NCAA Football News

Oregon Still Not Tough Enough for National Championship

ARLINGTON, Texas — In the biggest game, on the brightest stage, the Oregon Ducks fell victim to their fatal flaw: toughness.

Despite the fact that the Ducks won the turnover battle four to one, Oregon couldn’t compete up front against the Ohio State Buckeyes on either side of the ball.

The Ducks, who ranked No. 2 in the country in points per game, only managed to score 13 points on four red-zone possessions. As Mariota said to ESPN's Joe Tessitore after the game, "we couldn't finish drives."

Meanwhile, Ohio State destroyed Oregon on the ground to the tune of 296 rushing yards—246 of which were registered by offensive MVP Ezekiel Elliott—and the Ducks offense was never able to establish a run game of their own.

On the night, the Ducks ran for 132 yards on 33 carries and were unable to score a rushing touchdown. While Marcus Mariota had a fine game for the Ducks—24-of-37, 337 yards and two touchdowns—Oregon didn't find the end zone with the running game, something that had only happened twice this year and hadn't happened with left tackle Jake Fisher in the lineup.

While Mariota has gotten a lot of credit for Oregon’s success this season, it is the Ducks running game that is their mainstay. Under head coach Mark Helfrich, the Ducks are 20-0 when they’ve rushed for over 200 yards.

Unfortunately for Oregon, Ohio State’s rush defense, which ranked No. 34 in the nation coming into the game, was too much.

It wasn’t just that Thomas Tyner (12 carries, 52 yards), Marcus Mariota (10 rushes, 39 yards) and Royce Freeman (10 carries, 22 yards) weren’t effective on the ground, Oregon’s offensive line simply couldn’t win the battle against Joey Bosa and company.

There were no excuses for the Ducks tonight. The offensive line came into the game as healthy as they’d been all season and Ducks were fresh off torching Florida State for 301 yards on the ground in the Rose Bowl. However, it seemed like the line could make no push against Ohio State’s massive front seven which very clearly demoralized the Ducks. 

The tipping point for Oregon's offensive line came early in the second quarter. Trailing 14-7, the Ducks faced a 4th-and-goal from the 3-yard line. Oregon ran Tyner right up the gut and into the arms of Buckeye defenders who swam through the Ducks line. It may have only been a turnover on downs, but it was a sign of things to come. 

On the other side of the ball, the defense couldn't stop Ohio State’s Thunder and Lightning rushing attack of Elliott, who set a National Championship game record for rushing yards—and quarterback Cardale Jones. While Elliott torched the Ducks all night and kept the ball away from them, Jones, who seemed to assume the identity of Superman, was called upon heavily in 3rd-and-short situations. He delivered time after time.

We knew that Ohio State could run the ball against anybody, they proved as much against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. However, their ability to run the ball at will against the Ducks is what really put the game away.

The Ducks seemed to turn a corner this season against tough, physical teams. Not only did Oregon run through a Michigan State team that ranked No. 8 in the country in total defense, they also hammered a Stanford squad that ranked No. 3 in total D and who had beaten them up over the two previous years.

However, Ohio State, a team that ranked No. 17 in total defense, stuffed Oregon’s run defense, especially in the red zone.

Not only were the Ducks beat down physically by the Buckeyes, the Ducks also weren’t as mentally tough as they needed to be versus Ohio State.

The Ducks committed 10 penalties for a grand total of 76 yards, dropped multiple passes from Mariota and seemed to relent to Ohio State’s physicality at the end of the game.

Facing a 4th-and-7 midway through the fourth quarter and trailing by 15, Oregon’s Helfrich decided to punt away to the Buckeyes. While a decision to go for it may have effectively ended the game, the decision to punt away had the same effect.

In essence, the Ducks threw the white flag.

The Ducks were overpowered, outmanned and outcoached all night long. It wasn't the first time and it may not be the last. 

Oregon has proved that it belongs in the national conversation. They’ve proved that they’re one of the finest football teams in the country. However, for all of the strides that Oregon has made as a program over the past decade, the finesse label that lurks behind them has yet to be completely ripped off.

Until the Ducks finally deliver a title to Eugene, the notion that the Ducks aren’t tough enough to win a national title will exist.

 

Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise stated. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.

Jason Gold is Bleacher Report’s lead Oregon writer. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheSportsGuy33.

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National Championship Game 2015: Game Grades, Analysis for Oregon vs. Ohio State

Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes won the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship, beating the Oregon Ducks 42-20 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Monday night.

The Buckeyes found a way to overcome four devastating turnovers, piling up 538 yards against the Ducks' athletic defense. Ohio State was also able to limit Oregon to a season-low 20 points to secure the 22-point victory.

How did the Ducks and the Buckeyes grade out from a highly entertaining national title showdown?

