NCAA Football News

Ohio State vs. Oregon: National Championship Game Against the Spread

Last week's inaugural BCS Playoff semifinals ensured that, for the first time since 2010, there will be a champion other than Alabama or Florida State. For Ohio State, it's been 13 years since its last title. For Oregon, a victory would give the school its first-ever championship. 

Let's take a look at how the game breaks down, with lines courtesy of Sports Information Traders:

 

BETTING LINE: Oregon -6; Over/Under: 75

Last Game: In the BCS semifinals, Oregon crushed Florida State 59-20 and Ohio State upset Alabama beating them 42-37.

The offensive fireworks should come out in this game, as Oregon ranks second in the nation in points per game and Ohio State ranks fifth. In their last two games, the Ducks have totaled 110 points while the Buckeyes have had 101 points. 

The betting trends are pretty solid for both teams, but one that stands out is that Oregon is 9-0 against the spread in its last nine games overall and have covered the spread in its last four bowl games.

Since losing to Arizona in their fifth game of the season, the Ducks have won nine straight—all in blowout fashion.

During their streak, Oregon has scored at least 40 points in each game and they are 21-6 ATS in its last 27 games after scoring more than 40 points in the previous game.

Meanwhile, OSU is a solid 9-2-1 ATS in its last 12 games facing teams from the Pac-12, but that trend will not continue.

The Buckeyes forced three turnovers in their win over Alabama—all on interceptions—but they will face Heisman-winning QB Marcus Mariota, who only had three picks all season to go along with 40 touchdown passes.

On the other side of the coin, the Ducks forced five turnovers in their win over Florida State and, in fact, led the nation in turnover margin. They will be facing OSU QB Cardale Jones, who is making only his third career start; while he has been solid in his short time on the field, he was picked off in the Alabama game.

OSU is 4-1 ATS in its last five games facing a non-conference opponent and, of course, the last one covering against Alabama was huge. 

While many of the betting trends—and these teams' offenses—may point to the over, in five of the last seven bowl games for Oregon the posted total has gone under. 

The last time these teams faced each other was in 2010, with Ohio State prevailing (and also hitting the under). Five years later, the stakes have been raised. 

 

All statistics obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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LSU Football: Tigers' Top Remaining Recruiting Targets for National Signing Day

LSU head coach Les Miles and his staff will be hitting the recruiting trail hard until national signing day on Feb. 4. 

Miles will be pleased—but not satisfied—with his 2015 class thus far, which ranks No. 13 in the 247Sports composite team rankings. In the loaded SEC, that is only good for sixth.

The good news for the Tigers is they only have 16 players committed, which means there is plenty of room to grow. Miles and his staff have also been notorious for flipping commitments from other schools to LSU in the final weeks before national signing day. 

Here are a few players LSU will target leading up to early February.

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Jalen Merrick to Arkansas: Razorbacks Land 4-Star OG Prospect

This season, Bret Bielema helped Arkansas to its first winning season since 2011. Now, the wins on the recruiting trail are starting to roll in. 

Jalen Merrick, a 4-star offensive guard who was also considering Florida and Florida State, announced his commitment to the Razorbacks on Sunday afternoon:

"Arkansas is a very great place," Merrick told 247Sports' Otis Kirk. "Coach Pittman has been recruiting me an awfully long time. Coach B is a really nice guy. The fans are loyal here."

Hailing from New Smyrna Beach in Florida, Merrick is ranked as the 227th overall prospect in the 2015 class and the No. 13 offensive guard, per 247Sports' composite rankings

Boasting a massive frame (6'5", 295 pounds), his strength is unquestionable. He knows how to use that natural power to finish blocks, and there may never be a more perfect example than this, via The Swamp Report:

Perhaps more enticing, however, is his potential. Merrick, who also played basketball, didn't take up football until his junior season. That lack of experience means it may be difficult for him to make an immediate impact in Fayetteville, but more time on campus could help him grow into a dominant interior player. 

This addition moves Bielema's 2015 class to No. 22 in America, per 247Sports' composite system. But as he continues to beat out top programs for high-profile recruits, it doesn't take numbers to realize he has this program moving in the right direction following a rough transition from the Bobby Petrino era. 

