And so it begins... The first CFP Championship Game will be played in North Texas on January 12th under the lights of the Jerrydome. Our very own Ohio State Buckeyes - and by 'our' I mean the B1G's so deal with it - will be taking on the Oregon Ducks out of the Pac XII. In the next few days, expect a lot more previews, interactions, and predictions here at Off Tackle Empire, because it's time to talk about things like the professional writers we are... which means it's also time to do a potluck. I asked our esteemed writing team some questions and here are the answers I got back.
1. When you boil it all down, it seems like the CFP Championship Game all comes down to matchups. Urban the legend vs. Helfrich the upstart, Mariota vs. Cardale, Bosa vs. the entire Oregon Line, speed vs. speed, Nike vs... uh, Nike. Well, maybe some of the first ones. If you had to pick out your favorite 'matchup' in this game, what would it be and why? Do you see that matchup favoring the Bucks or the Ducks?
Andrew Kraszewski: Well, it's not just Bosa, but the entire OSU DL I'll be paying close attention to. The Narrative's #hottaek on Oregon the last few years has been yeah, they be fast and whatnot, but when they run into big-boy defensive lines, like Auburn's in their last title appearance, the whole gimmicky machine breaks down. Them boatracing FSU took some of the hot air out of that particular balloon, but the thought was always that the best way to beat the Ducks was to be right in the QB's face immediately. Bosa, Bennett and Co. certainly have the ability to do that, but I expect Mariota's agility and general use of magic to carry the day more often than not when Oregon has the ball.
Candystripes for Breakfast: Cardale Jones vs. School (kidding). But seriously, Cardale vs the Oregon defense is what I'll have my eye on, because so far, in two starts as Buckeye QB, he's been nothing short of impressive. If he can keep that trend going (and I have no reason to doubt him right now), it might be enough to secure the win for Ohio State.
Aaron Yorke: My favorite is the uniform matchup. When I saw that Oregon had opted to go without its brilliant school colors of green and gold and instead play the game dressed like a watered down version of the Raiders, I took it as a sign of weakness. Ohio State will be wearing a classic scarlet and gray outfit complete with black TV numbers on the shoulder pads. You can see the upset coming from a mile away.
GoForThree: For me, it's the OSU defensive front. Listening to Oregon fans since the loss to Arizona, the consistent lament has been that they were missing their best offensive linemen. That weakness supposedly derailed the Duck offense and led to their only blemish of the season. Oregon's offensive line allowed 16 sacks in the first five games, but only 14 over the next 7. Their line is back to decent health, but they also haven't faced a front like the Buckeyes. I think Bosa and company have a significant chance to make a mess of Mariota's backfield. If they don't seize that chance, the Buckeyes almost surely won't keep up with the Ducks for four quarters.
MNWildcat: My favorite matchups in this game:
(1) OSUMB vs. OMB.
OMB uniform: Custom Nike black athletic pants with forest green mesh stripe; black, yellow and green long-sleeve shirt; forest green "Oregon Marching Band" T-shirt; black travel jacket with reflective yellow "O" on the back; a variety of baseball caps; and custom Oregon black Nike Free running shoes with Nike+ capabilities
Fuck right off and get a real uniform, Oregon. Yes, fap fap fap, Nike. Congrats. You suck. Other than that...
(2) Meteor vs. Atmosphere. A true battle of the titans.
Jesse Collins: I... I don't know how to follow that. I guess the best matchup for me is Urban vs. Helfrich. In many ways, Urban is the master and Helfrich is just trying to break into the ranks of the elite, but looking at records and such, you could argue he's already there and Urban is trying to reclaim his mastery at the highest level. Either way, the chess match between the two intrigues me.
2. A very interesting subplot has arisen over the past couple of weeks. Going into bowl season, it was all about "every man for itself" in the B1G, but after a relatively strong showing in bowl season, B1G fans - and really Ohio State fans - seem to be more confident than ever that this season prepped them for the challenge of the playoffs. Interestingly enough, an even stronger showing by the Pac 12 has Oregon Ducks fans thinking the same thing. Depending on who wins this game, will there be a noticeable change in perception of these two storied conferences? Or, do you think it's more likely that we're hanging onto storylines because #hotsportstakes.
