The final chapter of a new era in college football will be written Monday night in Arlington, Texas. The first year of the College Football Playoff will come to a close with Pac-12 champion Oregon squaring off against Big Ten champion Ohio State with the first, truly definitive, outright national championship on the line in the history of major college football.
Before the year kicked off, Oregon and Ohio State were expected to be in the championship hunt, but each had a path to Arlington paved much differently than the other. The Ducks largely stayed the course, while Ohio State had to work some quarterback magic with not one, but two young and unproven options under center. But you can read about that stuff anywhere. Here are some quick storylines to take note of Monday night.
Ohio State is 8-0 all-time against Oregon
The two programs first faced each other in the 1958 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, with the Buckeyes taking a 10-7 victory back home to Columbus. The two have faced each other seven times since then, with Ohio State winning each time along the way, including the most recent match-up in the 2010 Rose Bowl. This will be the third postseason meeting between the two.
Big Ten and Pac-12 for national title for first time since 1969
For the first time since the 1969 Rose Bowl between Ohio State and USC, the winner of a postseason meeting between the two conferences will be guaranteed to be crowned national champion. Though each conference has had one of the top two teams compete against the other conference with at least a share of the national title on the line before in postseason play, this will be the first time since before 1970 that the winner is guaranteed a national championship.
Urban Meyer looking to join Nick Saban
With an Ohio State victory, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer will join Alabama’s Nick Saban as the only two coaches to win national championships at two different schools. Saban won titles with both LSU and Alabama, and Meyer has a pair of BCS championship rings from his time at Florida.
Oregon looking for first national title
While Ohio State lays claim to seven football national championships, Oregon is looking to secure its first in school history. The Buckeyes are considered a true blueblood program in the sport, but Oregon has potential to be a force in the game for a long time and is looking to check off one last item on the program’s to-do list to further legitimize its rise in the sport.
The QB situation
The quarterback situation for Oregon and Ohio State could not be much more different than it is. The Ducks have Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Marcus Mariota, a proven and established starter at the college football level with multiple years of starting experience heading into Monday night. Ohio State has Cardale Jones making just his third career start. Oddly enough, Jones will see his first three career starts take place in the postseason, which may never happen again as long as you watch college football.
Young running backs also in spotlight
Both Oregon and Ohio State have phenomenal young running backs that have played a huge role in the success of their respective offenses this season. The Ducks saw a brilliant freshman debut from Royce Freeman this season, with the young running back going for 1,343 yards and 18 touchdowns through Oregon’s Rose Bowl victory over Florida State. The Buckeyes have seen an explosion from sophomore Ezekiel Elliott down the stretch, with the young Buckeye rushing for over 200 yards in each of his previous two games, with 220 yards and two touchdowns against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game and another 230 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Both young running backs could find themselves in the Heisman talk heading into 2015 and, perhaps, 2016.
Oregon could snap nation’s longest active winning streak, again
Oregon brought an unceremonious end to the nation’s longest active winning streak when they prevented Florida State form winning its 30th straight game in the Rose Bowl semifinal. Now, once again, the Ducks are looking to snap the nation’s longest active winning streak. Ohio State’s 12-game winning streak is currently the longest active winning streak in FBS football. It is believed Oregon would be the first team to end the nation’s longest active winning streak in two consecutive games in the history of major college football. Do so, and the Ducks will have won 10 straight games to claim the new longest active winning streak in the FBS.
Ohio State has seemed to defy the odds all season long, and this game may be no different. Ohio State 37, Oregon 33
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.