College football playoff is a home run
Well, that was fun.
The first-ever college football playoff started with a bang on the field and a ratings-record bonanza for ESPN.
Oregon and its high-flying offense destroyed defending national champion Florida State, 59-20, while Ohio State pulled off the upset over Alabama, 42-35, after an auspicious start.
Now, Oregon and Ohio State square off on Monday in the national championship game in Dallas.
As for ESPN, 28.2 million viewers watched the Ducks roll Florida State in the Rose Bowl, and 28.3 million tuned in for the night cap between the Buckeyes and Crimson Tide. According to CNN, those numbers make the semifinal games the two most watched broadcasts in cable TV history.
Cue the cash machine.
Despite the dollar signs swirling in the executive circles, fans will be treated to the first-ever playoff national title game.
Oregon rides its Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota, who shredded the Seminoles for 338 passing yards and two touchdowns.
But the Ducks aren’t a one-man show. Running back Thomas Tyner added 124 yards on the ground and receiver Darren Carrington had 165.
Oregon’s defense, though, showed a bend but don’t break mentality in the semifinal. The first half was ugly as Florida State drove the field at will, but the Ducks forced field goals.
In the second half, Oregon was opportunistic forcing four turnovers to turn the tide of the game.
That is why the Ducks are so dangerous. If the defense forces a punt, turnover or field goal, the offense typically rolls right down the field and scores a touchdown.
It’s what led to 27-7 run in the third quarter to turn a close game into a blowout.
Ohio State, meanwhile, started sloppy with a pair of field goals and was on the precipice of being run out of the Sugar Bowl.
Behind third-string quarterback Cardale Jones, the Buckeyes turned the tide on Alabama. Ohio State manhandled the Crimson Tide up front and running back Ezekiel Elliot ran for a Sugar Bowl-record 230 yards.
The Buckeyes’ defense calmed down after the first quarter and did enough to hold off Alabama’s potent offense.
Ohio State, though, was the better, faster team and it showed on the field.
Now, two similar opponents meet on Monday.
It could be 52-49 game with how each team scores at will, while neither defense is world beaters.
In the end, it will come down to turnovers and which defense can make a stop when needed.
Mariota’s sterling year appears as if the stars have aligned for the best player in the country to add another trophy to his mantle.
Oregon 48, Ohio State 37.
Steve Puterski is the sports editor for the Lahontan Valley News and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.