NCAA Football News

Did NCAA Drug Policy Cost Oregon a National Championship?

The absence of Oregon wide receiver Darren Carrington by itself didn't cost the Ducks a national championship victory. It was, however, one of many challenges Oregon faced against Ohio State on Monday night in a 42-20 loss. 

Carrington, as you will recall, failed an NCAA-administered drug test for marijuana and did not travel to Arlington, Texas, for the title game, as reported by Aaron Fentress of CSNNW.com. The production that Oregon's offense lost as a result is a mixed bag. On one hand, Carrington led all receivers with seven catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns in the Rose Bowl victory over Florida State.

On the other hand, Carrington had just 37 receptions and four touchdowns on the season, both of which ranked fourth on the team. It's not like he had established himself as a game-changer. 

Oregon was already without receiver Devon Allen and tight end Pharaoh Brown heading into Monday because of knee injuries. Did Carrington's suspension by itself cost Oregon the national title? Not by a long shot, but the loss coupled with the previous attrition undoubtedly affected Oregon's overall production. 

“It’s tough to lose those guys, but I felt that the guys who did play stepped up and made plays,” Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota said, via Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We rotate so many receivers, each guy has a lot of experience and was prepared to play.”

In some ways, Mariota is correct. Oregon has had health issues at wide receiver all season. As a result, the Ducks have played a lot of different bodies there. 

Mariota still put up 333 yards passing, about half of which went to leading receiver Byron Marshall. However, many of those yards ultimately proved to be empty. The Ducks scored one touchdown on four red-zone trips against on of the worst red-zone defenses in the country and were 2-of-12 on third downs, many of which were obvious passing situations. 

It's impossible to relive every play and wonder how it would have been different if the Ducks had their full lineup in place. Whether it was a dropped pass by Dwayne Stanford or an inaccurate pass from Mariota, Oregon's offense wasn't clicking. 

On the flip side, give credit to Ohio State. Other than a one-play, 70-yard touchdown pass to Marshall, the Buckeyes made Oregon earn most of its yards. Two of the Ducks' scoring drives were at least 11 plays; a third covered only 17 yards on six plays—and that resulted in a field goal. 

Ohio State did as good a job of stopping Oregon's ground game (four yards per rush allowed) as anyone this season. The Buckeyes were able to do it with their talented defensive line. That allowed the back seven to make plays in space. 

Sure, Oregon picked up yards, but when the field got short and the windows got tight in the red zone, Ohio State's defense stepped up.  

Oregon lost for many reasons, and not all can be pinned on the offense. Most notably, Oregon couldn't tackle Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott to save its life. However, in fairness to the Ducks, attempting to bring down Elliott has drawn comparisons to corralling a midsize SUV going full speed down a highway. No one should want any part of that. 

It wasn't just Oregon that couldn't contain the two-headed monster of Elliott and quarterback Cardale Jones. Alabama, which ranked among the best rushing defenses all season heading into the College Football Playoff, allowed Elliott to run for 230 yards and gave up 281 yards on the whole to the Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl.

In fact, if you want to pick nits, the Tide gave up 6.7 yards per rush against Ohio State. The Ducks gave up a more modest (if you will) 4.9 yards per rush. Still, it was Oregon, not Ohio State, that was gassed and beat down as time expired. 

That was the unexpected outcome of the national championship. Losing Carrington didn't help, but it also didn't result in Oregon being bowled over by a more physical team. 

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Buy or Sell for 2015 Teams

The 2014 season is wrapped up, and we are already looking ahead to next season. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer, Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder debate which teams you should buy or sell heading into the 2015 season. 

Which team would you buy for the 2015 season?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

AP College Football Poll 2015: Final Ranking Released After Championship Game

On the heels of its triumph in the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship Game, Ohio State closes the 2014-15 campaign atop the rankings.

According to CBSSports.com, the Buckeyes received all 59 first-place votes in the final AP Top 25 poll of the season. Despite its 42-20 loss Monday, Oregon checks in at No. 2.

Here is a full rundown of the rankings:

The Top Two teams don't come as much of a surprise, as OSU and Oregon were able to work their way through the season and the CFP semis to reach the title game.

TCU jumps out at No. 3, however, since it did not qualify for the College Football Playoff. It leapfrogged CFP representatives Alabama and Florida State after thrashing Ole Miss 42-3 in the Peach Bowl.

Baylor also felt snubbed when it failed to make the CFP, and it ultimately finished seventh in the poll, which is an all-time best result for the program, per Baylor Football on Twitter:

Michigan State beat the Bears in the Cotton Bowl, and the Spartans made history in their own right with the No. 5 ranking, according to Mike Griffith of MLive.com:

Some rankings are up for debate, as always, but there is no denying that Ohio State earned its spot atop the heap. The Buckeyes were seen by many as being a year away from contending, and with the amount of young talent on their roster, they have to like their chances for next season, as well. 

