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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.

Begin Slideshow

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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Ohio State QB Cardale Jones' Fumble vs. Oregon Looks Similar to Jameis Winston's

For some reason, quarterbacks have a hard time trying to throw the ball on fourth down against the Oregon Ducks.

Trying to throw the ball away in the College Football Playoff Championship Game on Monday night, Cardale Jones lost the ball despite not being touched, giving the Ducks great field position.

Almost the exact same thing happened to Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston during the 2015 Rose Bowl, losing the ball on fourth down without any contact.

The Ohio State defense was able to hold Oregon to a field goal, helping the Buckeyes maintain a slim lead.

[Vine]

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Oregon's Byron Marshall Nearly Drops Ball Before End Zone on 70-Yard TD

That was too close.

On Oregon's first offensive play of the second half, Marcus Mariota hit Byron Marshall for a 70-yard touchdown. However, Marshall nearly let go of the ball before crossing the goal line.

Fortunately, he let go of the ball right after breaking the plane. Michael Shamburger from The Big Lead provided a photo of Marshall as he crossed the goal line.

A similar play earlier in the season helped Oregon get into the College Football Playoff. In November against Utah, a Utes player dropped the ball before reaching the end zone, allowing Oregon to return it 99 yards for a touchdown.

Marshall might want to consider holding onto the ball through the entire play next time.

[Vine, Twitter]


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Kareem Walker to Ohio State: Buckeyes Land 5-Star RB Prospect

The Ohio State Buckeyes not only played for a national championship on Monday, but they also already secured a high-profile prospect for their 2016 recruiting class.

Running back Kareem Walker announced on Twitter that he's taking his talents to Columbus:

Walker, a 5-star recruit, is rated as the No. 1 prospect at his position and the ninth-ranked player in the country.

The 6'1", 210-pound standout from DePaul Catholic High School in Wayne, New Jersey, already has a big enough frame to shine at the NCAA level. What makes Walker special is the fact that he has breakaway speed to go with his mature frame.

That brings to mind past Buckeyes standouts such as Chris "Beanie" Wells and even the team's current dynamic ball-carrier in Ezekiel Elliott.

The opportunity may be available for Walker to contribute as a freshman, as Elliott could move on to the NFL following next year. However, OSU coach Urban Meyer has assembled some excellent recruiting classes since his arrival, so Walker will likely compete for reps regardless of whether Elliott is around or not.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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National Championship Sign Jokes That Winner Will Play TCU Horned Frogs

Fans of the TCU Horned Frogs weren't happy their team was left out of the College Football Playoff because they felt like they should have gotten a shot at the national title.

During the national championship between Ohio State and Oregon, some fans brought a sign that said, "Winner Plays TCU."

The Horned Frogs were ranked No. 3 in the second-to-last poll, but they dropped out of the Top Four despite winning their final regular-season game. They eventually went on to beat Ole Miss, 42-3, in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

[Twitter]

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Ohio State's J.T. Barrett Doesn't Look Interested in Talking to Tim Tebow

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett wasn't able to play in the national championship against the Oregon Ducks, but he still probably wanted to focus as much as he could on the game.

ESPN analyst and former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was on the sideline with Barrett during the game. However, Barrett didn't look very interested in talking to the two-time national champion.

[Vine, Twitter]

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Ohio State Cheerleader Nearly Trampled as Players Run onto Field

The Ohio State cheerleaders tried to get the Buckeyes fans pumped up before the College Football Playoff National Championship against the Oregon Ducks.

Unfortunately, one cheerleader got caught when the Buckeyes players ran onto the field, as she fell and the players had to do their best to avoid her. One of her fellow cheerleaders tried to rescue her as she stayed down trying not to get trampled.

The male cheerleader deserves credit for trying to save her. Fortunately, the girl wasn't injured and was able to escape once most of the players had run onto the field.

That was probably enough excitement for one day for the cheerleader, but she still had a team to cheer on as the Buckeyes tried to win their first national title since the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.

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Virginia Tech Football: 5 Players Poised to Break out in 2015

The 2014 season was a disappointing one for the Virginia Tech Hokies—by their standards. The Hokies were 5-6 entering the season finale against Virginia and needed a victory just to become bowl-eligible. The Hokies won and went bowling for a 22nd consecutive season.

So, while 2014 ended on a positive note, 2015 could be much better.

Tech had several young players starting at various positions in 2014. At times, they struggled, and on other occasions, the youngsters gave the Hokies a big lift. While there's still plenty of questions surrounding the quarterback position entering 2015, there are plenty of reasons for optimism in the new year.

Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges were freshmen who stood out in 2014. Here are five players poised for a breakout year in 2015.

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Ohio State's Jalin Marshall Reaches Around Oregon Defender to Make Grab

Considering this is the College Football Playoff National Championship, that's a pretty clutch catch.

In the first quarter against the Oregon Ducks, Ohio State's Jalin Marshall made a ridiculous catch, reaching around the defender to make the grab.

Here's another look at the catch:

That catch helped move the Buckeyes down the field, leading to a 33-yard touchdown run from Ezekiel Elliott to tie the game at 7-7.

[Vine]

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Clemson Football: 5 Players Poised to Break out in 2015

A breakout star is someone the rest of the country won’t see coming. The fans who follow the Clemson Tigers may not be surprised if these five guys break out next season, but these players have the potential to garner national attention and shock the rest of the college football world.

You won’t find Deshaun Watson, Wayne Gallman or Artavis Scott on this list. Those guys helped carry the load as freshmen this season, and the rest of the country learned about them.

We are more concerned with the guys who could creep up the depth chart this season, or maybe the senior who was once a promising 4-star looking to make it happen in his final year of eligibility. Here are five guys that could be poised to break out for Clemson in 2015.

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Ohio State Flag Carriers Lose 'O' During National Championship Intros

Well, that's not the best start.

The Ohio State Buckeyes ran onto the field to take on the Oregon Ducks in the College Football Playoff National Championship. As they did so, the Buckeyes flag carriers lost one of their "O"s, with the flags reading "OHI" instead.

Here are some other angles of the flags:

Ohio State fans are hoping that's the only mistake the team makes Monday night.

[Twitter]

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College Football Coaches, ESPN Analysts Read Mean Tweets About Themselves

Jimmy Kimmel Live's segment of celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves has become quite popular, and this week, the show decided to run a special segment for the College Football Playoff.

In the video above, ESPN college football analysts and a few coaches read some pretty harsh tweets about themselves. Even Florida State's Jimbo Fisher and Oregon's Mark Helfrich were included.

[YouTube]

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