AK: If OSU wins, The Narrative will desperately try to make this all about Urban Meyer and how he's built an SEC program in the B1G (man is that the most freaking annoying characterization they've come up with yet, or what?). Oregon, meanwhile, has been pretty close to this level for a few years now, so you can put their breakthrough on the shoulders of a transcendent talent (Mariota) if you like. As I said in a comment to Ted's Narrative piece, following this game, the Eye of TFFL turns to recruiting and rebuilding the Narrative via star-counting.
C4B: #HOTSPROTSTAEKS is always the culprit for things like this. I think the Pac-12 comes out of the game in fine shape either way, as they haven't got a national reputation for flopping in bowl season. As long as Ohio State doesn't get blown out, I think the B1G's rep will be improved (FINALLY!), but if the Buckeyes actually bring a natty home, that'll force a significant change in the way people perceive this conference on the football field, and for the better.
AY: If Ohio State loses, there will remain some people who think the Big Ten can't win a championship in the modern era. Even the title that the Buckeyes won in 2002 was partially tainted by a controversial pass interference penalty. A convincing win against Oregon would make a more definitive statement that the Big Ten can compete with anyone else in the country.
GF3: No, but the Pac-12 still fares better with a win. The malaise and outright decrepitude in the B1G has gone on for far too long for one great Buckeye season and some really awesome bowl wins to change that. The Pac-12 has been bandied about the last few years, at different points in the season, as the potential usurper of the SEC's "strongest conference" title. No such love has been shown to the B1G (with good reason). Remember that despite some great wins, the B1G still only went 5-5 in bowls. The Pac-12 has a better record and is viewed as the stronger conference from top to bottom.
MNW: #HotSpr0tsTaeks abound! I have had to spend the last three days on a group text with a Badgers fan, an SMU agnostic who prefers the pro game, and a Montana-cum-Big XII/Pac12 fan who also supports the Blackhawks, Broncos, 49ers, and St. Louis Cardinals. So naturally, the latter fan had the most to say. He's livid that TCU isn't in the playoff and that Oregon even has to play the final against the "slow and boring" Big Ten. So I couldn't give a shit. I need to get better colleagues.
Graham Filler: Probably just hanging onto delicious, click-bait story lines. OSU’s units have all come together tremendously in the last month, with no thanks to the MSU’s and Michigan’s and Wisconsin’s of the world.
HOWEVER. A Big Ten team winning a nat’l championship does a couple of things. First, it stops the #SEC #Dominance storylines and that’s important. Second, it forces the rest of the B1G to raise their game or get trampled on.
BONUS INTERMISSION QUESTION! Since this is the first CFP Championship Game, let's talk about your signature drink for the evening. Because this is the last time we will eat, drink, and watch College Football for a while.
AK: The Cardale Jones Tutorial. Right before the game starts, accidentally spill the perfect game-watching drink you've gone with all season, desperately scrounge in the freezer for whatever liquor you have left over, shake with pickle juice, and strain through the pages of an unused textbook. Be surprised at how effective it is.
C4B: My signature drink for the evening will likely be my signature drink period; that is to say, if I remember the game is going on (damn networks putting all the good sports events on cable), I'll drink a Vanilla Coke.
AY: I need to get more Sam Adam's Winter Lager, because I used up my stash at New Year's. Not going to need a whole lot because the game won't be over until early Tuesday morning on the east coast and nobody wants to go out on a Monday night.
MNW: I will be in Milwaukee, likely on my own couch or at pub trivia, drinking (first) my specialty, the steintini with bleu cheese-stuffed olives, followed by $3 22-oz Miller Lites at trivia. I'll eat whatever I damn well please, thank you, which will likely be olives, followed by bar popcorn. Yum.
JC: The Bosa: A shot of tequila chased with a shot of bourbon. Why? Because it's painful, effective, and you know...
The Potluck Part II will drop this afternoon where we will discuss the two offenses and give predictions for the game.