responded with their thoughts on the win and the state of the program moving forward. 

For a player such as 2015 4-star athlete and Ohio native Jerome Baker, seeing his future school capture the biggest prize in the sport gave him an immediate feeling of pride, as he told Bill Kurelic of Bucknuts.

"This is the expectation when you go to Ohio State," Baker told Kurelic. "We are expected to win national championships. Proud of them guys. I can't wait to get down there so we can win many more."

The Buckeyes dominated the Ducks in the trenches, as star sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for a career-high 236 yards and four scores.

That level of physical domination resonated with players such as 2015 3-star offensive line pledge Branden Bowen.

"I'm excited to say the least," Bowen told Kurelic. "Ohio State came in and, aside from the turnovers, dominated the game."

While the Buckeyes commitments rejoiced, targets in future classes were also playing close attention to the improvement the Buckeyes showed over the course of the season.

2016 4-star defensive end Kyree Campbell is one of the top early targets for Meyer and his staff in next year's cycle.

The 6'5", 280-pounder—who mentioned Alabama, Florida, Michigan and North Carolina in addition to the Buckeyes as schools that stick out to him in the early stages of his recruitment—said he was rooting for the Buckeyes heading into the game.

"Oregon was hitting them with that fast pace, so I got scared for a minute," Campbell told Bleacher Report. "They did what had to be done, which was slowing [quarterback Marcus] Mariota down. It was a job well done. Coach [Larry] Johnson, being the defensive line coach, he did a great job."

The Virginia native came away impressed at how the Buckeyes defensive line flustered the Heisman Trophy-winning Ducks quarterback.

"Most of the game, I was watching the defensive line," Campbell said. "I didn't really care for the offense. I was watching the defense and watching the schemes and seeing what they like to run and how they execute. Those guys did an excellent job on the defensive line. I like to analyze things like that."

2018 running back Ricky Slade is a prep teammate of current Ohio State commit and 4-star offensive lineman Matthew Burrell. Although Slade just completed his freshman year of high school, he's already secured an offer from the Buckeyes. 

"I kind of felt like Ohio State was going to beat Oregon," Slade said. "They had a lot of momentum from the last two games, and it carried over to the championship game."

Slade—who mentioned plans to visit Ohio State in the spring— admits that the offense has gotten his attention over the last few games.

"Their offense started clicking after the first drive," Slade said. "They maintained the ball for a long time and kept Oregon's offense off the field. They've been clicking for a minute. That game made me feel some type of way about Ohio State."

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand, and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Miami Football: Early Look at Favorites to Replace Departing Hurricanes

The 2015 edition of the Miami Hurricanes football team must replace 12 starters from the recent year, equally split with six on both offense and defense.

Most candidates spent the 2014 season as second-stringers, though, a handful missed time due to various reasons or stepped in for unavailable players.

Starters are classified as someone who opened the most games at a respective possession, even if that number is less than seven—under 50 percent of Miami's 13 contests. Ties lean in favor of Hurricanes who would have finished the year had injury not limited them.

Additionally, only one member of the 2015 recruiting class is mentioned because he has officially signed. Any prospect not enrolled at Miami is not included at this time.

 

Offense

Returning Starters: Brad Kaaya, QB; Malcolm Lewis, WR; Stacy Coley, WR; Danny Isidora, RG; Taylor Gadbois, RT

Vacated Positions: Duke Johnson, RB; Phillip Dorsett, WR; Clive Walford, TE; Ereck Flowers, LT; Shane McDermott, C; Jon Feliciano, LG

The Hurricanes are losing a variety of offensive starters, but the most significant is Duke Johnson. His production was unmatched on the team, yet the show must go on without the record-setting back.

Joseph Yearby easily has the highest potential of any returning runner, and a 500-yard freshman campaign confirmed his highly touted abilities. Gus Edwards will certainly be a factor throughout the 2015 season, but Yearby's acceleration and one-cut talents make him the clear No. 1 choice.

"Starting wide receiver" is a fickle term at Miami considering it's largely dependent on the formation of the first play, which offensive coordinator James Coley consistently varies. Nevertheless, Phillip Dorsett is headed to the NFL, and someone needs to take the speedster's position.

Rashawn Scott was unavailable because of an "exotic injury," per Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald, while Braxton Berrios and Herb Waters started five and three games, respectively.

After tallying 512 yards as a sophomore in 2012, Scott has only appeared in four games. However, the senior is Miami's best possession target on the outside, something Brad Kaaya didn't truly have last year. If Scott can stay healthy, he's a favorite to start alongside Malcolm Lewis and Stacy Coley.

Granted, it wouldn't be a surprise for Scott, Coley and Berrios to be the top three receivers, with the latter overtaking a seven-game starter in Lewis. After all, Berrios had a clear connection with Kaaya, perhaps the best on the team.