 

Oregon Ducks Grade Analysis

Pass Offense 

Marcus Mariota got off to a hot start, completing his first four passes (which included a touchdown) to put the Ducks up 7-0 early. Charles Nelson and Dwayne Stanford each had big drops that killed drives in the first half, but Mariota was still able to throw for 193 yards before the break.

The Ducks finally got the big play they were looking for on their first offensive snap of the second half as Mariota connected with Byron Marshall for a 70-yard touchdown pass.

The Heisman Trophy winner had a hard time on third down, though, as the Ducks converted just two of 12 third-down attempts. He finished with 333 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, completing just 42.9 percent of his passes in the second half.

 

Run Offense 

Oregon's ground game never found traction against Ohio State's physical front seven. Thomas Tyner was able to put together a few nice runs and finished with a team-high 62 yards on 12 carries. But no other Oregon ball-carrier rushed for more than 40 yards. Mariota was bottled up for 39 yards on 10 carries, and Royce Freeman had his worst performance of the season, gaining just 22 yards on 10 rush attempts.

 

Pass Defense 

Oregon did a good job of forcing Ohio State into mistakes when it dropped back to pass. The Ducks negated a huge play by Corey Smith when they stripped him of the ball at the end of a 47-yard catch. Jones threw an interception that bounced off his receiver's hands and had a Jameis Winston-like fumble in the third quarter that allowed Oregon to cut Ohio State's lead to one.

Jones wasn't asked to do much in the second half, as Ohio State's ground game found a groove. He finished with 242 passing yards and a touchdown against one interception and one fumble.

 

Run Defense 

Oregon had no chance against Ohio State's rushing attack, surrendering 296 yards and five touchdowns on 61 carries. The Ducks were consistently gashed by Ezekiel Elliott, who accounted for 246 rushing yards and four touchdowns all by himself. 

The Ducks' inability to stop Ohio State's run offense was the difference in the game. After stuffing the Buckeyes on the first few plays, Oregon was consistently blasted off the ball by Ohio State's offensive line.

 

Special Teams 

Special teams were a non-factor for Oregon against Ohio State. The Ducks could have used a big play in the return game from Charles Nelson, but he averaged just 13 yards on four kickoff returns. Aidan Schneider connected on his two easy field-goal attempts, and Ian Wheeler averaged 40 yards on six punts, but overall, it was a forgettable performance from Oregon's kicking units.

 

Coaching 

It's almost hard to fathom how Oregon squandered the golden opportunities created by Ohio State's four turnovers. Mark Helfrich and the Ducks weren't able to do what they've been so good at this season—turning opponents' mistakes into points the other way.

The Ducks were also ineffective in scoring opportunities against a below-average red-zone defense, getting just one touchdown in four trips inside Ohio State's 20.

 

Ohio State Buckeyes Grade Analysis

Pass Offense 

Jones had an uneven performance for the Buckeyes, but it was enough to conquer the Ducks. He had an interception that bounced off Jalin Marshall's hands and right into the defender's, and he had a bad fumble on a dropback that allowed Oregon to crawl within one in the third quarter.

Those gaffes only briefly interrupted an otherwise solid performance. Jones completed 69.6 percent of his passes for 242 yards and a touchdown, utilizing Ohio State's bevy of options on the perimeter, as Corey Smith, Michael Thomas, Marshall and Devin Smith all had at least 45 receiving yards.

 

Run Offense 

Elliott sparked an incredible outing from Ohio State's run offense against the Ducks. The sophomore running back was absolutely sensational, piling up 246 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries. That included a 33-yard first-quarter touchdown that got Ohio State on the board, and he finished the night averaging 6.8 yards per carry. 

The Buckeyes did what they wanted on the ground. Jones was a contributor, chipping in 38 yards on 21 carries—but two fumbles negated a lot of that production. In all, Ohio State ran for 296 yards, 152 of which game in the second half as the Buckeyes flexed their muscle and sealed the game on the ground. 

 

Pass Defense 

Mariota managed to put up solid numbers, throwing for 333 yards and two touchdowns. But the Buckeyes were good when it counted, getting the Heisman Trophy winner and the Ducks' high-powered offense off the field on 10 of their 12 third-down attempts.

The Buckeyes had a busted coverage that allowed Byron Marshall to break open for a 70-yard touchdown early in the third quarter, but that was the only explosive scoring play Ohio State allowed. Mariota was held in check in the second half, completing just six of his 14 pass attempts. 

 

Run Defense 

Ohio State's front seven played one of its best games of the season against Oregon. The Ducks came into the game averaging 241.9 rushing yards per game, but they only managed 132 against the Buckeyes.

