Analyzing No. 4 Ohio State’s 42-20 victory against No. 3 Oregon in Monday’s College Football Playoff championship game:
THE BIG PICTURE: The College Football Playoff selection committee got this one right. It picked Ohio State for the fourth spot in its inaugural four-team playoff, and while the Buckeyes were arguably the hottest team in the country at that time, they still had a major blemish on their résumé — a Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech at home. But now, imagine this Playoff without Ohio State. Imagine a national champion crowned that wasn’t this team. The Buckeyes backed up the committee’s faith by proving not only were they one of the country’s four best — they were undoubtedly the top team, even with a third-string quarterback.
On the other hand, everything had seemingly fallen into place for Oregon. Its quarterback, Marcus Mariota, was the finest player in program history. After early struggles, the offensive line rounded into form after a loss to Arizona in October — and entered the championship game playing its best football of the season. The defense had found its groove under first-year coordinator Don Pellum, playing an opportunistic and aggressive style that melded well with the team’s frenetic and prolific offensive philosophy. Unmentioned during the days leading into the title game was an indisputable fact: Oregon might never have a better chance to win the national title.