One of the things I love about sports is when they take on the form of artful drama. A plotline develops to create suspense.
Ready for the Ducks to meet Alabama, I was so prepared to draw out the plot on top of subplot built around character development. Nick Saban, on record for not being a fan of the hurry up offense, would meet the fastest offense he had ever played against (Everyone can stop saying that Auburn is faster because they're not.) Saban and Alabama represented the SEC. The antichrist of college football, placed on their perch of power by the false prophet, the BCS.
We know today it was false because on December 7th when the four playoff teams were set, they ran the pseudo BCS matrix alongside the present program. The BCS had Florida State and Alabama ranked as the respective 1st and 2nd highest teams in the nation.
Those two teams are gone now. And it makes us wonder about every previous season dominated by the SEC. What if they were asked to play just one additional game before the championship?
Anyway, I digress. Where was I? Oh ya. Alabama. Saban. Antichrist.
I was more than ready to make a prediction of an Alabama/Oregon contest based on a highly technical X and O analysis.
|GONNA RIP OFF THE TIDE'S ARMS AND LEGS|
AND THEN BEAT THEM OVER THEIR HEADS WITH
THEIR ARMS AND LEGS!!!
(I like Hulk Duck. Think he might stay around awhile.)
But alas, Saban didn't have to face the Ducks speed. Ohio State's offense was plenty fast enough.
Now we have Oregon and the Buckeyes -- two teams that get each other, even appreciate each other. Urban Meyer liked and bought in to Chip Kelly's "Win the Day" mantra. He has his team training fast and hard. Unlike Saban, Meyer embraces the changes in college football. Where's the drama in that?
The Bucks are good. Cardale Jones, their THIRD STRING quarterback, is scary good. This is only his third start. Yet, up to now he seems unflappable. His passes are deadeye perfect.
Ohio State has its routine roster of top level players. And these guys are all buying in to Meyer's version of Win The Day.
To pick apart this contest, I've arrived at the following:
WHEN THE BUCKEYES HAVE THE BALL
They're going to score. (As the brilliant and wise Jameis Winston would say, "We all just need to sit down and be real with ourself about that right now.") They have the players. They can move the ball. Oregon's job will just be to make them score fewer points than their own offense.
One thing the Ducks definitely have in their favor is turnovers. D-coordinator Don Pellum's thing has been to up the number of take-aways. His team was doing well enough through the season, but they really came on in the post season.
Ohio State is down three in give-aways to take-aways. Oregon is plus 11, making them the best in the country.
WHEN OREGON HAS THE BALL
Below is a highlight video of the Sugar Bowl. I invite you to see it and see if you see what I'm seeing. In this and other Buckeye videos I have seen, I've noticed that when the opposing quarterback goes back, Ohio State's defensive ends seem to get real eager for a sack.
They will press inward and collapse hard on the pocket. And what you'll see is a lot of green pasture on the outside. I look at that and I say, "Hmmmmm. . . . . I wonder if Mariota is noticing that same thing when he's studying film?"
Ohio State can watch all the film they want of Mariota. But until it happens, they have no idea of the third degree scorching MM will give them on second and five or fourth and one when he pulls the ball out of the RB's hands and swings outside.
Be watching for that.
Getting back to my enjoyment of a dramatic plot. I was having trouble finding one . . .
AND THEN SOMETHING STUPID HAPPENED
Oregon WR Carrington fails drug test, ineligible for title game vs. OSU
|Say it with me. STU-PID...STU-PID...STU-PID...STU-PID|
Combine the loss of Carrington with the loss of Devon Allen in the Rose Bowl, TE Pharoah Brown, Heisman winner Marcus Mariota suddenly has fewer targets to throw to. His brilliant throwing ability is only as good as his capable corps on the receiving end.
But if you were to ask the Ducks about the loss of Carrington, like so many reporters did at the latest press conference, you'd find that they don't even blink.
A couple of excerpts from this Oregonian article. . . .
"Nothing in our preparation has really changed because of the tempo of our practices, we probably rep eight guys each practice,"[Receivers Coach Matt] Lubick said. "A lot of guys who are redshirting even take reps with the ones and twos just because the tempo and the number of plays we get."
In some ways, the limited depth at receiver has helped Oregon because it's developed a need for versatility. Every receiver knows how to play each position, freshman Charles Nelson said, enabling a seamless season of plug-and-play.
"There are parts and pieces that everyone can put together to do what (Carrington) does and has done," Nelson said. "With him out we're just going to throw somebody else in there and make plays as always."
Oregon has Keanon Lowe and Dwayne Stanford back from injuries, add Nelson, BJ Kelly, Chance Allen, Jonathan Loyd and Bryon Marshall -- all of these guys are playmakers. Nelson isn't kidding when he says they can just throw somebody else in there.
Meanwhile, back in the land of nuts, this headline appeared from USA Today BEFORE news of Carrington was learned. . . .
Ohio State secondary believes it's the first key to success vs. Oregon
In that story . . . .
Mariota also will be the third consecutive Heisman Trophy finalist that the Buckeyes have faced. They've shut down the other two (Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon in the Big Ten title game and Alabama's Amari Cooper in last week's Sugar Bowl) and now face the Heisman winner himself.
"Marcus Mariota, the man is smart," says Ohio State safety Tyvis Powell, who grabbed the interception against Alabama in the game's final seconds. "He makes the right throws. … I feel like the game will be won or lost in the secondary."
They were already planning to battle against Mariota's arm. But what of this glorious news of the moral weakness and failure of the will of one of Mariota's finest receivers?
OHIO STATES REACTION ON HEARING CARRINGTON WAS INELIGIBLE
To the Buckeyes credit, I believe they are entering this game eyes wide open. They respect Oregon, unlike Florida State ("We can handle Oregon. We played Georgia Tech.").
Even though they train in a similar style, they still know that Oregon's speed and pace is legendary. I laughed at this quote from Buckeye linebacker Raekwon McMillan about the irrelevancy of exactly which players are playing at Oregon's relentless pace.
"They like to run around you and make you tired and hit you when you're least thinking about it," McMillan said. "When your mind is going and you're thinking about your fatigue they'll hit you on deep balls and stuff like that. "We have to keep our composure and just not think about fatigue."
Hey McMillan, when you say "not think about fatigue", you're thinking about fatigue. The game hasn't even started yet and you're already thinking about fatigue. So don't think about fatigue. I said don't think about fatigue. You know fatgue? Ya, don't think about it . . . . . fatigue, I mean.
FIRST WE SING. THEN WE BATTLE.
Over the years, I have often found and posted a motivating video with images of hard hitting, charging Ducks to the tune of some pulse pounding music.
Now the Ducks have arrived at this first true and legitimate National Championship. And this time, they're not just happy-go-lucky and glad to be here. This time, Oregon is the team of destiny. We can see how every victory and defeat of the past has led to this moment. Dan Fouts, Chris Miller, Bill Musgrave, Danny O'neal, Joey Harrington, Kellen Clemens, Dennis Dixon, Darrin Thomas . . . . They all gave their lives for this moment. . . . . . .
What? . . . . Oh sorry. I was watching a movie about medieval knights attacking a castle while writing this.* Too much drama perhaps.
Where was I? Oh ya, the perfect song. I found this.
NCAA National Football Championship. Oregon vs. Ohio State
Monday, January 12, 2015. 5:30 Pacific. ESPN
Go Ducks. Let's do this. Get the championship.
We'll talk on the other side.
*I know what you're thinking, and you're wrong. The movie was NOT Monty Python and the Holy Grail.