While Standish Dobard is practically a shoo-in at tight end for Clive Walford, the Hurricanes need the 6'4", 255-pound Dobard to improve his routes out of a three-point stance. He snared seven passes for 147 yards last season.

The offensive line isn't in dire straits, but losing nearly 100 combined starts is not insignificant. Taylor Gadbois and Trevor Darling both opened five games at right tackle, and Danny Isidora was stationed at right guard for all 13.

On the left, however, it gets interesting. Kc McDermott missed the final eight games after sustaining a knee injury. A 4-star recruit in 2014, McDermott was pegged with taking over for Flowers, though, that's happening one year sooner than hoped.

While both Alex Gall and Nick Linder are leading candidates to step in for Shane McDermott and Jon Feliciano, the position is in question. Gall was actually recruited as a guard and Linder as a center, but it appears those roles will be switched.

 

Defense

Returning Starters: Calvin Heurtelou, DT; Tyriq McCord, DE; Raphael Kirby, OLB; Artie Burns, CB; Deon Bush, S

Vacated Positions: Anthony Chickillo, DE; Olsen Pierre, DT; Thurston Armbrister, OLB; Denzel Perryman, MLB; Ladarius Gunter, CB; Nantambu-Akil Fentress, S

Chad Thomas and Al-Quadin Muhammad will battle for Chickillo's position, but AQM is the better fit, so Thomas can stick to rushing off the edge and share time with McCord. Granted, Muhammad was not with the team in 2014, so Thomas certainly could take that spot.

At defensive tackle, Ufomba Kamalu is the player to watch, especially since he was statistically better than Pierre anyway. Courtel Jenkins drifted into the background after a solid opening to his freshman campaign, and Michael Wyche was mostly ineffective in limited action.

Linebacker might be a problem. Denzel Perryman's production cannot be replaced with the snap of a finger, but Raphael Kirby will tackle that challenge. Despite starting at outside 'backer in 2014, Kirby should shift back inside since that's where he'd played before dismissals forced Al Golden's hand.

Consequently, both outside linebacker positions are open. Jermaine Grace is a surefire candidate to take one; in fact, he can safely be considered a lock. Complementing Grace will likely be Darrion Owens, who received a majority of any remaining snaps in a remarkably thin corps last year.

Tracy Howard will return for his senior campaign, but the former 5-star must hold off Corn Elder. Keep an eye on Jaquan Johnson, a Class of 2015 early enrollee who may begin his Miami career at cornerback due to a solid safety corps.

Speaking of the safeties, Rayshawn Jenkins is primed to regain his starting position after sitting out 2014 due to a back injury. Lining up next to Deon Bush once again, Jenkins will give the Hurricanes a stout final line of defense.

 

Stats courtesy of CFBstats.com. Recruiting information via 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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J.T. Barrett Didn't Look Too Happy After OSU's CFP National Championship Win

Weird happenings were afoot after Ohio State’s victory over Oregon in the College Football Playoff National Championship. 

The subject of ink arose, a third-string quarterback talked pro ball and one of the most instrumental individuals in the Buckeyes’ return to national dominance sat alone on a bench, arms crossed. 

Only J.T. Barrett knows how he felt in the moments after Monday night’s game, but it’s clear he was digesting the win in a different way than his teammates.

CBSSports.com's Jon Solomon tweeted a picture of the injured quarterback taken immediately after the Buckeyes' victory. Confetti is falling, his team is celebrating on the field and Barrett is sitting alone on the bench, looking somewhere between meditative and glum.

For what it's worth, Barrett says he isn’t conflicted over the team’s win. After the game, Barrett told NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread he was not bothered watching the Buckeyes succeed without him.

“No bitterness,” Barrett said. “I’m not bitter at all. I feel great. I’m really happy. I didn’t win a state championship in high school. I won a national championship here at Ohio State. That’s why I came here…no mixed feelings at all. None.”

Of course, any melancholy Barrett could have felt in his heart of hearts Monday night would have been entirely understandable.

Since fracturing his ankle during the Michigan game in November, Barrett has sat by and watched third-string wunderkind Cardale Jones finish the final leg of his race in spectacular fashion. This was his team—his season—and Monday night he was faced with celebrating a win that does serious damage to the prospects of him starting for Ohio State in 2015—something he plans to do.

Barrett is adamant about staying put and fighting for the starting job in Columbus next season. He told Sports Illustrated’sPete Thamel that he plans to return to Ohio State for his redshirt sophomore year.

“I’m not leaving,” Barrett told Thamel. “I don’t think Braxton is leaving. I don’t think Cardale is leaving. That’s being honest. With that, I mean, it’s just competition. It’s part of football. It’s what we’re about to do.”

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture filigree.

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Ronnie Stanley Will Return to Notre Dame: Latest Details and Reaction

Notre Dame offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley has officially announced he will return to South Bend for his senior season.

Stanley tweeted his intentions on Tuesday:

Stanley has played an integral role for the Irish throughout his career, but he saw his stock skyrocket during the 2014 season. While protecting Everett Golson and Malik Zaire's blindside this season, scouts slowly began noticing his overpowering play.

