No. 2 Oregon Ducks beat No. 3 Florida State Seminoles 59-20
|Oregon's 2015 National Championship Jerseys|
Defensively, Oregon played a great game of bend but don't break. Florida State still managed to rack up 528 yards of offense, but that translated to only 20 points. For all the mistakes he made, Jameis Winston threw for 348 yards and a touchdown, but was also picked off. He had a really tough day as the offensive line that has had so many issues wasn't able to protect Winston on a fair amount of his dropbacks. The front seven also forced two turnovers that really put Oregon ahead in this game. Dalvin Cook fumbled twice in this game after two long runs that killed very promising drives. Karlos Williams played a bit better than I predicted, but wasn't able to find space consistently. You could tell the Ducks really missed Ifo at cornerback, but were able to prevent most of Jameis's shots down the field. His longest pass only went for 24 yards since he didn't have much time to throw nor a lot of room for his passes. Oregon is going to have a much more difficult time going up against an Ohio State offense that has averaged 45 points and 509 yards per game. Their knack for explosive plays could prove too much for a slightly depleted defense.
No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes beat No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide 42-35
All hail King Cardale! All hail E-Z-E! It doesn't matter who is under center or who is running the ball for Ohio State because Urban Meyer can turn them into a star. Ohio State completely dominated Alabama's defense and roared back from a 21-6 deficit to score four unanswered touchdowns that gave them the lead for good. The star of this game was true sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott, who put up some monster numbers and set a couple of firsts against Alabama. His start line for the day reads twenty carries for 230 yards (11.5 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. He is the first running back to go for over the century mark on Alabama this season and the first to rush for over two hundred yards against the Tide in over a decade. From the very first serious, he was able to rip off big chunks of yards as his early fifty yard run resulted in a field goal and gave the Buckeyes all the confidence they needed against a defense that had been exposed a bit against faster offense. Even when he wasn't hitting home runs, Elliot was able to pick up four or five yards on first down on most series that really made it easier for the rest of the offense to play efficiently and open up the playbook. But easily his biggest carry of the night came with only three and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter. Sweeping left, he found the tiniest of creases and was able to pull away from the secondary for an 85 yard touchdown that almost assuredly closed the door on the Tide. This made the game 42-28 and put a huge burden on Alabama's offense. King Cardale didn't have the best day statistically as he completed only 51% of their passes and threw a pick. However, he connected on 18 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown, so most of his passes were moving the chains throughout the game. Some of his drives stalled and you could tell he was being a bit overly cautious during the first half, but eventually he was finding targets down field every other play. Devin Smith had another big game, turning two receptions into 83 yards and a touchdown that gave Ohio State the lead for good early in the third quarter. Michael Thomas had the biggest game out of all the receivers after he hauled in seven passes and 66 yards with a circus catch for a touchdown on a trick play. Thomas beat his man to the sideline and then kept his left foot in by less than an inch which closed the lead to one just before halftime. With the way the offense was hitting on all cylinders, you can expect this national championship to be a shoot out.
|Ohio State's 2015 National Championship Jersey|
The defense played a great game that is slightly misrepresented by the box score. They played a hell of a game and got put in some pretty tough situations early on. A fumble to Elliot and a pick thrown by Cardale put them in a tough spot to defend early in the game right after they had gotten off the field. Outside of those two gifts, Alabama only scored one more time in the half and was kept out of the endzone until the end of the third quarter. Every unit of the defense played well, but the most outstanding was the secondary which limited Blake Sims to just 237 yards through the air. He threw two touchdowns to a wide open Amari Cooper, but he also tossed three picks. All of those came in the second half and completely changed the momentum of the game. His first came when Alabama took over at Ohio State's 23 yard line, but was immediately picked by Vonn Bell while trying to throw to OJ Howard. His second was a real morale crusher as he didn't see defensive end Steve Miller drop back into coverage. Miller stepped right in front of Cooper and returned the pick 41 yards for a touchdown to make the game 34-21. Sims's last pick came on the hail mary at the end of regulation that sealed their fate. For the most part, the secondary was able to contain Cooper who caught nine passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns. He definitely made some plays, but was kept in check for a lot of the game. No other receiver had more than three receptions. Alabama was more successful on the ground, but they couldn't always rely on it to convert third downs. Yeldon wasn't at full health and Derrick Henry got too few touches once the Buckeyes got the lead. The linebackers played very sound defense and made some good plays in open space which they will have to do against Oregon. If the secondary or defensive line is able to generate even a single turnover in this game, it could mean the difference. The whole defense has been great at generating turnovers this whole season and I don't expect that to stop against the Ducks.