Oregon also possesses a glut of young talent that only figures to improve, but questions surround their starting quarterback position. With Marcus Mariota's draft status still a mystery, the Ducks could be training a new signal caller next year, which throws their fortunes into doubt. 

With victories over Alabama and Oregon en route to a championship, the Buckeyes are the class of college football.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cold Hard Fact for Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Fact: Cardale Jones: 3rd career start; the fewest by a starting QB to win a national championship game

Source: ESPN Stats & Info

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Chipper Jones Had Some Weird Reactions to the CFP National Championship

The Ohio State Buckeyes offered up a monsoon of turnovers Monday night and somehow still managed to handily defeat Oregon, 42-20, in the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship.

While fans across the nation had their fun imbibing and live-tweeting the event, only Chipper Jones got weird enough to document the game via selfies.

The former Atlanta Braves third baseman tweeted out facial expressions in response to certain plays and developments. He is not a fan of either team. He’s just a crazy, excited person and cat owner:

Cheers, Chipper. May your sleeveless cat selfies live forever.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which Recruits Have the Best Hands in the 2015 Class?

With the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in the rearview mirror and national signing day quickly approaching, all eyes are on the 2015 recruiting class.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer reveal which recruit they believe has the best hands in the class.

Who has the best hands in the 2015 class? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Case for Braxton Miller to Transfer from Ohio State to Oregon

As confetti fell from the sky at AT&T Stadium and the two participants in the College Football Playoff National Championship left the field, the elephants in each postgame locker room were the quarterbacks.

For Ohio State, redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones had just wrapped up winning his third title in as many starts—the Big Ten title, Sugar Bowl title and national title. Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, who helped the Buckeyes win the Big Ten championship and posted an 11-1 record as a starter, should be back after fracturing his ankle in the win over Michigan.

Braxton Miller, longtime starter and superstar dual-threat weapon, could return from a shoulder injury suffered in August for one more shot at glory.

It's a "rich man's problem."

Oregon doesn't have that luxury.

Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota conceivably could come back to play his senior season, but when you're projected to be a first-round draft pick, you go pro. Unless Mariota shocks the college football world—again—head coach Mark Helfrich will be looking for a new quarterback in 2015.

Could that quarterback have been in the winning locker room on Monday night?

Miller entered the season as a Heisman contender, graduated last semester and is eligible to play immediately as a graduate transfer.

He was noncommittal on his future in Columbus following the title game.

"I've got to get my shoulder right," he told Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com.

Former Oregon State running back (and current Atlanta Falcon) Jacquizz Rodgers seems to think it's a possibility.

Once Miller's shoulder is 100 percent, Eugene would be the perfect place for him to finish his career.

 

Playing Time Available

The world got a brief glimpse of backup quarterback Jeff Lockie late in the title game, when he came in for Mariota after Buckeye defensive end Joey Bosa came down hard on the Heisman Trophy winner. Lockie was 0-for-1 in the game, 21-of-28 on the season and really hasn't had the chance to impress for prolonged periods of time heading into his redshirt junior season.

Is he the guy?

What about Georgia Tech transfer Ty Griffin, rising redshirt freshman Morgan Mahalak or incoming dual-threat stud Travis Waller?

If there's a quarterback of the future, it's Waller—a 4-star stud from Anaheim, California, who was been impressive to scouts.

"Waller is an awesome quarterback prospect to watch," said Bleacher Report national college football video analyst Michael Felder. "He's a kid with good athleticism, but who is comfortable in the pocket slinging it around. In watching him live and on tape, the ball just jumps out of his hand and he's got quality accuracy moving the ball vertically."

Elusiveness? Arm strength? The ability to create behind the line of scrimmage? 

Yep, Waller has all of that, as evidenced by this 92-yard touchdown pass in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Would any of the current quarterbacks transfer if Miller showed up this offseason? With the possible exception of Lockie, probably not.

Waller, Mahalak and Griffin could all use some polish as backups, and sitting behind Miller for a season would allow all of them to battle in 2016 for a spot with another year of work in the system under their belts.

 

Weapons to Succeed

It didn't look like it during the title game at times, but Oregon still has plenty of weapons for Mariota to be successful and make a run to the Pac-12 title. Miller has thrown for 5,292 yards, 52 touchdowns and 17 picks during three seasons in Columbus, and added 3,054 rushing yards and 33 rushing touchdowns.

Those are video game numbers, so why not join the "video game offense?"

Running backs Royce Freeman, Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall are all coming back, as are receivers Darren Carrington, Devon Allen, Bralon Addison and Dwayne Stanford, as well as tight ends Evan Baylis and Pharaoh Brown.

That's an embarrassment of riches for any quarterback, particularly one who has top-tier talent.

What's more, Oregon already has 4-star running back Taj Griffin and 4-star wide receiver Alex Ofodile in house as early enrollees in the class of 2015 and more coming in a class that ranks in the top 20 in the 247Sports team recruiting rankings.

