College playoff offers big-time games
Tomorrow marks the start of history for college football.
Well, at least at the Division I level.
The first-ever playoff commences when No. 1 Alabama battles No. 4 Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, while No. 2 Oregon faces No. 3 Florida State in the Rose Bowl.
The games are the sports coronation into a brave new world, and one that culminates Jan. 12 in Arlington, Texas for the national championship.
New Year’s Day used to be chalked full of bowl games from morning until night. Now, it has a handful of games as ESPN gobbled up the rights to nearly every game, created many more that stink and stretched them out over nearly a month.
Now we can cut through the bull and pay attention to games that matter.
Ratings should be through the roof and once the numbers are in and up over the traditional bowl games, college football will realize how much more money it can grab with an extended playoff, but I digress.
Alabama and Ohio State represent two of the traditional powerhouse programs in the country. The Crimson Tide are rolling behind an offense that can score at will led by a receiver of all positions.
Amari Cooper leads the lethal offense with 104 receptions for 1,736 yards and 15 touchdowns and was Heisman Trophy finalist. His partner in crime is quarterback Blake Sims, who has thrown for 3,250 yards, 26 TDs and only seven interceptions. The duo has formed to be one of the country’s best tandems and Ohio State must match those two on the defensive side.
The Buckeyes slipped into the playoff after blasting Wisconsin, 59-0, in the Big Ten title game behind third-string quarterback Cardale Jones.
Although Jones may be the heir apparent in Columbus, can he overcome the nasty Alabama defense in only his second-career start? The Crimson Tide defense is No. 4 in scoring at 16.6 points per game and has had weeks to prepare.
The pick: Alabama 34, Ohio State 16
In a battle of Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston should light up the scoreboard.
Mariota has been nearly unstoppable his entire career for the Ducks and downright nasty this season. He’s tossed for 3.783 yards, 38 TDs and just two picks.
He can throw and run and throw on the run making him the best player in college football. Mariota is smart and poised and takes advantage of the light-speed pace the Ducks use to run their offense. He’s also won the Rose Bowl before, just like his counterpart.
Winston, well, is a lighting-rod for controversy, to put it mildly. Despite his actions, the red-shirt sophomore has never lost a start in college and led the Seminoles to the national title last season.
The team, though, was hit hard by graduation and players moving on to the NFL. Florida State still managed to find a way to remain unbeaten this season, but the defense isn’t nearly what it was last year.
The pick: Oregon 41, Florida State 30
Steve Puterski is the sports editor for the Lahontan Valley News and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.