Oregon uses its tempo in an effort to get opposing defenses out of position, but that just didn't happen against the Buckeyes, who limited the Ducks to a long run of 11 yards on Monday night. No rusher was able to break 65 yards on the ground as Oregon averaged just four yards per carry. 

 

Special Teams 

Much like Oregon, Ohio State didn't make any impact plays on special teams. Jalin Marshall had a nice 17-yard punt return in the first quarter that set up Ohio State's second score. Two of Cameron Johnston's three punts pinned the Ducks inside their own 15-yard line. Outside of that, there wasn't anything remarkable about Ohio State's special teams.

The Buckeyes were once again solid in kickoff coverage, but that has become the standard for Ohio State this season.

 

Coaching 

Simply put, Meyer and the Buckeyes outcoached their counterparts on the Oregon sideline. When Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman saw that Cardale Jones was struggling in the second half, they calmly put the game in Elliott's hands—which turned out to be a game-winning decision.

But the defensive staff, led by co-defensive coordinators Luke Fickell and Chris Ash, saved their best game for last. That Ohio State was able to hold Oregon to a season-low 20 points with just 11 days of preparation—following an emotional win over Alabama, to boot—was easily one of the most remarkable coaching jobs of the season.

 

All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Marcus Mariota's Achilles' Heel Costs Ducks National Title

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has been hailed as the best college football player in 2014. He hardly looked the part in a 42-20 loss to Ohio State in the College Football Playoff National Championship. There's a lot of blame to go around for the loss, and Mariota deserves to be a part of it. 

Other than Oregon's inability to stop Ohio State's rushing attack, the main storyline was Mariota's poor performance in the red zone. It's been a weakness in his otherwise spotless game for some time. On Monday night, it became far more noticeable than before.  

Mariota's stat sheet against the Buckeyes looked fine on paper. The redshirt junior finished with 333 yards on 24-of-37 passing and a pair of touchdowns plus a pick as time expired. However, almost all of those yards were picked up outside the red zone. When the field shrunk and the windows got tight, Mariota had just two completions on five attempts for 10 yards and a touchdown pass.

As Bomani Jones noted, this performance "wasn't good for Mariota's demo tape":

Overall, Oregon had four trips to the red zone on 14 possessions and came away with one touchdown—and that was on the first possession of the game. That speaks volumes about Ohio State's defense all night, but that's especially true when it absolutely had to hunker down and make a stop. 

The national championship was a game of missed opportunities. Ultimately, Oregon's failure to capitalize on four Ohio State turnovers and red-zone possessions proved too costly. 

Here's how each of those possessions transpired: 

ESPN's pregame broadcast noted that Mariota was completing about 41 percent of his passes in the red zone heading into Monday's game. Going 2-of-5 would put him on par for that percentage. 

For what it's worth, the Ducks ranked 32nd in red-zone touchdowns. That's not exactly a number you'd expect to see next to an offense such as Oregon's. Though that's not entirely on Mariota, his numbers in that part of the field haven't helped. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller expressed continued support for Mariota, despite how he played in this matchup, pointing out the "tools are there":

Not every incompletion is the same, either. One pass to tight end Evan Baylis would have been a touchdown if Buckeyes cornerback Eli Apple didn't make a play to knock Baylis out of bounds. However, an earlier pass to Bayliss on a shorter route was thrown inaccurately. It wasn't an easy pass, per se—it was at an awkward angle with a defender in coverage—but one Mariota should have made. 

Anticipation and accuracy are things Mariota has to improve upon going forward, as noted by ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay (via John Glennon of The Tennessean): 

The one thing I don't see with him is the anticipation as a passer. It's just because in that offense, there's not a lot of opportunity to show that. The other day (against Florida State), he missed some throws he needed to make. You see a few of those every game. No one's perfect.

But Marcus misses a higher percentage of intermediate and vertical throws than you'd like to see ideally. And you combine that with the fact that (in Oregon's system) he doesn't have to anticipate and throw to a spot.

That's something a quarterback does have to possess in the red zone. When receivers are open, as they often are in Oregon's offense, it makes the passing numbers jump out. Rarely are receivers that wide-open in the NFL and yards after the catch can easily contribute to gaudy passing stats.

Screens, short passes and the like are in many ways an extension of the running game that just so happens to go on Mariota's stat line. 

Take Mariota's biggest play of the night: a 70-yard touchdown to receiver Byron Marshall. The pass itself was about 30 yards to Marshall, and no one was within five yards of him. Mariota hit him in stride, but the rest of the play was all yards after the catch. 

Shorter passes tend to lead to higher completion rates, and more vertical passing attempts tend to mean lower completion rates. For the year, Mariota completed around 69 percent of his passes. As Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo tweeted previously, there's a reason Mariota's stat line looks as impressive as it does: 

Where that tends to catch up to quarterbacks is in the red zone, where the field shrinks. 