The offensive line has to replace some key pieces including tackle Jake Fisher and center Hroniss Grasu, which should be a concern, but that would be really the only concern for Oregon's offense if Miller is the one taking the snaps.

 

Acclimation Wouldn't Take Long

What would the adjustment be like for Miller? While the two offenses are different in terms of pace and style, he's used to the spread elements, efficient passing game and zone-read concepts that are common in Oregon's offense.

What's more, Oregon's fast-paced system is designed for simplicity at the line of scrimmage, which speeds up the learning curve for everybody associated with the offense.

That could be a big piece of the transfer puzzle for Miller, who might not be ready for spring practice, as noted by Matt Hayes of Sporting News (via: Chris Littmann):

As a graduate, he can transfer now if he can find a home, and simply getting mental reps during spring practice would not only help him, but also the younger players who get actual first-team reps.

Mariota stepped in as a redshirt freshman in place of Darron Thomas, and the offense didn't miss a beat. Thomas stepped in as a sophomore for Jeremiah Masoli and led the Ducks to the 2011 BCS National Championship Game following the 2010 season. 

It's a great system that's designed for simplicity, speed and efficiency—all of which would benefit Miller as he recovers from his shoulder injury.

 

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State vs. Oregon: ESPN Reveals Rating for 2015 National Championship Game

The inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship delivered the highest overnight rating in the history of ESPN. Ohio State's victory over Oregon reportedly received an 18.5 metered market rating based on Nielsen figures.

Derek Volner of ESPN MediaZone reports the rating marks a 21 percent increase over last year's title game, and it reached a peak of 20.5. The outlet also provided several additional options for watching the game, which, when combined, bumped the overall number even higher [sic]: "In addition to the traditional telecast, ESPN offered more than 12 ways to watch last night's championship game through the 'CFP Megacast.' ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and ESPNEWS combined to averaged 18.9 metered market average, up 20% (15.7) from the 2014 BCS Megascast."

Total viewership in terms of the number of people watching the game was not immediately released.

Unsurprisingly, the release also notes Columbus, Ohio (home of the Buckeyes), led the way with an eye-popping 51.2 market rating. A total of 22 different metered markets also set new records for postseason college football viewership.

The game itself lived up to the hype as Oregon came back from an early deficit to cut the lead to one point midway through the third quarter. Ohio State responded with three straight touchdowns from Ezekiel Elliott to post the 42-20 triumph.

Under the old system, the Buckeyes don't even receive a chance to play for the title. Now, they are the national champions. Pair that with the record-setting ratings, and it's fair to say the first-ever College Football Playoff was a success.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

CFP National Championship 2015: Best Performances in Oregon vs. OSU

You might not have seen it coming, but the Ohio State Buckeyes are officially the champions of college football.

The Buckeyes shocked the nation with an upset win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl before following that up with another surprising victory over Oregon in the College Football Playoff National Championship. Cardale Jones moved to 3-0 as a starting quarterback in his career, outdueling Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.

It wasn't the quarterbacks who decided this game, though. It was a great team effort that helped continue a trend throughout the season, which head coach Urban Meyer expanded upon after the game:

Jones might end up in the spotlight as Ohio State's starting quarterback, but these are the players who had the best performances for each team Monday night.

 

Troy Hill, CB, Oregon

It's hard to find players who truly stood out for Oregon in the blowout loss, but one person who gave a solid effort was cornerback Troy Hill.

The senior was thrust into a bigger role during the past two games with All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu out with a knee injury. This led to problems early as he was called for pass interference in the end zone.

On the plus side, he made up for it with a big play later on, as noted by Ivan Maisel of ESPN:

Besides the forced fumble, he also helped slow down big-play receiver Devin Smith, who finished with just one catch. Though Oregon's defense struggled to slow down Ohio State, Hill did his job for the most part in this one.

 

Byron Marshall, WR, Oregon

His outing would have been much different if the referee had ruled he dropped the ball before crossing the goal line, but instead, Byron Marshall finished with the best day of anyone in an Oregon jersey.

The receiver ended up with eight catches for 169 yards and a 70-yard touchdown that helped keep the game close in the third quarter. Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated summed up the game for the youngster:

A former running back, Marshall was converted to a receiver this season and became Mariota's top target over the course of the year. He is dynamic with the ball in his hands, although he occasionally lacked consistency.

Fortunately, he came through with a great effort against Ohio State, despite his team falling way short of victory.

 

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

The entire offensive line for Ohio State deserves a lot of credit for the team's success, but Ezekiel Elliott was truly incredible for the Buckeyes once again.

Brent Yarina of Big Ten Network shows just how good the running back has been over the past three games:

Elliott was simply unstoppable against Oregon, gaining big chunks of yards whenever he touched the ball. He set the tone early with a 33-yard touchdown run, then kept it going with three more scores and a national title game record of 246 rushing yards.

