The Ducks destroyed the Florida State Seminoles 59-20 on New Year’s Day as 7.5-point favorites in the Rose Bowl, while the Buckeyes easily covered the spread as 7.5-point underdogs with a 42-35 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl.
College football bettors have had almost two weeks to size up this matchup and have heard from just about every talking head with two cents. But Covers gets the opinions that really matter, from the guys who know these two programs the best.
Before they square off on the field, Ohio State blogger Joe Dexter of The Buckeye Battle Cry and Oregon blogger Sean Larson of Addicted to Quack debate not just who wins the Rose Bowl, but also who covers the spread.
WHY OHIO STATE COVERS
Ohio State blogger Joe Dexter writes for The Buckeye Battle Cry. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter @The_BBC.
More than a Week
We all know how great of a coach Urban Meyer is and the great staff he has assembled at Ohio State. We also know that if you give him enough time, his teams are nearly impossible to beat. Not only is he 5-1 in BCS/Playoff games during his head coaching career, Urban Meyer is 39-3 when given more than a week to prepare for an opponent. His squads have also gone 8-3 during his career against teams that are ranked inside the top 5.
Starting off Strong
Not only has Ohio State been strong defensively this season, but the play of Special Teams has helped pin offenses into rough starts on drives. The Buckeye kickoff coverage unit has limited opponents to starting inside their 24 yard line, which ranks first in the nation. The punting unit has also pinned their opponent inside the 5 yard line three times over the last four games.
Those two factors could make a huge difference in whether or not Ohio State covers.
Shutting down the Big Play
As valuable as the Buckeye rushing game has been offensively, stopping the run has become the bread and butter of the Buckeye defense. What makes Oregon so dangerous this season has been their running attack. Over the last two weeks though, Joey Bosa and company have created havoc up front.
First, it was holding Heisman candidate Melvin Gordon to just 76 yards rushing. Then the defensive front held the Alabama three-headed rushing monster of Blake Sims, T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry to 170 yards rushing.
Meanwhile, Ohio State’s pass defense is16th best in the country and has been devastating down the stretch, holding the likes of Amari Cooper to under 75 yards receiving.
For Oregon to win big, they’ll need Marcus Mariota to explode offensively with the big play. That will be hard to do against such a discipline defense.
WHY OREGON COVERS
Oregon blogger Sean Larson writes for Addicted To Quack. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter @AddictedToQuack.
Marcus Mariota putting the final touch on his collegiate career
Marcus Mariota “technically” could return to Oregon next season. I think the only way that there is a sliver of hope of that happening is if the Ducks lose this game and Mariota comes back with a chip on his shoulder. If the Ducks win, there is literally nothing more Mariota could do for Oregon. He’s already brought them the school’s first Heisman Trophy, and he is one win away from bringing them their first national championship. Should he lead the Ducks to victory on Monday, Mariota can ride off into the sunset to the NFL. Rumor has it there’s a team in Florida with the No. 1 overall pick that is in the market for a quarterback. There’s no other quarterback in the nation I’d rather have leading my team in a national title game. The Ducks didn’t have the quarterback edge the last time they were in this position, but they have that advantage this time around.
Added depth in the backfield
Thomas Tyner is back, and that is a very scary thought. Oregon’s rushing attack was intimidating enough with Royce Freeman in the backfield, but now the Ducks have a two-headed monster behind Mariota. Tyner played a huge part in Oregon’s Rose Bowl win, rushing for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Freeman was relatively quiet as far as rushing yards went in the Rose Bowl (12 carries for 44 yards), but had a pair of key short yardage touchdown runs. Having two running backs in your arsenal is one of the most dangerous weapons an offense can possess. This year, the Buckeyes gave up 24 rushing touchdowns (tied for 90th in the nation), so if Tyner and Freeman duplicate their Rose Bowl performance when they combined for four touchdowns, Ohio State will have to be mistake-free on offense in order to keep up, which brings me to my final point.
Oregon ranks second in the nation in turnover margin per game at 1.43, just barely behind Michigan State’s leading margin per game of 1.46. In their Rose Bowl win over Florida State, the Ducks forced five turnovers (four fumbles and an interception), while committing just one turnover. In fact, Oregon’s 10 turnovers lost this season (seven fumbles and three interceptions) are the fewest in the nation while their 30 turnovers gained are tied for 10th in the nation. Bottom line: Oregon doesn’t make mistakes and they take advantage of their opponents who do. Ohio State is a team that loves to run the ball. Their 629 rushing attempts this season ranked ninth in the nation. But when you go to the run that much, you’re bound to make mistakes and cough up the ball, and you can bet Tony Washington and the Ducks will be ready to pounce on their mistakes. Just ask Jameis Winston and Dalvin Cook.
Join the debate in our comment section below. Who covers in the Rose Bowl: Ohio State or Oregon?