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Oregon vs. Ohio State: Updated Preview for College Football Championship 2015

The Oregon Ducks are losing some key playmakers leading up to Monday's College Football Playoff National Championship showdown with Ohio State.

Receiver Devon Allen went down early in the Ducks' 59-20 Rose Bowl victory over Florida State with a knee injury, while pass-catcher Darren Carrington failed a drug test and has been suspended.

ESPN College Football highlights Carringon's recent impact:

That puts the onus all the more on Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota to make magic happen against a tenacious Buckeyes defensive front led by Joey Bosa and Michael Bennett.

Despite some key absences, the second-ranked Ducks are still favored by as much as seven points at Odds Shark. That should only add incentive for coach Urban Meyer's Buckeyes—the fourth and final team to secure a postseason berth—to will their way to another landmark win and a national title.

Below is a look at the viewing information for this epic clash, along with a closer look at the game itself and a prediction for the final score.

 

Preview and Prediction

As much speed and uptempo firepower as Oregon is rightly reputed to have on offense, Ohio State has similar explosiveness. That should create quite a high-scoring game, with the pass-rushing ability of the defensive lines playing a big role in the outcome.

DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead are matchup problems and will create issues for the Buckeyes in pass protection.

However, the 250-pound, mobile, cannon-armed Cardale Jones has the physical faculties to shrug off defenders, escape pressure and deliver accurate strikes deep downfield. As brilliant as Mariota is at extending the play, Jones' precision on longer passes will be a big test for Oregon's secondary.

Jones is still tough to plan for, since he's only recently taken the reins of the Buckeyes offense and has guided the team to its two biggest wins. Even Meyer is at a loss for words to describe how well Jones has filled in under center, via Cleveland.com's Doug Lesmerises:

And one big advantage Jones will have is a full cast of weapons featuring superior deep threat Devin Smith, all-purpose playmaker Jalin Marshall and dependable pass-catcher Michael Thomas. The strengths of Jones and Smith are the real weapons, though.

OSU's official Twitter account accentuated how much of a home run hitter Smith has been:

Mariota has his work cut out for him, considering how well Bosa can scream in off the edge and how Bennett and others in Ohio State's rotation can collapse the pocket from the inside.

Dane Brugler of CBS Sports analyzed what the absence of Allen and Carrington means for the Ducks:

The rest of Mariota's receivers will have to create separation in a hurry. With limited reps and the task of stepping up on the biggest stage imaginable, Oregon is asking a lot of its less proven wideouts.

Both running games will be critical. Featured ball-carriers Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State and Oregon counterpart Royce Freeman are comparably prolific.

The X-factor could come in the form of the Buckeyes' stud linebacker, Darron Lee. The Sugar Bowl Defensive MVP's ability to roam around the entire field, storm the gaps as a blitzer and engage in excellent pursuit against even the speediest backs gives OSU a big weapon on its front seven.

Like many of his teammates, Lee certainly hasn't lacked any faith in what the Buckeyes have been doing amid their torrid year-end run to get to this point:

Betting against Meyer in a big game also doesn't seem like the sagest decision, considering he's won multiple national championships, engineered multiple perfect regular seasons and has his Buckeyes completely invested.

That isn't to take away anything from Mark Helfrich and the job he's done succeeding Chip Kelly in exceptional fashion in Eugene. It's more of a commentary on how formidable Meyer is, which he proved in outfoxing Alabama and Nick Saban in a thrilling Sugar Bowl triumph.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly hints that Meyer will give Ohio State an inside track to the top prize:

So while Oregon has the consensus best player in college football on its side in Mariota, Ohio State arguably has a better coach and team built by Meyer in short order. Another championship may cement Meyer as the best coach in the country, and he ought to have plenty of returning stars back next year for another potential run at the title.

It's likely that the Ducks will lose Mariota to the NFL draft and will have to search for a new, viable signal-caller. That won't be the case in Columbus, as Meyer has the enviable dilemma of perhaps choosing between Jones, J.T. Barrett and even Braxton Miller if he returns.

Had several of Oregon's key offensive standouts been active for Monday's contest, this game might have played out a bit differently. However, Ohio State looks better built for success in this national championship game and beyond.

Prediction: Ohio State 38, Oregon 28

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Did NCAA Go Too Far with Oregon Marijuana Suspensions?

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota's receiving options will be limited in Monday night's national championship against Ohio State. That's been a short-handed group all year. However, the latest attrition to the Ducks' wide receiver unit isn't because of injury or bad luck.

