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NCAA College Football 2014-15 National Championship Pick

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Fearless Rick's 2014-15 College Football National Championship

Rick Gagliano | January 12, 2015

All times Eastern

College Football National Championship Game
Oregon Ducks (-7, 75) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes, Arlington, TX, AT&T Stadium, Monday, Jan. 12, 8:30 p.m. ET - The stage has been set for the historic first college football playoff championship, with the Oregon Ducks demolishing the previously-unbeaten Florida State Seminoles and the Ohio State Buckeyes defying the oddsmakers with a touchdown victory over heavily-favored Alabama.

Oregon's 59-20 victory was likely more in keeping with the overall tone of the college post-season, as it was the fifth win for a PAC-12 team, en route to a 6-2 mark for the conference in the current bowl season. Florida State had been shown throughout the season to have a plethora of flaws, from the oft-sputtering offense to annoying lapses on defense, and the Ducks made them pay dearly for their mistakes.

The Ducks turned a close, 18-13, half time lead into an outright rout, rolling up 41 second half points and 639 yards of total offense. Oregon shut out the Seminoles from the 8:07 mark of the third quarter to the end of regulation, scoring five touchdowns - including Tony Washington's 58-yard fumble recovery - while Florida State floundered offensively.

While the second half outburst by Oregon may have been a classic "who wants it more" scenario, the Ducks proved to be more than equal to their ranking as the third most-prolific scoring offense in the country, running a total of 81 plays in the Rose Bowl Semi-Final game.

Ohio State will have a tough time containing the dynamic offense led by Heisman Trophy winner, Marcus Mariota, who was 26-for-36 for 338 yards and two touchdowns passing and ran for 62 yards and one score on eight carries in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks have not been held under 42 points in any game since their last loss, a 31-24 defeat to Arizona. The Ducks have strung together nine straight wins and appear indomitable.

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What may be lost in most analyses of the Oregon Ducks is that their defense is vastly improved from the start of the season. While Florida State did ring up 528 yards of offense, the Duck defense stiffened when needed and produced five turnovers. Florida State scored only 20 points, lower than Oregon's average allowance of 22.5.

In their last four games, the Ducks have allowed an average of 15.5 points per game. Their average margin of victory over that span has been an eye-popping 34.75 points, a number that Ohio State surely has to respect.

The Buckeyes are, however, no slouches, despite having to fend with their third-string quarterback, Cardale Jones, who has availed himself of two enormous wins: the Big Ten championship, a thunderous, 59-0, walloping of Wisconsin and their 42-35 victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day, which qualified them as a national finalist.

Decided by a touchdown, the Sugar Bowl was, in many ways, a bigger victory for the Buckeyes than the score might indicate. Ohio State overcame a 21-6 deficit midway through the second quarter, and the Alabama defense, scoring five touchdowns to just one for Alabama over the next 34 minutes, taking a decisive lead of 42-28 into the final three minutes of the game. Amari Cooper's six-yard TD pass from Blake Sims with just under two minutes to play kept the fans in their seats, but the game was never very much in doubt.


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Jones was efficient at quarterback, completing 18- of 35 passes for 249 yards and one touchdown and one pick, and rushing for another 43 yards on 17 carries, but the real story was ustoppable Ezekiel Elliot, who rumbled for 230 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns, one of them the clinching, 85-yard fourth quarter romp.

The Buckeyes rolled up 537 yards against the Crimson Tide and averaged an impressive 6.7 yards per rush, something he Oregon defense will have to respect. While Jones may not be the most accurate or deadly thrower, he does run the read option with the precision of a surgeon, looking very much like a player who's been there all season rather than one who has only played in two games.

Defense is likely to be the deciding factor, and Oregon has proven to have a major advantage in that department as well as on special teams. If the Buckeyes don't take care of the football (they did commit three turnovers in the Sugar Bowl), the Ducks are certain to make them pay for their errors. It's also unlikely that Ohio State's defense can hold the Ducks to fewer than 45 points, and scoring a number like that seems a task too bold, even for the talented Buckeyes.

Head coach Urban Meyer is seeking his third coaching national championship (he won two at Florida) with a Buckeye team that has won 12 straight, but they've seen nothing like the Oregon offense all season, and it's difficult to see them keeping pace with the Ducks for the entirety of the game.

Ohio State will not back down, but the Ducks have superior talent on offense and are also quite a bit better than the Buckeyes on defense.

Prediction: Ducks 51 Buckeyes 34

All times Eastern.

Copyright 2014, 2015, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.

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