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College Football Championship Game 2015: Viewing Info, Odds and Prediction

The inaugural College Football Playoff resulted in what promises to be an action-packed national championship game featuring an unexpected matchup between the Oregon Ducks and Ohio State Buckeyes.

Both of these squads certainly earned the right to play in the season's final game. Oregon knocked off Jameis Winston and the defending champion Florida State Seminoles, while Ohio State took down the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. The playoff format was established to ensure the nation's two most deserving teams squared off in the title game, and that appears to be the case here.

What's likely to happen when these two college football juggernauts face off on the grandest of stages? Before we delve into some analysis and predict the answer to that inquiry, let's first take a glance at the game's complete viewing information and updated odds.

 

Game Information

What: CFP National Championship Game 

Who: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 4 Ohio State

When: Monday, January 12

Where: AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas

Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN (cable subscription required)

Betting Info (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 74.5
  • Spread: Oregon -5.5

 

Preview and Prediction

It doesn't get much more even than this entering a national championship game. Both the Ducks and Buckeyes feature two of the nation's best offenses, ranked second and fifth in scoring, respectively. Each team also features an underrated defense, as Ohio State allows an average of 22.1 points per game, while Oregon allows 22.3.

On paper, this is nearly an unpredictable contest; however, certain key players, matchups and schemes will prove to be the ultimate determining factors in this one.

For the Ducks, it all falls on the efficiency of Heisman-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota. He displayed his electrifying playmaking ability once again in the Rose Bowl against the Seminoles, completing 26 of his 36 passing attempts for 338 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, adding 62 rushing yards and another score.

That interception was only his third of the season, and that's a great statistic considering he's about to face an Ohio State defense that has accumulated 24 interceptions this season, including picking off the usually consistent Blake Sims three times in the Sugar Bowl.

Oregon must establish the run to keep Mariota's passing lanes open, and the resurgent Thomas Tyner will be a big factor here. Tyner complemented Royce Freeman nicely in the Rose Bowl, carrying 13 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns. That was his first action since a November contest against Utah, and he certainly added an extra dimension in an effective offensive attack.

Ohio State is ranked 34th against the run and has allowed 24 rushing touchdowns and an average of 142.0 yards per game this season. Getting Tyner and Freeman going early will slow down a Buckeyes pass rush that accumulated 43 sacks and open things up against a pass defense that ranks 16th in the nation.

While the Buckeyes defense attempts to contain a very prolific Oregon offense, quarterback Cardale Jones and running back Ezekiel Elliott must step up in a big way for Ohio State on the offensive side of the ball.

In Jones' start (only the second of his career) against a good Alabama defense, he completed 18 of his 35 passing attempts for 243 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Those numbers aren't bad, but they aren't good enough to outduel Mariota and Co.

Sure, Jones will have more opportunities against Oregon's 108th-ranked pass defense, but the Ducks have been solid in that department of late. While Winston threw for 348 yards in the Rose Bowl, he completed just 29 of his 45 passes for one touchdown and one interception. Oregon also dominated Arizona's passing game in the Pac-12 championship.

This is where Elliott comes in. The sophomore ball-carrier has been stepping up in big games, carrying 20 times for 220 yards and two touchdowns in the Big Ten championship against Wisconsin and rushing another 20 times for 230 yards and two scores in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama. That is impressive.

Elliott will have some great opportunities against an Oregon team that just allowed Florida State ball-carriers Dalvin Cook and Karlos Williams to average 6.9 and 6.7 yards per carry, respectively. For comparison's sake, Elliott hasn't averaged lower than 7.1 yards per carry since November 15.

If this exciting running back can get going, he'll give Jones much more time to pick his spots against a ball-hawking Ducks secondary that has accumulated 30 takeaways this season.

Each offense has the ability to scope out the opposing defense's weaknesses and take full advantage. This will almost surely lead to a back-and-forth shootout. In this kind of game, it all comes down to which quarterback you trust more with the football in the game's waning minutes. It's really difficult to go against Mariota there.

Prediction: Oregon 47, Ohio State 41

 

All team rankings and statistics courtesy of NCAA.com and current as of January 11 at 1:30 a.m. ET.

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