Better red-zone numbers from Mariota weren't going to stop Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott from putting up 246 yards on the ground. However, 28 points on four red-zone trips—or 29, as the Ducks often like to go for two—instead of 13 could have made a noticeable difference down the stretch.

Also, Ohio State's red-zone defense has been notoriously bad. The Buckeyes have allowed opponents to score touchdowns 73 percent of the time in red-zone appearances. Only North Texas and Texas Tech were worse. 

Mariota's career at Oregon won't be defined by one result or one part of his game, even if the "system quarterback" narrative gets started up again. He's easily a once-in-a-generation player for the program.

That said, one of his few weaknesses undoubtedly played a role in Oregon's championship game loss—even if it's difficult to find fault in Mariota's game. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

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Did Oregon Miss Its Window to Win National Championship?

The Oregon Ducks' loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes is a defeat that will linger for a long time. But, is this the beginning of the end for the Ducks?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder debate whether or not Oregon can get back to the College Football Playoff in the near future.

Is the championship window closing on the Ducks? Check out the video and let us know! 

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All 2014-15 College Football Bowl Season Team

Hope you held on to the college football season tight. Hope you told it how much you love it, because now it's gone—for the next seven or so months, that is.

Now that Ohio State has finished running the ball down Oregon's throat, the bowl season is complete. It's time to reflect back and announce Bleacher Report's All-Bowl-Season Team. 

Keep in mind the players selected didn't necessarily have to have the most eye-popping stats, though those don't hurt. Rather, this is a list of players with highlight-reel plays and big moments. 

Which players made this season's all-bowl team? Check out the answers in the following slides, which will no doubt be agreed upon by everyone. 

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LeBron James Celebrates Ohio State Victory, Hugs Cardale Jones After Game

NBA superstar LeBron James has been a big fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes due to the university's  proximity to his hometown, so he made sure to be in attendance for their national championship game against the Oregon Ducks.

LeBron was on the sideline as the Buckeyes won their first national title since 2003. After the game, LeBron embraced quarterback Cardale Jones, congratulating him on the victory.

According to Blair Kerkhoff from The Kansas City Star, LeBron told Jones that the win was important for the city of Cleveland:

The Cavaliers will play on Tuesday night against the Phoenix Suns, but in the meantime, LeBron will likely be celebrating the Buckeyes' win.

[Twitter]

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Michigan Football: How Tim Drevno Can Fix the Michigan Offense

During the past two seasons, Michigan’s offense wobbled and shook like a top losing its spin. When it finally toppled over, the crash wiped out Brady Hoke’s tenure and sent shock waves through the Michigan athletic department.

Enter Jim Harbaugh, who has returned to Ann Arbor and hired Tim Drevno to rebuild an offense that was once known for cultivating great quarterbacks while featuring a bruising running attack.

Drevno can turn things around in Ann Arbor by starting on the offensive line.

Michigan’s collapse over the last few seasons began up front—the offensive line was unable to protect its quarterbacks or consistently open up gaps for the running game. Hoke was never able to get his offensive coordinator and offensive line in sync. By time the offensive line started to improve toward the end of this season, it was too late.

Harbaugh has tapped Drevno to both serve as offensive coordinator and coach the offensive line. After working together for 11 previous seasons at San Diego State, Stanford and San Francisco (NFL), he knows what Drevno brings to Michigan.

Harbaugh discussed Drevno on MGoBlue.com:

I am excited to reunite with Tim and have him serve as the offensive coordinator for our Michigan program," said Harbaugh. ”Tim is an outstanding offensive line coach and is a technician that works very hard at making his student-athletes better players and students. He will be an outstanding member of our coaching staff.

Drevno will work with the offensive line every day and know exactly how to utilize the strengths of each individual player to best serve his offense. The offensive line will not be an afterthought under this coordinator. He told MGoBlue.com his opinion on the importance of the offensive line, saying, "I believe that any great football team has a great offensive line and a great defensive line. That's the foundation of your team right there."

Michigan returns every starter on the offensive line and all tight ends, including freshman All-American Mason Cole. Cole has the distinction of being the only true freshman to start a season opener at Michigan.

Drevno discussed his new players on MGoBlue.com:

There's a lot of clay to be molded there," said Drevno, who was an offensive lineman at Cal State-Fullerton in 1989 and 1990. "I can't wait to step into the room and lead all of these returners on the line. I want to build a brotherhood in the room so that the offensive line starts to take control of the room.

Michigan fans have heard about the importance of the offensive line before. Brady Hoke shared a similar sentiment, but Drevno has extensive experience developing All-American offensive lineman in college and All-Pro players in the NFL.