Luke Easterling of The Draft Report noted just how bright Stanley's future is:

Rob Rang of CBS Sports also offered his take on the talented lineman:

Besides size, athleticism and toughness, Stanley showed other traits that will earn him kudos with scouts, including good awareness and competitiveness. Stanley keeps his head on a swivel and looks for peel back blocks on defenders in pursuit. On multiple occasions Stanley blocked one defender before switching off to hit another.

Despite a lot of buzz surrounding his breakout season, Stanley has remained mum about his intentions. Mike Monaco of The Observer Sports provides a quote from Stanley about previously sending in his NFL draft evaluation:

Getting Stanley back for the 2015 season gives the Irish a leader on the offense. Regardless of who gets the starting position under center, they will have an NFL-caliber lineman protecting them.

Another year in college also gives Stanley time to secure his place in the first round of the draft. Having Stanley in the fold might also mean big things for Notre Dame in terms of looking to make the playoff next season.

 


Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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College Football Playoff Works to Perfection

The man who once fought against a college football postseason with every bone in his body stood on the sport’s brightest stage imaginable, smile engaged, celebrating his masterpiece.

Bill Hancock, former architect of the BCS and current executive director of the College Football Playoff, looked like a man comfortable in his new life. The beaming expression on his face was genuine; his presence, although bizarre given his evolving agendas, was strangely comforting. Even with his history taken into consideration, it felt like he belonged.

As confetti deluged Ohio State following its 42-20 win over Oregon Monday, Hancock handed over the awkwardly shaped ice cream cone to Urban Meyer. Or perhaps the new trophy is more torch-like in shape, the kind of object that fits well in one’s hand and can be easily hoisted.

Given what this moment represented, a golden torch is probably a more appropriate symbol. The way the Buckeyes passed it freely around the stage marked a significant moment in college football history; this was more than just a celebration of one particular program.

Under Jerry Jones’ spaceship scoreboard at AT&T Stadium, in front of a Columbus-heavy crowd soaking in every word and the largest viewing audience in ESPN’s record books, Hancock enjoyed a much-deserved victory lap.

“It validates what we’ve known for the last month,” Hancock said to the crowd, preparing for his full flex-down. “That the [selection] committee got it right.”

Sure it does. But this moment was far more significant than the inner satisfaction of members of the group that served up our first playoff teams. While the College Football Playoff selection committee saw its tireless work validated when the No. 4 seed stood alone atop CFB’s mountain, this was a culmination of something more.

You can start with the numbers, the most tangible way to quantify the first-ever College Football Playoff as a success or failure. Coming off two semifinal matchups that saw viewership comparable to most national championship turnouts—games that competed with and even surpassed mighty NFL viewership—Ohio State and Oregon posted the largest overnight rating in ESPN’s history.

Monday night’s inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T (8:30 p.m. – midnight ET) — Ohio State’s 42-20 victory over Oregon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas – generated a 18.5 overnight rating, the highest metered market ever for ESPN according to Nielsen. Last night’s National Championship game was a 21% increase over the 2014 BCS National Championship on ESPN (Florida State vs. Auburn, 15.3). Also, the final game of the new College Football Playoff format surpassed the 16.1 overnight rating for the 2011 BCS National Championship (Auburn vs. Oregon) which held the previous best in cable history.

None of this should be at all surprising. While the numbers will undoubtedly generate a few straggler Bristol fist pumps—the next in the line of many—these gaudy, eyeball-popping figures were almost guaranteed heading into Monday evening.

With so much momentum leading to New Year’s Day and even more emerging out of it, you knew this would be one of the most watched sporting events of the year. This was a national championship decided between two ravenous, anxious fanbases. And as for the rest of us, we were happy to tag along for the ride.

A national championship was decided, certainly. But a new era of the sport unfolded before our eyes right as the torch was passed to a dedicated man so willing to embrace it. All we could do was sit in awe and marvel at the power of an unprecedented national championship run made possible by an actual college football postseason.

Without it, none of this ever happens.

Cardale Jones never enjoys the breakthrough of all breakthroughs at quarterback, shedding a “third-string” label that is now hovering somewhere in space. Ezekiel Elliott never becomes a star, a Heisman favorite and a legend in the state of Ohio; his final three games will now be celebrated around Columbus fireplaces for decades to come.

Meyer’s legend as all-time great doesn’t take a dramatic leap forward. More significantly, Ohio State doesn’t win a national championship because it never would have had the opportunity. It never makes football history, becoming the first team to exhaust all quarterbacks en route to becoming a national champion.

The fourth seed in the BCS era got you nothing more than some bowl swag and an exhibition game. Now, if you can be just good enough, you have a chance at football immortality.