According to Aaron Fentress of CSNNW.com, second-leading receiver Darren Carrington failed an NCAA-administered drug test for marijuana and did not travel to Arlington for the title game. Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated later reported that running back Ayele Forde will also miss the game because of a failed drug test for marijuana.

The Ducks will already be without Devon Allen, who led the team with seven receiving touchdowns, because of a knee injury.

"Darren's my friend," said Allen to Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports. "I love that guy and it sucks that he can't play and the NCAA made an example out of him."

There's no debate that Carrington and Forde are in the wrong, even though Oregon, along with Alaska, is set to legalize marijuana for recreational use by this year. (Recreational use is already legal in Colorado and Washington.) They used it and got busted for it. As a result, they won't be able to help their team. That part is as black and white as it gets.

Where things get cloudier, so to speak, is whether the NCAA should re-examine its testing policy. (Additionally, each school has its own drug policy; Oregon specifically has a four-strike policy.) The NCAA's threshold for a positive marijuana test is five nanograms of THC, the primary ingredient in marijuana, an NCAA spokesperson told Thamel. That's far lower than the NFL and MLB:

The easiest way to quantify how strict the NCAA's threshold is: Compare it to the threshold from other sports. The NFL increased its minimum threshold from 15 nanograms to 35 in September. The MLB's minimum is 50 nanograms, the same level as airline pilots. The World Anti-Doping Agency set its minimum at 150 nanograms, a level at which an expert contacted by USA Today was quoted as saying, "[one has to be a] pretty dedicated cannabis consumer" to test positive.

Is the NCAA being too strict when it comes to pot? Comparing it side-by-side to other major sports, amateur or professional, would indicate that it is. Easing up on the THC threshold for future tests feels like a logical next step.

The question is how long will it take for the NCAA's stance on the matter to catch up with much of society's stance.

How marijuana is viewed is changing, both nationally and within the scope of college athletics. Specifically, it's not tied to enhancing on-field performance. If it doesn't affect the game in the way performance-enhancing drugs do, there's not a lot of incentive to care what someone does in their spare time.

In that way, marijuana use is joining the ranks of underage drinking and even impermissible benefits on the scale of "illegal" activity.

There are roadblocks for actual change, however. NCAA legislation, even with upcoming voting autonomy for Power Five conferences, can take eons to pass, if it passes at all. Given that this would be a push to liberalize punishment for recreational drug use, widespread support from admins could be hard to garner.

Furthermore, there are front-burner issues that need to be addressed like player safety, well-being and compensation.

But at some point, the NCAA will no longer be able to delay changes in how it views and discourages marijuana use. Loosening the threshold for testing marijuana wouldn't be an admission that pot, or other harder drugs, is OK. It wouldn't be a stance from the Association that pot should be legal.

It would, however, be an admission that the testing policy was out of date—and it is. Change is something the NCAA needs if it's going to remain college athletics' governing body. Until then, there will be more and more guys like Darren Carrington who get suspended for an antiquated policy.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Did NCAA Go Too Far with Oregon Marijuana Suspensions?

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota's receiving options will be limited in Monday night's national championship against Ohio State. That's been a short-handed group all year...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Terrence Ross Suspended After Arrest: Latest Details, Reaction for Louisville DB

Louisville defensive back Terrence Ross has been indefinitely suspended by the university after being arrested early Sunday morning on a number of charges related to an altercation with a police officer.  

"The football program is aware of the situation and is continuing to gather information,"spokesman Rocco Gasparro told Jeff Greer of The Courier-Journal. "Terrence Ross has been suspended and the matter will continue to be evaluated."

Ross was charged with with felony assault of a probation or police officer and misdemeanor possession of marijuana and disorderly conduct. Additional details on the incident are scant as police continue to investigate the case. A redshirt sophomore, Ross made five tackles and returned two kicks for 28 yards during the regular season, largely playing on special teams.

This is the second time Ross has been arrested since arriving at Louisville. As noted by WAVE-TV, he was arrested on criminal mischief charges in November after allegedly damaging a door while trying to ram it down with his shoulder. 

Ross will be arraigned in both cases Wednesday. He is currently free on $1,000 bond.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: Volunteers' Top Remaining Recruiting Targets for NSD 2015

Most of Tennessee's top recruiting targets are already in the fold as Volunteers commitments. That's what happens when, for the second year in a row, head coach Butch Jones has compiled a class that is the envy of most programs.