By the end of the game, it was almost comical to think the Ducks were capable of making a stop on the ground.

The running back has turned himself into a household name and a favorite for the 2015 Heisman Trophy, thanks to an unbelievable showing for Ohio State.

 

Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

Tyvis Powell was named defensive MVP, but this doesn't do Darron Lee justice. The linebacker was a big factor in the win over Alabama with two sacks and had another huge performance against Oregon.

Charles Davis of Fox Sports gave his impression of Lee over the two games:

Meanwhile, Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee couldn't help but notice the sophomore's play:

Lee made stops in the red zone, he was active in pass rushes and could also be seen helping out in coverage. The defensive line won the battle in the trenches to slow down Oregon, but Lee was one of the key elements to the unit's success.

Considering Lee, Elliott, Joey Bosa and others are all returning next season, Ohio State is going to be a dangerous bunch.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon vs. Ohio State 2015: Biggest Stars from College Football Championship

Thanks to the first-ever College Football Playoff, Ohio State had a chance to claim the national title. Even on the biggest stage in every player's career, the No. 4 Buckeyes stepped up for a 42-20 win over No. 2 Oregon.

Ohio State came out with authority all game long and thoroughly dismantled Oregon in Arlington, Texas. Despite four turnovers by the offense, the defense held the Ducks in check as Cardale Jones and Ezekiel Elliott powered the Buckeyes to a decisive win.

Even in a loss, Marcus Mariota was still a steady performer for the Ducks. Ohio State essentially shut down the running game with neither Royce Freeman nor Thomas Tyner able to get going. The Ducks were worn down by the end of the night, but Mariota's season was still one of the best in the history of the sport.

Ohio State's official Twitter account provides a look at the final score from AT&T Stadium:

Just when it seemed like the best games were behind Elliott, he shined brightest on the national stage.

The sophomore running back went off for 450 yards and four touchdowns between the Big Ten title game and Sugar Bowl. He then set a national championship record with 246 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

ESPN Stats & Info provides background while ESPN passes along footage of one of his most impressive runs:

Elliott wasn't the only OSU player running wild against Oregon. Jones, who was starting in only his third game, didn't look anything remotely like a third-string quarterback. Finishing 16-of-23 with 242 passing yards, 38 rushing yards, two total touchdowns and one interception, Jones was a steady force.

One of the biggest ways Jones made a difference was his bruising style of running and elusiveness outside of the pocket. Will Brinson of CBS Sports gives a look at the most memorable run for Jones late in the game:

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports also offered his take on Jones' play:

On the other side, Mariota struggled at times without some of his best receivers against the Buckeyes. Still, he was able to come away with two touchdown strikes, with one going for 70 yards to Byron Marshall.

The biggest issue for Mariota and the offense was converting on third downs, finishing 2-of-12 in that category. All of the pressure was put on the Heisman winner's shoulders, and he didn't quite look as unflappable as he was throughout this season.

Even with the less-than-stellar performance, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report believes Mariota has a bright future ahead:

One game doesn't make an entire career, but it can redefine it. For Elliott and Jones, Monday night left no question that they are two of the best players in college football. For Mariota, the huge stage left question marks aplenty, but ones that will be answered in the months to come.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

National Signing Day 2015: Predictions for Top Recruits After CFP Championship

Thanks to the Ohio State Buckeyes' 42-20 win in the national championship over the Oregon Ducks on Monday, Jim Harbaugh's arrival at Michigan and the Big Ten's performance in the postseason on the whole, the conference is likely to see a boon in recruiting.

Suddenly the Big Ten is beginning to look cool again. It may take a year or so for that to fully resonate with prospects.

The SEC didn't have a presence in the College Football Playoff championship game, but that probably won't stop one underachieving team from the conference from signing three of the top five prospects in the nation. 

The Florida Gators fired Will Muschamp with two games remaining in the season, but the fruits of his recruiting labor could be enjoyed after he's gone. The Muschamp regime might have delivered new head coach Jim McElwain the best the state has to offer in the way of high school prospects.

We won't know for sure until Feb. 5, which is national signing day, but here's a short list of the players I predict the Gators will ink.

 

Florida Bound?

Martez Ivey, OL 

The 6'5.5" 275-pounder is considered the No. 1 prospect in the nation, per 24/7 Sports. Ivey hails from Apopka, Florida, where he attends Apopka High School. He's a lean, powerful and agile tackle who is able to lock on and dominate defenders.

Take a look at his highlight reel via Scout.com.

Obviously, highlight videos only show the positives, but there's no questioning his athleticism. If the Gators can secure his commitment to the program, he could be a standout for three or four years in Gainesville.

 

Byron Cowart, DE

Florida isn't just close to shoring up its players in the trenches on offense. Cowart is one of two top-tier defensive linemen the Gators are favorites to sign.