That, in its purest form, is why the College Football Playoff was necessary. A results-oriented sport got the results-oriented system it deserves. It took years to implement, a few more to plan and one more to complete the first-ever season with a bracket attached. Goodness, it was worth the wait, even if we had to wait longer than expected.

The talk now, of course, will turn to the obvious: How can we fix something that isn’t broken?

It’s a question the sport has seemingly mastered, oftentimes seeking out the appropriate next steps rather than celebrating the moment itself. There are tweaks to be made within the new system, small changes that selection committee chairman Jeff Long confirmed to Bleacher Report and that will be discussed in the coming months.

These adjustments have nothing to do with doubling the playoff field, so don’t get your hopes up (or down). These will involve the finer—but still critically important—matters that we'll surely dissect at length with nothing but time on our hands.

With perspective gained, however, our approach to the new, improved system will drastically change. Like Hancock, the former College Football Playoff brick wall, all we can do now is smile.

It doesn't matter that the moment has passed and we'll soon fall into the dark offseason abyss; the foundation for the future has never looked so bright. As a result, you should let this one linger for a while longer.

Now, if only we had a golden ice cream cone. Or, better yet, a torch.

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Ohio State's Joey Bosa Trolls Marcus Mariota, Oregon After Championship Win

Ohio State defensive lineman Joey Bosa is a national champion, and he's not afraid to show it. 

Following his team's dominant 42-20 win in the College Football Playoff National Championship against the Oregon Ducks, the promising sophomore took to Instagram to have a little fun.

Bosa posted a photo of Marcus Mariota lying on the ground with the words "O, No," likely referring to the "O" in Oregon. This is also the same play where Bosa leveled Mariota in a controversial late hit.

Nevertheless, this is some champion-level trolling. 

It seems that Joey Bosa has been reading fans comments about the late-hit, so he decided to share his own thoughts about foul play.


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Insider Buzz: Bold Predictions for Where Ohio State's 3 Star QBs Play in 2015

The Ohio State Buckeyes are truly enjoying an embarrassment of riches at the moment. After winning the national title with third-string quarterback Cardale Jones, the Buckeyes still have J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller on their roster, ready to contribute at a high level. 

How might Ohio State's quarterback situation play out after winning the title? Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson and Ohio State Lead Writer Ben Axelrod break it down here.

Will Miller transfer? Could Jones bolt to the NFL? Will Barrett be the last man standing?

Check out the video and let us know! 

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The Case for Marcus Mariota to Forgo NFL Draft and Stay in College

Marcus Mariota was willing to trade his Heisman Trophy for a national championship. Would the opportunity to get another crack at that elusive title be worth holding off on the NFL for another year?

By itself, that shouldn't be enough for Mariota to stick around. But combined with other factors, it could be just the incentive to make the best player in college football this season decide to postpone a pro career for another shot at immortality.

While it seems like almost a consensus opinion that he should leave now, Mariota needs to come back for one more year, if for no other reason than to ensure he's as ready for the next level as possible.

If he goes now, he could be good or a major bust. Another year in school increases the chance he'll be the former rather than the latter.

Despite ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper listing him No. 1 on his big board (h/t ESPN CollegeFootball), the veteran analyst has his doubts about Mariota. As great as Mariota's numbers have been in college, they have to be tempered by who he's been playing against and how much higher the caliber is in the NFL.

"The big thing is, throwing to a guy that's wide open, that doesn't happen in the NFL," Kiper said during Tuesday morning's SportsCenter broadcast. "You have to throw guys wide open. The problem is, quarterbacks in the NFL aren't given any time to develop that."

Therein lies a huge problem for guys like Mariota, who come from systems that aren't similar to what's run by most NFL teams.

He'll likely get picked by a team—hello, Tampa Bay!—that would either try to wedge the square-pegged Mariota into a round hole or change its entire offensive scheme to fit one guy. Neither seems like a smart move or is likely to lead to much success early on.

With another year in college, Mariota would have the opportunity to work on the parts of his game that don't mesh with the pro game—particularly when it comes to his passing.

This would require Oregon coach Mark Helfrich and offensive coordinator Scott Frost to tweak their system some, yet this seems more doable considering what Mariota has done for the program than expecting an NFL team to cater to his style.

A complete overhaul wouldn't be needed. Rather, some new packages could be thrown into the mix—ones that would enable Mariota to make the kind of plays he'll be asked to make in the NFL.

Mariota has rarely, if ever, worked under center, yet that's likely to be the case at the next level.

A perfect place to make these tweaks would be in red-zone sets, where wide-open offenses like what Mariota has run in the past three years often get bogged down when there's less room to operate.

Despite scoring 45.4 points per game this season, Oregon ranked 44th in red-zone efficiency at 86.25 percent. Only 65 percent of possessions in that area ended in touchdowns, ranking the Ducks 41st.

In the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on Monday night, Oregon got into the red zone four times and came out with 13 points. The final play of each drive was inside Ohio State's 10-yard line.