UT currently sits in third place in the recruiting rankings, according to the 247Sports composite. The Vols have 28 pledges, and there are plenty of questions about just how many they'll sign after bringing 32 players into the fold in the 2014 cycle.

Unless there's a lot of attrition before signing day, the Vols could be finished right now and have a sterling haul. Even so, there are still several top players UT would love to add to its class and worry about shaking out the numbers later.

"Now we have to go assemble a top-three, top-four recruiting class—which we will—because we're building, and we have something special and great people," Jones said after UT's TaxSlayer Bowl victory, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown.

Getting another running back and an offensive tackle appear to be the top priorities, so this list will be heavy on those positions. Also, you can never have too much team speed, so that's another area Jones is targeting.

While it's possible UT can get back in on a few in-state players such as receiver Van Jefferson, offensive tackle Drew Richmond and safety Rico McGraw, there isn't a ton of buzz surrounding those players with the Vols right now, so we'll stick with the most legit options.

Let's take a look at a few players Jones and his staff would love to sign to really put the finishing touches on another awesome class on Rocky Top.

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Grading Every New College Football Head Coaching Hire

We’re approaching the midpoint of January, and for now, it appears the college football head coaching carousel has come to a stop for another year. That is subject to change, of course, if a program makes a surprising late firing or a current head coach makes the jump to an NFL opening, but as of Sunday night, every FBS program has a sitting head coach.

This winter, 14 programs made changes, from SMU (where June Jones resigned in September) to Pittsburgh (which hired Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi after Paul Chryst headed back to Wisconsin after three seasons). That’s down from a year ago, when 20 programs hired new leaders.

History says not all of these hires will work out. College football is notorious for its churn among head coaching hires. Per an analysis by Patrick Stevens of Syracuse.com, when the 2014 season began, 76 of 128 FBS head coaches had three full seasons or fewer at their current positions.

Here's a look at all of the new hires, with a grade assigned for each new coach. 

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College Football National Championship 2015: Vegas Odds Guide for Oregon vs. OSU

The stage doesn't get any bigger. The lights can't get any brighter. And the talent level can't possibly reach more elevated heights.

Thanks to the inaugural College Football Playoff, fans can feast their eyes on two deserving teams that might not have made it to this stage in previous years. Let's just say the national championship game is going to be a wild ride.

Bettors have been drooling over the possibility to line their pockets with the odds set for the big game. Between the enormous over-under and the edge of less than a touchdown given to Oregon, history tells us all we need to know about how to bet on this matchup.

Just hours away from the Bucks vs. Ducks, here's a look at the full spread information and tips for prospective bettors.

 

Game Information

Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

When: Monday, Jan. 12 at 8:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Spread: Oregon -6.5

Over/Under: 74

Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com.

 

Analysis

There is plenty of excitement brewing around the country for Monday's showdown. Having two of the best offensive teams in the country will do that for college football fans.

Just how exuberant are bettors for the game to finally get underway? David Payne Purdum of ESPN.com notes the game has a chance to make history after early numbers:

What will ultimately decide the final score is the play of the biggest stars.

For the Ducks, there is no bigger star than Marcus Mariota. The Oregon quarterback has compiled 56 total touchdowns to just six turnovers and can get the job done both with his arm and legs. He'll be without receiver Darren Carrington after he was ruled ineligible, but he has fought through adversity all season with success. 

Speaking of battling adversity, the Buckeyes have done just that since before the season started. Cardale Jones is the third starting quarterback, but he won't be carrying the entire load thanks to Ezekiel Elliott. The sophomore has blossomed into a superstar with a combined 450 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his last two games.

Oregon linebacker Tony Washington spoke about Elliott's ability, via Laken Litman of USA Today:

Dude is really fast, makes a lot of plays. He’s a tough guy to bring down and he’s gonna compete and work hard every rep. I noticed last game against Alabama he was making a lot of big runs and that’s because he’s determined to get into the end zone. So I mean as a defense you’ve gotta wrap this guy up because it’s going to take multiple efforts to get him down.

Essentially, that wealth of talent means there will be plenty of offense to cover the over-under projection. Then there's the fact that Oregon ranks second in the country in points scored (47.2 per game) and Ohio State ranks fifth (45.0). Oh, there will be scoring.