Were it not for massive defensive tackle prospect and Georgia Bulldogs commit Trent Thompson, Cowart would be the top-rated defensive lineman in the nation, per 247Sports.

At 6'4" 250 pounds, the Armwood High School standout from Seffner, Florida, is already the size of some defensive ends in the NFL. By the time he leaves college, he'll be even more of a monster than he already is.

His burst off the edge, nose for the ball and ability to hold his ground against the run are impressive. He also plays with a nastiness that the Gators defense desperately needs. You can see his ridiculous power in this tweet from Rival Camp Series. 

 

CeCe Jefferson, DE

Jefferson hasn't even had his official visit with the Gators, but the young man from Baker County Senior High School in Glen Saint Mary, Florida, has strength and size to play right away.

The Gators still have some stiff competition from Ole Miss and Alabama for Jefferson's services.

If the Gators can sign Jefferson and Cowart, the future of the program's defensive line is looking as bright as the Florida sun.

 

Outside of Florida

Iman Marshall, CB

The 6'1" 190-pound Marshall is considered the best player from the West Coast, and I believe he'll sign with USC. Coming from Long Beach Poly High School in Long Beach, California, the alma mater of Washington's DeSean Jackson and several other current and former NFL players, Marshall has been part of a nearly unequaled prep experience.

Marshall has ideal size to defend some of the big receivers he might encounter in the Pac-12, and potentially in the NFL.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon vs. Ohio State: Top Performers from College Football Championship 2015

Some may suggest that history will show Marcus Mariota, a Heisman Trophy winner, was bested at the hands of a third-string quarterback in Oregon's dreadful showing in a 42-20 loss to Ohio State in the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship.

In reality, Mariota fell victim to a long-awaited powerhouse of an offense years in the making by Urban Meyer, whose Buckeyes out of the Big Ten are suddenly not all that boring to watch.

When it comes to top performers, the expected rang true. Mariota played well, but his defense could not account for an Ohio State one-two punch that is just getting started in its reign of terror over the collegiate landscape.

Again, expected, just not to the result most figured.

 

Highlighting Top Performers

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

This was simple to see coming.

Sophomore Ohio State back Ezekiel Elliott entered Monday night the owner of 450 rushing yards and four scores over the course of his prior two outings, one being the Big Ten Championship Game, the other the CFP semifinal.

For a while, it seemed as if Elliott wanted to reach that milestone in Monday night's four frames. In fact, Elliott's 246 yards on 36 carries with four scores helped him to move further up an eye-popping list of names, as illustrated by ESPN CollegeFootball:

Of course, the gaudy statistics and sheer superb performance earned Elliott a piece of individual hardware:

He can always shoot for the Heisman next season.

Elliott's bruising gashes between the tackles and elusiveness in the open field helped Ohio State to a victory just as much as Cardale Jones' play did, but the scary part is the future.

Now a champion and underrated no longer, try to keep in mind that Elliott received no more than 12 carries in four games this season, three of which came in a row to start the season.

Like his quarterback, Elliott is just getting started. 

 

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Mariota did all that he could Monday.

His 24-of-37 mark for 333 yards and two scores with no turnovers until a meaningless last-second interception speaks well enough to that. Untimely drops, lapses along the offensive line and simple struggles in the face of a strong defense cost his offense the game, though.

Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman put it best early on in the contest:

That trend never really ceased Monday, which is what eventually happens to an offense without three of its top five receivers due to various factors.

Mariota is now on his way to the pro game. While not an ideal finish to his collegiate career, it was another typically strong performance from the Heisman winner.

This time, he needed a little help and downright did not get it.

 

Byron Marshall, WR, Oregon

Much credit goes to Ducks wideout Byron Marshall.

The Ohio State defense had little else to worry about in terms of Oregon receiving threats and the onus of production fell directly on the San Jose, California native's shoulders.

He delivered, too, despite the fact Devon Allen and Pharaoh Brown were out of the lineup, as was CFP semifinal hero Darren Carrington—the former two due to injury, the latter due to suspension, per Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman.

Granted, things could have gone a little more smoothly for Marshall on his way to the eight catches for 169 yards and a score:

Alas, Marshall stepped up big on a night many of his teammates did not.

 

Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State

Pegged beforehand by many as the weakness that might doom the Buckeyes, Jones put on the best effort of his three-game stint as the starter Monday.

A 16-of-23 mark for 242 yards with a touchdown and an interception does not pop off the page. Neither does 21 carries for 38 yards and a score.

But Jones' value Monday was his fortitude to never rattle, his gutsy ability to use his 6'5", 250-pound frame to bully defenders, which in turn allowed him to pick up critical chain-moving gains that made all the difference in how many opportunities the Oregon offense even had on the field.

As ESPN Stats & Info points out, Jones set a bit of history in the process:

It is impossible to know what the direct future holds for Jones.