Kiper said on SportsCenter that Florida State's Jameis Winston had the advantage over Mariota in terms of being NFL-ready. That's partly due to the system Winston played in, but also his skill set being more akin to that of a pro quarterback.

It's why Andrew Luck was considered such a can't-miss prospect in the 2013 draft, despite leaving at the same point in his career as Mariota. Each redshirted, then played three seasons and passed on a chance to go pro after a second standout college year.

Both Luck and Mariota benefited from that extra season, but Mariota can further himself even more with another one.

This isn't a knee-jerk reaction based on Mariota having what, by his standards, was a subpar outing in the title game. He threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-37 passing, numbers that would have been higher if not for some key drops by his injury-depleted receiving corps, but at many times Mariota didn't look crisp or confident.

And that was against college players, albeit some really good ones on Ohio State that include many future NFL standouts.

If we were basing this off small sample sizes, then how Mariota looked on Oregon's opening drive—he was 4-of-4 for 30 yards and a touchdown and ran twice for 15 yards—should have been enough to say he was ready to go and looking quite like the most recent mobile passer to hit it big in the NFL.

Russell Wilson does serve as a great comparison, but not because of similar playing styles—in terms of the route Wilson took to get where he is, at the helm of a Super Bowl champion that may well be heading back to the big game in a few weeks.

After three strong seasons at North Carolina State, Wilson had his degree. But instead of turning pro, he transferred to Wisconsin, where he completed 72.8 percent of his passes and threw 33 touchdowns against four interceptions.

His final game, in the 2012 Rose Bowl, saw Wilson throw for 296 yards and two TDs and run for a score in a 45-38 loss. To Oregon. With a redshirting Mariota watching from the other sideline.

If Mariota were a running back, this wouldn't be much of a debate. The NFL has shown there's a swiftly shrinking window for ball-carriers to make their mark before they're chewed up and spit out in exchange for a newer model.

That's not the case with quarterbacks, where eight of the top 10 passers this season are at least 29 and as old as 38.

Seven of those guys stayed in college until their eligibility was over.

The NFL allows for players to declare for the draft years after finishing high school, but it's not a requirement. Some athletes don't need all four (or five) seasons to get ready for the pros, but most do. Those who stay the whole time usually benefit from the extra time, and Mariota would as well.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Oregon vs. Ohio State: Stats, Box Score for College Football Championship 2015

Numbers say the Oregon Ducks should have taken down the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Las Vegas' line said it. A higher-scoring offense, passing attack and the fact the Buckeyes trotted out a third-string quarterback Monday night all said it, too.

Call the Buckeyes a team of destiny, though.

It helps that Ezekiel Elliott ran wild for 246 yards and four scores. Cardale Jones threw for 242 yards and accounted for a pair of touchdowns. Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota threw for 333 yards and a pair of scores, but drops and rough line play birthed a disaster.

Oregon struck first, but as the box score shows, Ohio State took an early lead and played keep-away. There are a few key statistical areas to highlight in what may be one of the top national championship stories of all time.

 

College Football Championship 2015 Box Score

 

Stats to Know

The Silencing of the Ducks

For a brief moment, the Buckeyes appeared never to have a chance.

Conventional wisdom before the game suggested that if Mariota and the Ducks could grab an early lead, they could keep the pedal to the floor and hoist the program's first-ever title.

It looked that way, too, as the Ducks stormed out of the gate faster than California Chrome, going a gaudy 75 yards on 11 plays in just 2:39 to take a 7-0 lead.

Yahoo Sports broke down just how quick the Ducks started:

Then, well, nothing. 

Urban Meyer's defense, led by rushers Joey Bosa and Adolphus Washington as well as tackle Michael Bennett, made adjustments and shut down the Ducks in a major way.

Digest this, per ESPN Stats & Information—the Ducks scored one touchdown and averaged south of five plays per drive the rest of the contest.

Former NFL scout John Middlekauff puts it best:

Granted, the lone Oregon touchdown after the opening salvo came on a 70-yard touchdown pass by Mariota to Byron Marshall, but the point stands.

The Ohio State defense stood tall, silencing arguably one of the best quarterbacks in collegiate football history after seeing the best he had to offer right away.

 

Individual Hardware Means Little

Heisman winners stand no chance against the Buckeyes. 

A note by ESPN, linked above, says it all: "Ohio State is the first school in college football history to defeat the top three Heisman vote-getters in the same season."

Remember what a tough task the Big Ten Championship against Wisconsin was supposed to be? Running back Melvin Gordon, who ran for 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns this year, gained just 76 yards on a 2.9-yards-per-carry average against the Buckeyes in that contest.

Alabama wideout Amari Cooper, who posted a gaudy 124 catches for 1,727 yards and 16 scores, caught nine passes for 71 yards and two scores, not enough in a 42-35 loss in the College Football Playoff semifinal.

Then there is Mariota. One of the most dominant Heisman winners in history thanks to 40 touchdowns and three picks through the air entering Monday night as well as 15 more scores on the ground simply could not get it done.