At the end of the game, Oregon will be the team pulling away for a decisive win. Though both will put up huge numbers, Mariota's ability to create plays and not turn the ball over will lead the Ducks to a victory. ESPN College Football notes how impressive the Ducks are at winning the turnover battle:

The Ducks won't win by a margin of 59-20—sorry, FSU fans—but they will cover the 6.5-point spread. In a battle of two teams looking to make history by winning the first-ever playoff, the Ducks will be riding high on Monday night. You can bet on it.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Sheldon Day's Return Sets Tone for Irish Defense

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — With the uncertain schedule of possible returns and looming decisions littering the Notre Dame football offseason, the Irish received important news Saturday from defensive end Sheldon Day.

Day will return for his senior season, bypassing an early exit and the NFL draft, Notre Dame announced Saturday.

Sure, there are still pivotal decisions to be made by or about left tackle Ronnie Stanley and quarterback Everett Golson, and returns from cornerback KeiVarae Russell, defensive end Ishaq Williams and wide receiver DaVaris Daniels would be crucial. But Day’s decision, though not particularly surprising, is the one that sets the tone for the entire Notre Dame defense—and even the team at large—moving forward.

“While the process leading up to this decision was difficult, ultimately my decision to return was easy,” Day said in a statement. “I love this school, my teammates and this coaching staff. I just felt it was in my best interest to play another for Notre Dame.”

It’s obviously in Notre Dame’s best interest, too.

“I believe we’ve got an opportunity to have a special season in 2015 and I wanted to be a part of that success,” Day said. “I was blessed to play in the national championship game as a freshman in 2012, and I want to do everything in my power to reach that stage again with my guys.”

Day was tabbed as Notre Dame’s Defensive Lineman of the Year despite missing time in three games with a knee injury. Locking him in along the defensive line provides a steadying force to a group that otherwise was without a leader and a stalwart heading into 2015.

Defensive tackle Jarron Jones (Lisfranc) emerged as a junior but is expected to miss four to six months with the injury. Kelly said in November he is hopeful to have Jones back in time for spring practice. Defensive lineman Isaac Rochell was stout and reliable throughout the season, one of just three players on the Irish defense to start all 13 games. Still, Notre Dame needed its rock.

Jaylon Smith leads the linebackers, and the position could be even stronger with a healthy Joe Schmidt, of course. The secondary, with Cole Luke and KeiVarae Russell manning the perimeter, would figure to be strong.

And Day shores up the first level of the defense. A junior captain in 2014, the Indianapolis native is both a leader on the defense and one of the team’s best players. Day finished tied for first among Irish defensive linemen in tackles (40) and tackles for loss (7.5) and second with nine quarterback hurries.

“He’s an outstanding player and makes a difference on the field for our team, but Sheldon’s impact goes beyond success on the field,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. “His leadership as a captain in our program has been instrumental, and I look forward to him carrying this role into 2015.”

Notre Dame’s defense won’t be fixed overnight, however. The holes run deeper than merely the injuries that withered the Irish down the stretch.

But Day’s return is the first tone-setting step in building up the Irish squad, specifically the defense, for a potential run through the national rankings. Notre Dame’s ETA always seemed closest to 2015, with a 24-member recruiting class of soon-to-be juniors that ranked fifth in the country, per 247Sports, now serving as the team’s backbone.

And with key upperclassmen like Day committing to 2015, the Irish are still on track.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

National Championship Preview: Why Oregon Will Beat Ohio State

Midway through the college football season, an Oregon-Ohio State matchup in the national championship did not seem likely.  The Ducks had just lost to Arizona, and the Buckeyes were a one-loss team with a freshman quarterback in J.T. Barrett who was still getting his feet wet at the collegiate level.

Nobody expected the first championship game of the playoff era to be played without an SEC team in the running for the title, especially since the conference has had a representative in the final game in each of the past eight years and several SEC teams were in the playoff conversation throughout the entire season.

As the two teams prepare for the inaugural championship of the College Football Playoff in Arlington, it is not too difficult to see why they were able to finish their respective seasons without another loss.  Both teams are extremely fast and athletic, they both have dynamic offenses and both teams’ defensive units have improved as the season progressed.

I will break down Monday’s national championship game and make a prediction for the result.

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National Championship Preview: Why Oregon Will Beat Ohio State

Midway through the college football season, an Oregon-Ohio State matchup in the national championship did not seem likely. The Ducks had just lost to Arizona , and the Buckeyes were a one-loss team with a freshman quarterback in J...

Begin Slideshow

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