Who’s in? This has been the question that was asked all season long, and now we finally know the answer. But the debate of course doesn’t end there. The more frequent question over the past month that has been debated is; did the committee get it right? For some..they say “yes” to others they say, “3 out of 4”. Regardless of whether the committee got the right teams in the Playoff there will be a debate for who was left out whether it is a 4 team playoff or 8 teams. There’s always going to be sadness for the teams that are left out. Right or wrong we have our teams. These are the Top 4 teams in the nation and they have all been through a rollercoaster f a season, whether blemished or not they have each shown flaws and the matchups are intriguing.
In game number one at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, you have the more intriguing matchup with No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Florida State. Of course most of the headlines are surrounding the two Heisman Trophy winners: for Florida State 2013 winner Jameis Winston; has not lost in college and Florida State is on a 29 game-winning streak; and for Oregon 2014 winner Marcus Mariota, “Mr. Unflappable”, he cleaned up winning every major individual award possible. But for these guys nothing is more important than winning with their team.
Winston has already experienced a championship, leading the Seminoles to the national crown last season. Doesn’t mean he wouldn’t want to leave school with two and an unblemished record; with all likelihood that he will move to play on Sundays in the NFL. As for his counterpart Marcus Mariota wants to bring Winston’s reign to an end; as this is the redshirt junior’s last chance to bring a championship to Eugene.
The offenses for both Oregon and Florida State aren’t going to be the concern, but the defenses. Oregon will be without All-America cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who injured his knee during practice and needed season-ending surgery. So that will mean a lot of pressure will be put on the Ducks front-four led by Arik Armstead and Tony Washington who will be looking to rattle Jameis Winston. That can be hard to do. Both Winston and Mariota seem to be unnerved about the big stage. And all-purpose defensive back Jalen Ramsey and P.J. Williams will try to disrupt the timing of Mariota and his receivers. Much like the front-four for Oregon; the Florida State D-Line is big, fast and athletic, they will need all their attributes to contain Mariota.
If there is anything this season of football has taught us both in the NFL and in college; offenses may be centered around the passing game, but you have to have an efficient running attack to be successful. And both Oregon and Florida State have two of the top freshman running backs to support the balance offense and take some of the pressure off their Heisman winning quarterbacks. Oregon running back Royce Freeman who came on to the scene quietly rushing for 1299 yards at 5.6 yards per carry with 16 touchdowns and receiving the PAC-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year honors. Florida State freshman running back sensation kind of burst out there a little later in the season, especially in the ‘Noles last two games against Florida and in the ACC Championship game against Georgia Tech averaging 5.8 yards a carry and rushing for 321 combined between the two games.
The defense; the running game and how well the offensive lines will protect the quarterbacks will be the determining factors of how this Rose Bowl game will turn out.
Game two at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana, revisits two coaches who are no strangers to one another. No. 1 Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban and No. 4 Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer are once again across the field from each other. Nick Saban leads the series 2-1. The last matchup No. 1 Alabama dismantled then No. 7 Florida 31-6.
It’s a new day and age and a new school for Urban Meyer; going back home to Ohio, accepting the Buckeye Head Coach position in 2012. In the three seasons that Meyer has been in Columbus he has lead the Buckeyes to a 36-3 record. If Ohio State wasn’t going through a bowl ban in Meyer’s first season they may have played in the national championship in the 2012 season.
A lot of coaches would have fell down the tubes when their starting quarterback goes down for the season due to injury before the season even starts. But Meyer was able to get his team to rally behind his redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett who led the Buckeyes to an 11-1 record until he was hurt in the game against rival Michigan. Cardale Jones showed against Wisconsin that he can fill the quarterback shoes just as well; throwing for 257 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Lane Kiffin may not have been successful has a Head Coach, but you can’t say he doesn’t have a excellent offensive mind. There were a lot of question marks about the quarterback position for the Crimson Tide coming into the season. Who actually saw Blake Sims coming to the forefront and have a stellar season like he has? To put it mildly Blake Sims has posted an 88.5 Total QBR this season, second in the FBS behind Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. Blake Sims fortunately had the best receiver in the nation at his disposal and Biletnikoff Award winner Amari Cooper. Copper had 100 more targets and 78 more receptions than any other Crimson Tide player; with 115 receptions and 1656 yards with 14 touchdowns.
Alabama was stout against the deep throw in the first nine games of the season, allowing just three completions over 25 yards. However, the Tide has surrendered 13 such completions in their last four games. Ohio State’s offense has 17 completions for 11 touchdowns on throws over 25 yards this season.
Who will make the big plays or who will be able to keep a handle on the big plays from happening?