The inaugural College Football Playoff has arrived and second-seeded
Oregon will face third-seeded Florida State in a semifinal contest in
the Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual on New Year’s Day in
Pasadena, Calif. The Ducks will be looking to topple defending national
champion Florida State, which has won 29 consecutive games. The winner
will meet top-seeded Alabama or fourth-seeded Ohio State in the national
title game on Jan. 12.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was
the landslide winner of the 2014 Heisman Trophy voting and 2013 winner
Jameis Winston is the quarterback of Florida State, marking a rare
meeting of Heisman winners in bowl games. “You have two of the greatest
players in college football right now,” Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher
told reporters. “That makes for great TV and makes for great
competition. It’s what it’s about – getting the best against the best.”
The other Heisman-winning quarterbacks to square off in a bowl game are
2007 winner Tim Tebow (Florida) against 2008 winner Sam Bradford
(Oklahoma) when the Gators won the 2008 national title and 2004 winner
Matt Leinart (USC) versus 2003 winner Jason White (Oklahoma) when the
Trojans won the 2004 title.
Standout Oregon cornerback Ifo
Ekpre-Olomu suffered a serious knee injury in practices leading up to
the contest and won’t be available. The highly regarded Ekpre-Olomu has
nine career interceptions and opposing teams typically don’t throw much
to his side of the field. The Ducks have a plus-17 turnover margin – and
Winston tossed 17 interceptions – so it will be interesting to see what
effect Ekpre-Olomu’s absence has on the game.
TV: 5 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: The majority of shops opened the Ducks 8-point faves, but after seeing the line go as high as -9.5 it’s come back down to its opening number as kickoff approaches.
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “At first glance, the line on this game appears skewed. It’s rare to find defending champ Florida State an underdog, as they have been favored in each of their last 48 games in a row. You have to figure the combination of Oregon arriving on a 8-0 SU and ATS win streak, along with the Seminoles’ continual Houdini act this season led to this spread. That and the Ducks’ 6-1 ATS mark versus fellow bowlers, along with FSU’s 2-7 ATS record against the same, likely justify the spread on the game.” Covers Expert Marc Lawrence
ABOUT FLORIDA STATE: Winston wasn’t as sharp as his Heisman winning campaign as his
mistake-prone ways and off-field conduct drew more attention than his
3,559 yards and 24 touchdowns. Still, the Seminoles averaged 34.8 points
per game and have solid performers in running back Dalvin Cook (905
yards, eight touchdowns) and receiver Rashad Greene (93 receptions for
1,306 yards and seven TDs). Defensively, Florida State allows 23 points
per game and the standouts of the unit include middle linebacker Reggie
Northrup (team-best 113 tackles), free safety Jalen Ramsey (75 tackles,
including 9.5 for losses) and defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. (team-best
11 tackles for losses).
ABOUT OREGON: Mariota produced 52 touchdowns (38 passing, 14 rushing) while passing
for 3,783 yards and rushing for 669, helping the Ducks average 46.3
points per game. Running back Royce Freeman (1,299 yards, 16 touchdowns)
emerged as the season wore on while Byron Marshall had a team-best 61
receptions for 814 yards and Devon Allen added 41 catches for 684 yards.
Oregon allows 22.5 points per game with free safety Erick Dargan
leading the team in tackles (82) and interceptions (six), defensive end
DeForest Buckner compiling a team-leading 12 tackles for losses while
outside linebacker Christian French has a team-best 6.5 sacks.
* Oregon is 8-0 ATS in their last eight overall
* Florida State is 1-5 ATS in their last six overall
* Under is 5-1 in Oregon’s last six bowl games
* Under is 5-0 in Florida State’s last five bowl games
COVERS CONSENSUS: At the time of writing, 57 percent of Covers Consensus users were backing the underdog Seminoles.