Jones' three-game outburst, capped off by a performance that brought a national title to Ohio State, could launch him to the 2015 NFL draft, or see him stay with the program and compete with one of, if not both J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller.

Regardless, Jones may have just completed the best three-game stretch by a quarterback in Ohio State history, if not in college football history.

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Missouri AD Mike Alden Ranks in Top 10 in Fundraising Nationally

College athletics is at a unique crossroad in its financial existence as the powerful industry has had to adapt to more changing factors than ever, headlined by an evolving economy.

But in Columbia, Missouri, the model has been established. It's easy to see why Missouri sports across the board enjoy an above-average level of success, and it begins at the top with its director of athletics, Mike Alden.

CollegeAD.org has compiled a list of the top 10 fundraising athletic directors at the college level, of which Alden is a heralded participant. It's pointed out that a strong percentage of Missouri's yearly operating budget comes from donors of its Tiger Scholarship Program, highlighting a strong relationship and belief that Mizzou alumni trust strongly in Alden and the job he's doing.

The Tiger Scholarship Program is one of the premier fundraising vehicles in the nation. The group is the financial support arm of Missouri athletics and actually takes no state or taxpayer support. It is funded solely from private donations and the generosity of investors.

Also of note, two other members of this top 10 list come from Mike Alden origins. They are Brian Wickstrom of the University of Louisiana at Monroe and Ross Bjork of Ole Miss. Their presence is important as understudies of Alden, a further testament to his professional ability. Indeed, being "Mizzou Made" extends to the world of athletic administration as well.

 

Leadership

Alden took over for Missouri in 1998 and was immediately challenged in his role when Norm Stewart retired as men's basketball coach in 1999. Two years later, current football coach Gary Pinkel was brought in by Alden to aide a football program that had seen two winning seasons it its last 18 years.

Facilities for football at Mizzou when Alden arrived on campus were not among the best in the country. A basic and confined press area highlighted the horizon of Memorial Stadium, and outdoor practice was taking place in the rain if weather dictated.

That was then, and this is now. To see the progress across the board has been nothing short of impressive. Missouri's athletics have had to confront bold challenges, but it's the product of tough decision-making that has allowed them to adapt and succeed.

 

Facilities

"It could be almost the 'Show-Me State' mentality," Alden said of fans and the community coming to embrace facility upgrades. "I think it's taken time for us to be able to communicate our vision and be able to educate our constitutes that these investments are going to pay dividends, and certainly I think they've seen those dividends being received."

Those dividends have shot up in a short period of time. In its last season in the Big 12, Missouri was set to make $12.41 million in money from the conference. That money was forfeited as a part of its exit agreement with the league. But in 2013-14, Missouri pulled in $20.9 million from the SEC, a number that has allowed it to sell the prospect of donation to an alumni base who was uncertain with all the initial SEC changes.

 

Tough Decisions

In April of 2012, Alden made one of the boldest moves anyone has ever made associated with athletics at Mizzou. He unveiled a new Nike branding identity model that was to be used across the board with all sports to help associate anything the student-athletes were doing with the school and vice versa. What this initially meant to fans and alumni was replacing the block style "M" on the helmets with the new logo, which was a tough pill for many traditionalists to swallow.

However, a prevailing feeling is taking root that what is going on with football—and really everything from volleyball to wrestling at Mizzou—has come with change. Change never goes seeking anyone out; Mike Alden and his staff have been proactive and making change part of what they have to do, and it's working.

But business isn't about relishing in the limelight for too long. It's never really about "what have you done for me," but more about "what have you done for me lately?" For Alden, the prospects of the future and moving forward have a lot of excitement associated with it.

"I think that the strength of our advertising brand has never ever been stronger at Mizzou than it is right now," said Alden. "As you go into 2015, to me, that in itself gives you probably the biggest sense of pride because you know that that brand awareness is based on academic integrity, it's based on social responsibility and doing things the right way, it's built on competitive success, and it's based on the fact you're the flagship institution for an entire state."

In this case, the brand is succeeding because of its awareness, orchestrated by Alden. He has proven he can bring winners into key positions and make his brand a much more attractive item all around, which is a plus for everyone professionally, as well as the people of the state of Missouri.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.

Follow Dan Irwin on Twitter @irwinsports or on Facebook.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Championship 2015: Top Breakout Stars from Oregon vs. OSU

In one of the most shocking outcomes in recent history, the Ohio State Buckeyes stunned the Oregon Ducks and won the inaugural 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship, 42-20.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer became only the second coach in college football history to win a national title with two different schools, but it is the fact that he returned the program to prominence that should have Buckeyes fans most excited.

After the lopsided national championship outcome, here are the top breakout stars from the battle between Oregon and Ohio State.

 

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State Buckeyes

The breakout star from the Ohio State Buckeyes on Monday was sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott, who showcased to the nation why he is one of the brightest stars in the sport heading into 2015.