Drevno needs to rally Michigan’s offensive line so that he and Harbaugh can develop a new starting quarterback. The graduation of Devin Gardner leaves at least four players (Shane Morris, Alex Malzone, Wilton Speight and Russell Bellomy) scrambling to fill the position. All are well suited for the pro-style offense that Drevno will run.

Besides an abundance of quarterbacks, Drevno also has a bevy of running backs to choose from. He worked with transfer Ty Isaac at his previous job at USC and also has Derrick Green, De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson vying for playing time. He will work with new coach Tyrone Wheatley to choose the primary ball-carrier for next season.

Drevno has a lot of work to do—Hoke and his coaches didn’t fail for a lack of effort. But the pieces are in position for a quick turnaround if he and Harbaugh can shape the talent on the current roster and woo a few top recruits to join them in Ann Arbor.

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand

Follow @PCallihan

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OSU Wins 2015 National Championship: Celebration Highlights, Twitter Reaction

As everybody predicted after that loss to Virginia Tech back in September, the Ohio State Buckeyes are the College Football Playoff champions.

Despite turning the ball over four times, the Bucks managed to overwhelm the Oregon Ducks en route to a 42-20 victory:

It's amazing to think that it was even debatable whether Ohio State would get into the playoff in the first place. Both Baylor and TCU built strong resumes, but the Buckeyes won out in the end, sliding into that fourth and final spot.

After the game, CFP executive director Bill Hancock said that the final result validated the selection committee's decision, per Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports:

OSU defensive back Vonn Bell added that all of the Buckeyes' many doubters served to make the team's championship triumph feel that much better, per Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman:

Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott was the star of the night, rushing for 246 yards and four touchdowns. In doing so, Elliott broke both a school record and Vince Young's national-title-game record dating back to 2006, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Elliott was overwhelmed during the postgame celebrations, per ESPN College Football:

Elliott also had some fun trying to catch/swallow the falling confetti, per CBSSports.com's Will Brinson:

He was far from the only Buckeyes player basking in the glory.

NFL.com's Chase Goodbread snapped a photo of some offensive linemen rolling around on the AT&T Stadium turf:

CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm and the Akron Beacon Journal's Marla Ridenour both posted photos showing the large Ohio State contingent in the middle of the field reveling in the success:

Among those on the field was 15-year-old OSU fan Jacob Jarvis, who's suffering from muscular dystrophy, per SportsCenter and Sean Merriman of BTN.com:

CNN Sports' Rachel Nichols shared a snapshot from the field:

Buckeyes offensive coordinator Tom Herman is already on his way to Houston. He showed his split allegiances after the game, per Feldman:

LeBron James was also on the field to congratulate the Buckeyes players, which prompted this tongue-in-cheek remark from SportsNation:

Injured quarterback J.T. Barrett provided a brief look inside the winning locker room:

It wasn't fun for everybody inside the stadium as SportsCenter shared a vine of the man tasked with cleaning up the mess:

Both players and fans will hang on to this victory for a long time, but attention will quickly turn to the Buckeyes' bid to repeat next year.

Urban Meyer has so much talent coming back in 2015 that his team will almost certainly be among the favorites to hoist the national championship trophy next January.

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Ezekiel Elliott Wins 2015 CFB National Championship Offensive MVP

Ezekiel Elliott ran for the most yards in NCAA football championship history, earning deserved offensive MVP honors in the Ohio State Buckeyes' 42-20 victory over the Oregon Ducks on Monday.

The 19-year-old Elliott led the charge to deliver OSU its first national title under head coach Urban Meyer, displaying the same grace under pressure as former third-string signal-caller Cardale Jones did.

Elliott wound up with 246 yards on 36 carries and four touchdowns as the clear headliner in capping off the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Melissa Hoppert of The New York Times logged some of what Elliott said afterwards:

NBA superstar LeBron James did a nice job summarizing Elliott's big evening at AT&T Stadium in one tweet:

Former Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde expressed his support:

Mike Hill of Fox Sports 1 felt Elliott had locked up the MVP award when the Buckeyes surged to a 21-10 halftime lead on the strength of his 11 carries for 98 yards and an electric 33-yard touchdown:

ESPN's John Buccigross added context to Elliott's amazing performance, as did ESPN Stats & Info:

Elliott's hard running demoralized Oregon's front seven, as no one on the first or second level of the Ducks defense seemed to want any part of tackling Ohio State's punishing super sophomore.

Danny Kanell of ESPN gave credit to the Buckeyes' big young men in the trenches who paved the way for Elliott:

Four giveaways made this game closer than it should have been, and Elliott is a huge reason why the Buckeyes were able to overcome their numerous errors to still win comfortably.

The NFL on ESPN looked ahead to Elliott's bright future:

If Elliott weren't so young, he could easily be one of the first backs off the board in the upcoming NFL draft. Presuming he stays healthy as a junior, he could easily go pro in 2016 if he keeps playing at the level he's flashed in recent games.