To be fair to Mariota, he was without three of his top five receivers. Then again, his line was healthier than it had been all season.

Regardless, Ohio State's impressive streak against Heisman winners finishes with an exclamation point.

 

Cardale Jones' Booming Arm

Tired of hearing about Jones' arm strength yet? 

Sorry, but Monday night only validated the chatter. His aforementioned final numbers in no way jump off the page, but his ability to hit targets deep is something the Oregon defense was ill-prepared to counter.

It was also an embodiment of Ohio State's philosophy change with Jones under center rather than J.T. Barrett. From ESPN:

Cardale Jones completed 4-of-6 passes thrown 20 yards or longer against Oregon, the most completions the Ducks allowed in a game this season. Since Jones took over as Ohio State's starter, the Buckeyes have gained 55% of their passing yards on throws of 20 yards or longer; they had gained 25% of their passing yards on deep passes in their first 12 games, primarily with J.T. Barrett at quarterback.

So much for Mariota's high-flying attack hogging the spotlight, right?

Jones' arm is the reason his top four wideouts on the night averaged more than 10 yards per catch:

Not bad for a quarterback who made his third career start Monday night, the fewest by any at his position in history to win the national championship.

 

Ezekiel Elliott's Dash to the Record Books

Where to start with Elliott? 

His 33-yard touchdown dash in the first quarter tied things up at seven apiece and kept the Buckeyes in it until the defense made the aforementioned adjustments.

The run also happens to be the longest touchdown allowed by a stout Oregon defense all season.

That is just the beginning, though, as the offensive MVP of Monday's affair set a few records, too:

"With all the stuff we went through to get here, it's just crazy," Elliott said, per ESPN.com. "It doesn't feel real."

What is real is Elliott's place in history, albeit one that has a "to be continued' asterisk next to it. 

See, Elliott's performance Monday, improving down the stretch as he did on the season as a whole to lift the Buckeyes to a title, is just the beginning.

Elliott is no longer the most underrated back in the country. Now, he resides at the top, and as a sophomore, he will be back in Columbus for at least one more season to take another shot at the CFP and the record books—and maybe pop a Heisman pose along the way.

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

 

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Ranking Every College Football Conference Post-Bowl Season

Ohio State beat Oregon in the College Football Playoff National Championship, bringing the national title to the Big Ten for the first time since 2002-03.

Does that make the Big Ten the best conference in America?

The above question would have seemed ludicrous three months ago, and it still doesn't feel right coming off the tongue. But at this point, how could it not be valid? The Buckeyes are national champions, and they beat the Pac-12 and SEC champions to get here.

That has to count for something…right?

Still, the best FBS conference must have more than one good team. This list ranks all 11 leagues on the whole, accounting for depth as much as top-heaviness. Bowl games were heavy factors, but they didn't erase what happened in the regular season.

Sound off below, and let us know what you think.

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Alabama's Road Back to the College Football Playoff

Alabama players on Monday night were a little angry. They were inspired. They worked out.

It's starting to become an unusual feeling for the Crimson Tide players to be sitting at home when a championship is on the line. In 2015, Alabama will only have seniors and redshirt seniors with championship rings to show. That's a far cry from a couple of years ago when Alabama was winning three in four years.

Because of the expectations that Nick Saban's run in Tuscaloosa has created, suddenly, back-to-back two-loss seasons elicit these kinds of feelings, the us-against-the-world, backs-to-the-wall mentality. The theme of next year, and really the entire offseason, will be taking back what Alabama feels is its rightful place atop the college football world.

That starts in the College Football Playoff, which was a roaring success—except, of course, for Alabama.

How does Alabama get back? What will the Crimson Tide's road back to the top of the mountain look like?

 

Holes to fill

First things first: Alabama needs players to step up at several critical positions.

Not the least of those positions is quarterback, where the Crimson Tide will be playing their third quarterback in as many years. Can whomever the new guy is catch on as fast as Blake Sims in time for a tricky opener against Wisconsin?

Elsewhere, the Crimson Tide will have three new starters along the offensive line and three more in the secondary, if you count nickel or dime looks.

Gone are recognizable stars like Sims, Amari Cooper and Landon Collins. Who are the next faces of Alabama greats?

 

Defensive adjustments

The status quo on defense is no longer good enough at Alabama.

The Crimson Tide gave up 1,480 yards combined over their last three games of the season, all to teams that run some sort of a spread or tempo offense. On the season, Alabama's opponents averaged 328.4 yards per game, good for just No. 12 in the country. Both the yards and national ranks are Saban-era lows.

It's not clear exactly what, but something needs to change.

The game is obviously trending toward high-flying offenses, as it has the last few years. That isn't going to go away.

Can Saban and Kirby Smart come up with an answer?

 

In-season roadblocks

Alabama's SEC cross-division opponents are looking more and more menacing. The days of a brain-dead Tennessee and Vanderbilt on the schedule are gone.