After racking up six 100-plus-yard rushing performances during the regular season, Elliott managed to amass 220 yards in the conference championship, 230 yards in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama and a whopping 246 yards in the national championship.

Oregon struggled to stop Elliott all night, and over the course of the game, he was a key part of Ohio State’s ability to wear down the Ducks defenders. Feeding Elliott 36 carries in the championship hurt Oregon’s defense, but it was the running back’s four total touchdowns that did the most damage.

With big-game experience under his belt and a unique chance to return to Ohio State and repeat as national champions, Elliott’s success with the Buckeyes will only continue to grow over the offseason and into the 2015 campaign.

 

Byron Marshall, WR, Oregon Ducks

A loss for the Oregon Ducks was a devastating blow to the program, but that doesn’t discredit the effort of the team all year and the performance of wide receiver Byron Marshall in Monday’s national championship.

Marshall’s best game of the season came in the opening week where he racked up eight receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns, but he matched that output against Ohio State, amassing eight catches for 169 yards and one touchdown.

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota leaned on Marshall all day, but it still wasn’t enough for Oregon to overcome the Ohio State defensive assault. While the team’s performance didn’t live up to expectations, Marshall’s composure in a key moment is a silver lining to the loss.

Without Mariota next season, though, how the Ducks offense plays in 2015 will be a major question mark.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings: Early Look at 2015 Preseason Top 25

By the time the clock hit zero at the national championship game, all but one school had turned its attention toward next season.

With a 42-20 win over Oregon, Ohio State has proved itself as the best team in college football for the 2014 season. Aside from those residing in Big 12 territory, there is very little debate over this year's champion.

However, there will be many more questions going forward about which teams will be the best in 2015. Plenty of big stars across the nation are either graduating or moving on to the NFL, greatly impacting how things will look next season.

Obviously, a lot can change before August, from players leaving schools to recruiting battles and more. Still, here are early projections for the preseason Top 25 for next fall.

 

Top Teams

Alabama

There are plenty of reasons to doubt Alabama going into next year. The Crimson Tide lost to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl as part of a disappointing bowl season for the SEC West. Top playmakers Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon and Landon Collins have all decided to enter the NFL draft.

There will also be a change at quarterback after Blake Sims' year under center.

While a team like Oregon will see some drop-off after losing stars, Alabama should once again be a top contender for a national championship no matter who stays or goes.

Over the past five seasons, Nick Saban's team has been ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in every preseason poll. This is not an accident or giving Alabama too much respect; it's a realistic goal based on the fact that this team reloads every offseason.

Jacob Coker appears set to take over the starting quarterback role, or one of a number of highly recruited players will challenge him. Derrick Henry will become the next star running back to carry the offense. Alabama also currently has the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, according to 247Sports, which would match the rank for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

There will be plenty of inexperience, but the talent will still be there to go with arguably the best coach in college football. Challenging for another national title is a good possibility for this program.

 

TCU

After dropping from No. 3 to No. 6 in the final rankings and missing out on the College Football Playoff, TCU has every right to be disappointed. Keeping mentally strong after a devastating moment is difficult.

However, head coach Gary Patterson knew the Peach Bowl against Ole Miss could be a stepping stone for next season, via Heather Dinich of ESPN.com:

Like I said before we played Ole Miss, why was that game important? Because it could be a jump-start to this season. It’s part of your resume. As far as I’m concerned, that bowl game was part of this football team’s resume for next year. Everybody says you have to build a resume. To me, that’s what that game was.

With a 42-3 win over a team that had the lowest scoring defense in the nation, the Horned Frogs sent a serious message to the rest of the nation. You can overlook them if you want, but they are for real.

TCU will once again be led by Trevone Boykin, who still has plenty of room to improve at quarterback after switching positions from earlier in his career. Considering the Dallas native passed for 3,901 yards, rushed for 707 yards and totaled 41 touchdowns for one of the top offenses in the nation, that's a scary thought.

Suzanne Halliburton of the Austin American-Statesman explained why that unit could be even better in 2015:

TCU can go from odd man out to title favorite over the course of next season.

 

Ohio State

Urban Meyer's team fought through adversity all season, as the squad dealt with injuries to star quarterbacks Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett before Cardale Jones took over down the stretch.

Considering all three players performed admirably under center, there remains a mystery as to who will be the man next season. As former Buckeyes star Troy Smith noted before the national championship, though, that is not necessarily a problem:

No matter who gets the starting job next season, the team will be confident it can continue its recent string of success.

Of course, you could probably put almost anyone at quarterback, and this group would still be one of the best in the nation in 2015.

Jason McIntyre of Yahoo Sports recently examined all of the talented youngsters who will be returning next season:

Ezekiel Elliott has proved in the postseason he is one of the top running backs in the nation, while Joey Bosa has the skills to be a Heisman Trophy candidate on the defensive side of the football.  