Both Jones and the man who was previously ahead of him on the QB depth chart, J.T. Barrett, are slated to return next season, along with a ton of prominent contributors.

No matter who is under center, OSU can maintain a physical, explosive identity with Elliott leading a prolific 2015 rushing attack and position itself for a potential repeat.

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College Football Rankings 2014-15: B/R's Final Official Top 25

College football has its first playoff-crowned national champion, after Ohio State muscled its way to a 42-20 win over Oregon on Monday night in the title game in Arlington, Texas. The Buckeyes won their first national title since 2002-03 and earned the fancy trophy that comes with this new playoff system.

Though we know where OSU ends up in the final rankings, we still need to list out everyone else. It's the only proper way to wrap up this great 2014-15 season.

The Bleacher Report Top 25 is voted on by 20 members of our college football team: writers Keith Arnold, Ben Axelrod, Phil Callihan, Michael Felder, Andrew Hall, Kyle Kensing, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Leigh, Brian Pedersen, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Erin Sorensen, Marc Torrence and Greg Wallace, as well as editors Eric Bowman, Hunter Mandel, Max Rausch and Eric Yates.

Each voter submits their ballots based on observations made during the just-completed week's games. Teams receive 25 points for a first-place vote, all the way down to one point for ranking 25th, and then the Top 25 vote-getters are ranked in order of their point totals.

Check out the final 2014-15 season Top 25, and then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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Oregon vs. Ohio State: Score, Reaction from 2015 College Football Championship

In a season defined by its resiliency, Ohio State wasn't about to let four turnovers stop it from winning the national championship. 

Ezekiel Elliott ran for 246 yards and four touchdowns, the defense limited the impact of those giveaways and the Buckeyes rolled to an impressive 42-20 victory over Oregon in the first ever College Football Playoff  National Championship. 

Running behind an offensive line that absolutely dominated the trenches, Elliott displayed vision and power on his way to his third straight 200-yard game. He set a championship record before the end of the third quarter, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Third-string quarterback—by definition, not talent level—Cardale Jones was also thoroughly impressive. Making just his third career start, he tallied 242 passing yards, 38 rushing yards and two total touchdowns, leading the Buckeyes to 538 total yards and a spot in college football history. 

While Ohio State's skill players were the stars of the show, former NFL scout John Middlekauff noted the importance of the big boys up front:

It was a long, winding road for the Buckeyes, who lost to Virginia Tech in September and were written off several times during the season. Head coach Urban Meyer, who now has a strong case as the best coach in America, talked about his team's improvement, via Eleven Warriors:

For the Ducks, Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns, capturing yet another individual milestone in the process:

But while Oregon compiled 465 total yards, it turned four red-zone trips into just 13 points and failed to take advantage of the Buckeyes' offensive mistakes. 

Oregon began the game with a drive that epitomized its efficient attack: 11 plays, 75 yards, just over two and a half minutes and seven points. 

Yahoo Sports gave us an idea of the breakneck speed behind the touchdown march:

But while that drive perfectly encapsulated what Oregon is all about, the rest of the first half was very atypical of Mark Helfrich's squad. Plagued by a pair of drops on third down, the Ducks were forced into three punts in the first quarter. 

Not only was that more than its total in the national semifinal, but it was the most in an opening frame from Oregon in five years, per ESPN Stats & Info:

On the other side of the ball, the Buckeyes strung together three unanswered touchdown drives. Elliott was key on the first two, exploding through Oregon's defense for a 33-yard score, then bruising his way to a 17-yard gain to set up the second score. 

The Columbus Dispatch's Bill Rabinowitz noted the sophomore's new place in school history, while NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah offered a comparison:

The real star of the half, though, was Jones, who used his mobility, power and unbelievable arm strength to connect on a handful of big plays and pace the Buckeyes to a 21-10 lead at the break. 

As ESPN Stats & Info pointed out, it was rare production against Oregon:

The Buckeyes entered the game undefeated when holding a double-digit advantage in the second half under Urban Meyer, but turnovers quickly allowed Oregon back into the game. 

Jones was intercepted when a Jalin Marshall drop landed right in the breadbasket of Danny Mattingly, and on the following possession, the sophomore QB did his best impression of Jameis Winston:

Oregon, after wasting a pair of takeaways in the first half, turned those two into 10 points, cutting the deficit to 21-20. But that's as close as the Ducks would get. 

The Buckeyes went right back to Elliott on the subsequent possession, feeding him six times as part of a 75-yard touchdown drive that ate nearly seven minutes off the clock. 

Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman put the explosive running back's unbelievable postseason production into perspective: 

Ohio State's defense held the Ducks to 38 yards on 12 plays in the fourth quarter, the offense continued to grind the ball on the ground and Elliott added and exclamation mark in the final minute. 

Bill Hancock, the CFP executive director, reiterated that the selection committee knows what it's doing, per Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports:

The Ducks have little reason to hang their heads after this one, and even though they now likely face the unenviable task of replacing one of the most efficient signal-callers in college football history, they'll surely be back in playoff contention in 2015. 

But they—and the rest of the country—will be chasing Ohio State. 

The Buckeyes have three potential All-American quarterbacks to choose from. They return Elliott, a Heisman candidate himself, and defensive end Joey Bosa, a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft. They also can expect Vonn Bell, Eli Apple, Darron Lee and Jalin Marshall, among others, to be back in uniform. They have Meyer the helm. 

In other words, Ohio State's best is yet come. 

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Urban Meyer Is SEC's New Public Enemy No. 1

Look out, SEC. There's a new sheriff in town, and he's a familiar face who has wreaked havoc in the conference before.

Urban Meyer: Public Enemy No. 1 of the SEC.

In Ohio State's 42-20 win over Oregon in the College Football Playoff National Championship, Meyer used the perfect mix of old-school smashmouth football, new-school spread principles and a third-string quarterback in Cardale Jones who looked more like John Elway than Jonathon Moxon.

While both offenses spread opposing defenses out, it was the Buckeyes who lined up and played "man ball," as Ezekiel Elliott topped the 200-yard mark for the third straight game, rushing for 246 yards and four touchdowns. As Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports noted, the national title was won at the line of scrimmage.

Ohio State plays stout defense, is ultra-athletic and is creative on both sides of the ball. Basically, everything SEC powers used to be before consistent defenses became mythical and spotting quarterback consistency was comparable to taking a picture of a unicorn.

Make no mistake, Ohio State is on the brink of a dynasty.

In 2012, the Buckeyes ran the table but were ineligible for the postseason due to NCAA sanctions stemming from former head coach Jim Tressel not being forthcoming with the NCAA about players receiving extra benefits. That year, undefeated Notre Dame and one-loss Alabama squared off in Miami Gardens, Florida for the title. 

Would Ohio State have been invited had they taken their bowl ban in 2011, when they should have?

Doug Lesmerises of the Northeast Ohio Media Group says "probably not," but voters (Coaches, Harris) comprised two-thirds of the old BCS formula. Would those voters have cast their ballots differently if Ohio State was eligible?

An undefeated Ohio State vs. Notre Dame matchup for the title would have been too compelling to pass up, even though, in hindsight, Alabama's 42-14 demolition of the Fighting Irish makes it easy to say that the BCS got it right.

In 2013, the Buckeyes were a quarter away from running the table yet again and playing Florida State in the final BCS National Championship Game. Instead, a 24-20 fourth quarter lead against Michigan State slipped away, the Buckeyes lost 34-24, and Auburn went to Pasadena to play the Seminoles instead.

This season, the stars aligned, and Ohio State navigated its schedule through major quarterback injuries to claim the first ever College Football Playoff national title.

What's more, Ohio State was actually ahead of schedule this year.

As Martin Rickman of Sports Illustrated noted, there's more to come.

Redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett was obviously the centerpiece of the offense for the majority of the season, tossing for 2,834 yards and 34 touchdowns, while adding 938 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.

He wasn't the exception or the youngster who benefited from veterans around him. This Buckeyes roster is loaded with young talent.

Running back Ezekiel Elliott, who broke the 1,600-yard mark and became the only running back to top 200 yards against a Nick Saban-coached Alabama team, is a true sophomore. Versatile playmakers Dontre Wilson, Michael Thomas and current starting quarterback Cardale Jones? Yep, they're sophomores too.

Jalin Marshall and Curtis Samuel? They're freshmen, and they will be impact performers in Columbus for a long time.

Safeties Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell, linebackers Darron Lee and Raekwon McMillan, cornerbacks Eli Apple and Cam Burrows and defensive end Joey Bosa? Yep, they're all underclassmen who have made an impact on an Ohio State defense that finished 18th nationally in yards per play (4.86).

What's more, the Buckeyes currently rank seventh in the current 247Sports recruiting rankings, will undoubtedly get a boost from the magical run of the 2014 team, have one of the best coaches in the country and have a slightly easier path to the playoff in a Big Ten that is still fighting for the depth that's existed in the SEC for a decade.

The scheme, personnel and youth of this Ohio State team not only makes it a Big Ten power, but also a national contender that has staying power.

The SEC better get used to the scarlet and grey, because if the SEC is going to rekindle the glory days and start another magical run of national titles, Meyer's Buckeyes will be standing in the way more times than not.

This run to the title was no fluke. This team was legit, and it will continue to be a monster and a nuisance that SEC powers will have to deal with.