No, this year, the Crimson Tide first get a trip to Athens, Georgia, to take on a hungry Georgia team with an unfair offensive backfield. Then they host a Tennessee team that looks to be reaching its potential under Butch Jones. The Vols, for example, were picked No. 23 in ESPN's early 2015 Top 25.

Otherwise, Alabama opens the season with a tricky neutral-site game against Wisconsin, which just ousted Auburn in the Outback Bowl. It travels to Texas A&M, hosts LSU and finishes the season in Auburn, where weird things happen.

This will be no easy walk in the park for Alabama, schedule-wise.

 

A rivalry renewed

If you thought we had seen the last of Saban and Urban Meyer when Meyer stepped down from Florida in 2010, boy, were you wrong.

Meyer got the best of Saban this year in the Sugar Bowl and CFP semifinal. His three national titles—at two different schools—are moving him closer and closer to Saban's mark of four.

Ohio State returns almost all of its production from its national championship team, including, potentially, its three Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterbacks.

If Alabama can make it through its SEC grind and into the playoff, there's a good chance that Meyer and the Buckeyes will be waiting once again.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Ohio State's Championship Is Good for Notre Dame

Urban Meyer raised the inaugural College Football Playoff trophy on Monday night, capping off one of the more improbable title runs in college football history. 

Still the apple of many Notre Dame fans' eye, the former Irish assistant who spurned an offer to coach in South Bend rode his third-string quarterback to his third national title, his first in Columbus.

After dominating Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, Meyer's Buckeyes—a controversial selection as the No. 4 seed—upset top-seeded Alabama in the first round of the playoff before dominating Oregon 42-20, emphatically confirming their place atop the college football world.

That victory put Meyer at the top of his profession, out-dueling Nick Saban in the Sugar Bowl to take that crown away from Alabama's head coach. And Meyer returning the Buckeyes to the summit also confirms that after a decade of SEC dominance, the tides have turned in college football.

Believe it or not, that's good news for Notre Dame.

No, having to battle Meyer for top players in the Midwest doesn't make Brian Kelly's job any easier. And with Michigan landing Jim Harbaugh, Kelly's job just got harder in two key battleground states.

But even with Meyer and Harbaugh, two undeniable stars, Notre Dame's place in an shifting college football landscape looks much better after a shocking bowl season.

The Irish can thank themselves for springing an upset over LSU in the Music City Bowl, but more importantly they can thank Meyer for doing some myth-killing the past few weeks.

The demise of SEC dominance this bowl season will be the biggest story of this offseason.

Alabama, Auburn and LSU all lost. So did Mississippi State and Ole Miss, with the Rebels embarrassingly shellacked by TCU. Those losses overshadowed the wins the conference managed. The story of a conference slipping from its perch overshadows any victory over East Carolina or Minnesota.

Kelly said beating LSU helps break down some of the perceived barriers that have grown when trying to recruit the Southeast.

"It certainly allows us to continue to recruit down in this area without having to apologize for who we are," he said after Music City Bowl win.

That sentiment will likely be echoed in living rooms all across America, with Ohio State's victory proving that good football isn't the territorial right of the Southeastern Conference.

Florida State winning a championship was the first step. With a trophy case in Columbus now sporting the ultimate prize for the next 12 months, the college football world is flattening out at the perfect time for an Irish team with high hopes in 2015.

When healthy, Notre Dame showed it could play with Florida State, falling a penalty flag shy of beating the defending champs in Tallahassee. Now Kelly will need to take a few lessons from Meyer and the Buckeyes if the Irish want to take the next step forward.

A power running game is the first step. The Irish showcased that ability against LSU but would be blind if they didn't notice Ezekiel Elliott flattening the Ducks on his way to 246 rushing yards.

And for all the ranting and raving of Irish fans demanding Kelly pick up the pace with his offense to move at the speed of Oregon, the Buckeyes' 37 minutes of ball possession surpassed the 36 minutes the Irish held the football against the Tigers.

In 2012, Kelly concocted a formula that helped the Irish run the table during the regular season. While they came up short against Alabama, the past two seasons have proved the SEC is mortal after all.

Meyer showed it was possible. And while it doesn't look like things in Columbus will slow down any time soon, Ohio State's victory still makes things better for Notre Dame.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Early Enrollee WR George Campbell to Play Kelvin Benjamin Role for Florida State

George Campbell is a 5-star wide receiver, per 247Sports' composite rankings, who is committed to Florida State. He is an early enrollee, which gives him a jump-start on learning the Seminoles system. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses the type of player Campbell can be for Florida State. 

What kind of impact can Campbell have during his freshman season?

Watch the video, and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Lessons Learned from First-Ever College Football Playoff

The confetti has barely been cleared from the field at AT&T Stadium following Ohio State's victory over Oregon in the national championship game, the first crowned via college football's new playoff system. The Buckeyes are still fully in celebration mode, yet the freshness of what just happened makes this a perfect time to start looking ahead to what could happen next year.