While most teams will be losing impact players to the NFL draft, Ohio State's stars will be returning and getting better. After surprising almost everyone with a national title, this team should be ready to repeat in 2015. 

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The 2014-15 College Football Season: By the Numbers

Could you define the 2014 season with a single number?

Would it be four for the number of first ever playoff teams, 12 for the number of committee members or even two for the pair of Big 12 programs left out of the mix?

Though selecting one number as the representative for a full campaign of college football might be impossible, the following 13 underline what was a year that changed the sport forever.

 

Begin Slideshow

Georgia Football: 5 Players Poised to Break out in 2015

In eight months, the Georgia Bulldogs kick off the 2015 season against Louisiana-Monroe at Sanford Stadium. That may seem like a long time from now, but there’s no doubt the upcoming season will be here before we can blink.

That means the Bulldogs will have new expectations and challenges to meet and overcome. This also means some players will have breakout seasons that will help the Bulldogs achieve their goals in 2015.

In 2014, Nick Chubb, Damian Swann and Quincy Mauger were a few of the guys who had breakout seasons. So which guys will break out in 2015?

Let’s take a look at five guys who are capable of doing just that.

Begin Slideshow

Meet Your Front-Runner for the 2015 Heisman Trophy, Ezekiel Elliott

ARLINGTON, Texas — Basking in the glory of his third national championship, Urban Meyer was in no mood to wait. So as he sat at his postgame press conference following Ohio State's 42-20 win over Oregon at the conclusion of the first-ever College Football Playoff on Monday, the Buckeyes head coach wasn't shy to answer reporters' questions before they were even finished.

Especially when those questions pertained to newly minted star running back Ezekiel Elliott.

"Zeke, obviously the MVP, rushes for a new record..." a reporter started.

"A monster," Meyer interrupted.

"What have you seen from him all season as improvement..." the reporter continued.

"A monster," Meyer reiterated.

When Meyer finally did give his full answer, he praised Elliott's ability to pick up post-contact yardage and his humble approach. He also added that having just wrapped up his sophomore season, Elliott is due back in Columbus for at least one more year, as he'll enter 2015 as the likely front-runner for the Heisman Trophy.

"I can't wait," Meyer said grinning. "I'll give you a couple of days off, Zeke, and we're back at it."

What Elliott accomplished in the final three games of the Buckeyes' national championship season was nothing short of remarkable, as he rushed for a combined 696 yards and eight touchdowns against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon.

That those games came on the largest possible stages—the Big Ten title game, Sugar Bowl and national championship—will only enhance Elliott's Heisman chances, as he's solidified himself as a household name for college football fans.

"It means everything," Elliott said when it was suggested to him by Bleacher Report that he's already inserted himself into next season's Heisman race. "It's something you dream about as a kid when you're playing NCAA Football, and you create your little player, and he wins the Heisman. Just thinking that I'm going to have the opportunity next year to compete for the Heisman just means everything."

The 6'0", 225-pounder will no longer have to rely on joysticks to capture college football's most prestigious award, and the fruits of his labor will no longer be limited to how much memory he has left in his PlayStation system.

Rather, Elliott will be mentioned among the likes of TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin, Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott, LSU running back Leonard Fournette and whoever it is playing quarterback for the Buckeyes when it comes to early-season Heisman Trophy talk.

And believe it or not, that matters, as preseason Heisman buzz can put a player in pole position when it comes to the yearly race to New York City. According to the "10 Heismandents" listed on noted site HeismanPundit.com, prior name recognition can affect who will win the award, as can Elliott's status as a running back at Ohio State.

In fact, of the 10 Heisman commandments listed by Chris Huston, Elliott could potentially meet the criteria of all 10. To make a long story short, Elliott is a junior playing a premier position at a national title-caliber program and has already established a track record of producing big numbers in the biggest games.

According to Heisman Pundit, a running back needs to net 1,600 yards and score at least 15 touchdowns to be considered for the trophy. This season (in 15 games), Elliott racked up 1,878 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.

"He's the most underrated back in the country," Meyer proclaimed following the national title game.

Maybe not anymore.

Now that Elliott has strung together three consecutive multi-touchdown games of 200-plus yards, there aren't many college football fans left who aren't aware of what appears to be Ohio State's next great running back.

With his crop top-style jersey, the St. Louis native has always bared a resemblance to the Buckeyes' last Heisman Trophy-winning running back, although Elliott now seems to have more in common with Eddie George than their shared affinity for bare midriffs.

Elliott will undergo surgery for an injured wrist that never quite healed throughout the season, and he says that he plans on adding weight this offseason in order to better prepare himself for the pounding that he'll inevitably take as Ohio State aims for a second consecutive national title.

The Heisman Trophy? Yeah, that's on his radar too, but he knows it will take a "monster" of a season to live up to his already soaring expectations.

"I'm not going to change; I'm going to keep grinding," Elliott said. "I'm going to do all I can to win it."

 

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages