NCAA Football News
When Ohio State and Oregon battle for a national championship, the scoreboard operator might want to bring a calculator.
The Buckeyes come into the game ranked fifth in the nation with an average of 45 points per game. In two postseason contests, they have been even better with 101 total points against a pair of quality defenses in Wisconsin and Alabama.
Incredibly, the Ducks have been even better with an average of 47.2 points per game. They have scored at least 40 points in each of the past nine games and put up 59 in the Rose Bowl win over Florida State.
Both sides are successful with great schemes, but it is the individual efforts of the players that really help the offenses roll. The biggest stars will all try to have big games in the spotlight, but not all of them will come through with their best effort.
Here are stat predictions for the top offensive players on each side in the national title game.
Marcus Mariota, Oregon
The Heisman Trophy winner will be the player everyone is looking forward to watching Monday, including the opposing head coach. Urban Meyer had high praise for Mariota earlier in the week, via Bryan Fischer of NFL.com:
Mariota has been incredibly accurate throughout his career while making few mistakes. However, Ohio State has a knack for causing more problems than normal thanks to the elite pass rush behind Joey Bosa, Darron Lee and others.
While Oregon's offensive line is much better now that it is healthy, the unit will still have a tough time protecting its star quarterback. As a result, Mariota will be rushed and forced into more incompletions than usual and even a turnover or two.
Still, the player's pure talent should allow him to post the big numbers we are used to seeing in a quality individual effort.
Stats: 24-of-39, 307 pass yards, 3 TD, 1 INT; 34 rush yards, 1 TD
Cardale Jones, Ohio State
Over the last two games, Cardale Jones has been everything Ohio State fans could have wished for in a third-string quarterback. He filled in for the injured J.T. Barrett and led his team to two impressive wins while playing within himself at all times.
Considering Oregon ranks 108th in the nation against the pass, there is an opportunity to have some more big plays through the air in this one.
The Buckeyes will likely lean heavily on the run, but Jones should be able to put up some quality numbers both through the air and on the ground.
Stats: 17-of-28, 207 pass yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 41 rush yards
Royce Freeman, Oregon
Despite the two touchdowns against Florida State, Royce Freeman was relatively quiet with just 12 carries for 44 rushing yards. Both of these numbers are the lowest we have seen for the freshman since September.
When Oregon needs to make a play, we are clearly more likely to see the ball in Mariota's hands than Freeman.
Meanwhile, Ohio State boasts one of the best defensive lines in college football with Bosa, Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington. This will lead to clogged lanes and a forgettable game for the young running back.
Stats: 57 rush yards, 1 TD; 24 receiving yards
Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
If you didn't know his name a month ago, you certainly know who Ezekiel Elliott is now.
The sophomore running back is the reason Ohio State has been able to withstand multiple injuries at quarterback, specifically stepping up in the past two games with Jones under center, according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:
His performance against Alabama was something few others could even dream about:
While Oregon has fared well against the run for the most part this season, Elliott still has the speed, strength and vision to find plenty of space in this game.
Expect another huge performance for the red-hot running back.
Stats: 187 rush yards, 3 TD
Byron Marshall, Oregon
The last few weeks haven't been great for Byron Marshall, who has just 43 receiving yards in the last two games. However, the Ducks will need their leading receiver to step up with receiver Darren Carrington out for the national championship.
Marshall is new to the position after being a running back last season, but Matt Brown of Sports on Earth explained how the versatility makes him a real weapon:
Oregon simply needs to get its best players on the field, and in this case that meant shifting Marshall wide, where he often plays like a running back lining up on the perimeter. His lateral agility and power allow him to excel after the catch, and he's also a capable and willing blocker on the outside. Throw in his development as a pure receiver, through route-running and awareness, and Oregon has a new movable chess piece on offense who plays a pivotal role when defenses are just trying to get lined up and keep up with Oregon's tempo.
With such a big need at receiver, it's likely the Ducks keep Marshall out wide in this one and target him early and often. He has the skill to break off some big plays, but this game will likely see him become more of a consistent target everywhere on the field.
Stats: Seven catches, 107 receiving yards, 1 TD
Devin Smith, Ohio State
Although Devin Smith might be just a deep threat, the one-trick pony has a pretty good trick.
In the last three games, the receiver has seven catches with six of them going for 39 yards or more.
Smith has gotten into the end zone four times in the last two games.
Oregon cornerback Troy Hill has stepped up nicely for injured All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, but Smith should still be able to get a few big plays against the Ducks.
Stats: Three catches, 78 receiving yards, 1 TD
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