This first-ever four-team competition was meant to eliminate all doubt and controversy, yet it brought about its own arguments. The College Football Playoff will be around for quite some time, however, based on how well it's been received during its first year.

It can get better, and we can better enjoy it, based on certain lessons learned from the initial offering.

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Breaking Down USC Running Backs for 2015 Without Buck Allen

USC's rushing leader in consecutive years, Javorius "Buck" Allen, is headed to the NFL draft, rendering an already-thin running backs corps even more so as the Trojans embark on 2015.

Allen announced his decision to forgo his final remaining year of eligibility Saturday, via USCTrojans.com's Jordan Moore

"This was a tough decision for me. I went home to Florida and talked it over with my family. I am proud to have been the first one in my family to have gone to college, and I've been blessed to say I played football in college," he said.

"We asked a lot of Buck this year and he came through with an All-Pac-12 season," head coach Steve Sarkisian said. "We know he can do more of the same in the NFL."

Of course, while Allen is doing his thing on Sundays, USC needs someone to pick up the slack on Saturdays (as well as a Thursday and Friday). 

In Allen, USC loses not only its top ball-carrier for the last two seasons—though the 2,263 yards he produced in 2013 and 2014 combined are certainly tough to duplicate. Allen was also a vital contributor in the Trojans' passing attack, posting 458 receiving yards as quarterback Cody Kessler's third-favorite target. 

Moreover, Allen was the type of leader who offered to shoulder the offensive burden in good times and bad. 

With everything he brought to USC, it might take more than just a single player to fill the void. Sarkisian will be working with greater numbers but less experience in 2015.

Just one Trojan on scholarship who saw action in 2014 returns. 

 

Justin Davis 

Justin Davis rode a wave of ups and downs in his return from an ankle injury that cut short his 2013 season. He ended 2014 on a decided upswing, rushing for 81 yards in the regular-season finale against Notre Dame and another 41 on just four carries in the Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska.

Davis also scored touchdowns in each of the Trojans' final three regular-season games, showing off the full array of his multifaceted skill set with a pair on the ground and one receiving. 

"Throughout all the ups and downs in the season, it's always a nice feeling to finish out on top," Davis told Bleacher Report while also hitting on a key point for continuing his upward trajectory into 2015. 

"After [the Nov. 22 loss at] UCLA, we knew we had to be a lot more physical, because they outworked us," he said.

Davis needs to be more consistent, which means gaining more yards between the tackles—a facet in which Allen excelled.

 

Tre Madden 

Tre Madden is the sole running back on USC's 2015 roster with experience as a No. 1 option at the collegiate level.

Before a hamstring injury and Allen's breakout midway through the 2013 campaign, Madden was putting up rushing yards unseen at USC since the days of Reggie Bush and LenDale White.

He rushed for more than 100 yards in four of the Trojans' first five games and gained 93 in the fifth.

Madden's return in 2014 never came to fruition, and he instead redshirted.

The similarities in Madden and Allen's running styles are undeniable. Both are power-backs able to grind out additional yards after contact, but both have deceptive speed for their size.

There's no questioning Madden's potential, but returning after missing over a year of game action is no easy task.

 

Ronald Jones II

Ronald Jones II excelling at USC seems almost serendipitous. After all, just moments after the 4-star prospect announced his commitment at this month's Under Armour All-American Game, he broke off a 58-yard run for a touchdown.

Such plays were the norm for Jones in his time at McKinney North High School in McKinney, Texas. Last season, he rushed for 2,009 yards and 28 touchdowns, per MaxPreps.com.

Jones has the speed to be an immediate threat. He should develop into a prototypical, every-down back once he adds more muscle to his 6'0" frame—which shouldn't be a problem in strength coach Ivan Lewis' program.

 

Dominic Davis

At 5'10" and 175 pounds, 3-star commit Dominic Davis is considerably smaller than the other scholarship running backs on USC's 2015 roster.

However, the addition of such a back—one who relies on elusiveness over power—might add just the right extra ingredient to the Trojans' new, uptempo philosophy.

 

Aca'Cedric Ware

Another incoming freshman, Aca'Cedric Ware is a 3-star prospect from Cedar Hill, Texas. His 247Sports grades are modest: Aside from nine points for his 6'0", 196-pound frame, Ware scores primarily in the five- or six-point range.

However, it is worth noting that coming out of Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, Florida, Allen was a 3-star signee who flew under the radar on his own team.

 

X-Factor

In last month's Holiday Bowl, freshman utilityman Adoree' Jackson lined up in the backfield on one play. He subsequently took a short pass from Kessler 71 yards for a touchdown.

Sarkisian said he was looking for more ways to incorporate the explosive Jackson into the offense. Don't expect to see it too often, but just know that Sarkisian has that ace up his sleeve if the moment arises.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports composite scores.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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