The national championship game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, is the result of a new system of determining college football's best team, similar to the NCAA college basketball tournament. However, in this case, a group of 13 former college football coaches and players, former and current administrators, and one former US secretary of State voted on which four teams would ultimately have the opportunity to compete for a national title in football, as opposed to 68 teams in college basketball.
Prior to the national championship game, these two institutions of higher education have met on the gridiron eight times with the Ohio State Buckeyes winning all eight games. Two of those previous contests were the the 1957 and 2009 Rose Bowls. Five of the other six games took place in Columbus, Ohio, between 1961 and 1987.
The two schools reached the 2015 title game in two distinct ways. After a close first half, No. 2 Oregon rolled over third-ranked Florida State in the second half to win the Rose Bowl, 59-20, January 1. Fourth-ranked Ohio State had to overcome a 15-point deficit, then intercept a last-second "Hail Mary" pass by No. 1 Alabama to defeat the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl that same night, 42-35.
Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones is the Buckeyes' third-string signal caller, filling in for an injured J.T. Barrett who was substituting for injured starting quarterback Braxton Miller at the beginning of the 2014 campaign. Jones will be starting only his third collegiate game Monday night against the Oregon Ducks – each of the previous two gradually more important: The Big Ten Conference championship on December 6, then the Sugar Bowl national semifinal contest.
On Saturday, Jones met with the media and said the Ducks may have been overlooked.
"What really stands out is that they don’t get as much credit as they deserve. When you hear about Oregon – you hear about the offense, you hear about the Heisman Trophy winner. You think about their tempo. Their offense is motivated by their defense, because their defense is out there stopping people. The defense is doing enough to get the offense the ball back and put up points," the quarterback told ohiostatebuckeyes.com
ESPN.com reports on a big reason Ohio State beat the Crimson Tide: Third-down conversions.
The Buckeyes were 10-for-18 with two touchdowns on third downs. Alabama was 2-for-13 with two turnovers on third down. The Crimson Tide converted 54 percent of their third-down opportunities during the regular season.
Some of those third-down conversions came by way of the feet of Jones, who rushed for 43 yards in the Sugar Bowl. Buckeye running back Ezekiel Elliott set a bowl game record with 230 yards rushing and two touchdowns, including a 85-yard scoring dash.
Oregon has had some pretty good quarterbacks through its football history. Names like Pro Football Hall of Famers Norm Van Brocklin and Dan Fouts have passed through Eugene, Ore.. But the Ducks' first-ever Heisman Trophy winner, Marcus Mariota, may be the signal caller to lead the Pac-12 school to its first football national championship.
Mariota orchestrated the Ducks offense to near perfection against Florida State in the Rose Bowl. After each team scored early in the third quarter, Oregon's all-time career passing yardage leader directed them on consecutive scoring drives, throwing touchdown passes to wide receiver Darren Carrington to take control of the contest. However, Monday night, Carrington will not be in the lineup. He has been ruled ineligible for the game by head coach Mark Helfrich for what's being reported as a failed NCAA drug test.
The Ducks hope to make up for some of that lost offense with running backs Royce Freeman, who rushed for 1,343 yards, and Thomas Tyner, who ran for 124 yards versus Florida State in the Rose Bowl.
Including their bowl game wins, Oregon and Ohio State are two of the highest scoring teams in college football. The Ducks average 47 points per game while the Buckeyes put an average of 45 points on the scoreboard each game.
As for defense, these two schools are right together as well. In the NCAA ranks for scoring defense, Ohio State is 26th in the nation, giving up an average of 22.1 points per game. Oregon is next in line, allowing opponents just 22.3 points per contest.
For the first time ever, fans across America will tune in to see which school will lay claim to college football's national championship via a true playoff. It has all the makings of a classic encounter.
You catch watch Ohio State vs. Oregon on ESPN, beginning at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time Monday.