 

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.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Odds on Who Will Win College Football National Championship Next Year

The College Football Playoff National Championship Game is over, with Ohio State beating Oregon, 42-20. But who will win it all next season? That is the real question.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer breaks down the odds for next season's national champion.

Who will win it all? Check out the video and let us know!

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Cardale Jones' Case to Declare for the 2015 NFL Draft

DALLAS — Two years ago, Cardale Jones infamously let the world know that he didn't come to Ohio State to "play school."

As it turns out, he was right. Cardale Jones came to Columbus to win national championships.

The unlikeliest of heroes when the 2014 season began, Jones capped off an improbable three-game stretch on Monday night, leading the Buckeyes to the first-ever College Football Playoff championship with a 42-20 win over Oregon. But the Jones era at Ohio State may ultimately wind up as short as it's been sweet, as the 6'5", 250-pounder's next step very well may be the NFL.

A third-year sophomore four years removed from high school graduation, Jones is eligible to enter the upcoming draft as an underclassmen. At 22 years old and with a newborn daughter at home, the timing seems to be right for Jones to turn pro, especially given the stellar three starts that comprise his college career.

That's where Jones' upcoming decision—he has until Jan. 15 (Thursday) to declare for the draft—becomes tricky. It's hard to imagine a quarterback prospect having as small of a sample size as Jones has and getting picked early, although what Cleveland's Glenville product has put on film could cause quite the conundrum inside draft war rooms.

“As an athlete, it’s all there. He’s huge. His arm is amazing. It would be the best arm in this year’s draft," Bleacher Report Lead Draft Analyst Matt Miller told me. "He grades great throwing it to every level of the field. Really good anticipation too. That’s what surprises me most; his ability to see the field, anticipate and get it out quickly, so he’s doing a good job there."

Miller projects that, depending on how Jones performs in workouts and interviews, he would likely wind up a second- or third-round pick in the upcoming draft.

While Florida State's Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota appear to be the only surefire first-round signal-callers in 2015, Jones makes for an intriguing-enough prospect that he could ultimately bypass UCLA's Brett Hundley and Baylor's Bryce Petty to become the third quarterback selected this spring.

Asked for an NFL comparison for Jones, Miller pointed to Cam Newton, whom the Carolina Panthers selected first overall in 2011.

"There aren’t many guys who are that big, that fast and have an arm like that," Miller said. "Cam was so inexperienced when he came out of Auburn too. He had one year in the NCAA and really didn’t work in a real advanced-passing offense. He was just kind of an athlete with a big arm, and I think Jones is the same thing.”

But the 6'5", 248-pound Newton had at least had a full season under his belt, capturing a Heisman Trophy en route to leading Auburn to a national championship in 2010. While Jones' three starts may have been on the three largest stages possible, they still are only three starts, leaving many to wonder what he'd look like—for better or worse—with an entire season under his belt.

Miller, however, says that Jones' experience—or lack thereof—could ultimately work in his favor. With fewer games to pick apart, teams will find fewer reasons to fall out of love with the national-champion quarterback, and thus they could be more willing to spend a valuable draft pick on his services.

"He hasn’t had as many games to scrutinize, so you’re going to have to guess a little bit," Miller said. "You’re looking at three games on film where he dominated people, so a lot of it is going to come down to what he can do on the white board and how teams feel about him as a leader.”

As Jones has seemingly matured since his ill-advised tweet two years ago, it wouldn't be surprising to see him charm a team during the interview process. His ability to step right in after sitting on the bench for the better part of the Buckeyes' first 12 games would also indicate a high football IQ, a line of thinking that has been corroborated by Jones' coaches and teammates throughout his incredible three-game run.

And while he certainly makes for a promising NFL prospect, the likelihood that he'd be drafted isn't the only reason Jones may look to jump-start his professional career.

Although he could be one of the better quarterbacks in this year's draft, Jones might not even be the best quarterback on Ohio State's roster, with injured third-team All-American J.T. Barrett and two-time Big Ten MVP Braxton Miller each currently slated to return to Columbus in 2015.

Jones would be the only healthy quarterback for the Buckeyes' spring practice session, and it'd be tough for Urban Meyer to justify benching a quarterback who just led his team to a national title. But at the very least Jones' starting spot would be anything but secure, with two high-profile backups potentially sitting behind him.

Jones, for his part, has maintained that he'll return to Columbus for his senior season, going as far to say that he will "definitely" be back at Ohio State. But with scouts drooling over Jones' ability throughout his third impressive performance in as many games, his thinking could very well change, as there isn't a more intriguing draft prospect than Jones at this very moment.

"I could see someone falling in love with him and going crazy," Miller said.

Ohio State fans already have.

Will the NFL be next?

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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