As college football’s 2014 regular season is in the books, the first ever College Football Playoffs (CFP) will commence on January 1st with the No. 2 ranked Oregon Ducks facing the No. 3 ranked Florida State Seminoles from 5:00 p.m. EST at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Following that game, the No.1 ranked team in the land in the Alabama Crimson Tide will face off against the Buckeyes of Ohio State, the No. 4 ranked team in the country in the Sugar Bowl from 8:30 p.m. EST in New Orleans, Louisiana.
For the first time in history, all four teams entering their January 1st games have a shot of making it to the National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas to be held on January 12th thanks to the new 4-team playoff format introduced from this season.
So without further ado, let’s take a closer look at these intriguing match-ups…
【2014-15 CFP Tournament Bracket】
Oregon Ducks vs. Florida State Seminoles
With the first game pitting Oregon against FSU, expect the Ducks’ offense to play a fast paced game from the start with Heisman Trophy winner quarterback Marcus Mariota under center. But Mariota isn’t the only threat for the Ducks as they have running back Royce Freeman who had 1,299 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns on 230 carries in the backfield to create a balanced attack for the high-octane Oregon offense. However as good as Mariota and Freeman are, let it be known that they can’t excel without the combined effort of the front line to keep the Seminole defense in check.
On the defensive side, the Ducks defense was ranked 29th in points allowed in the nation. The Noles offense and 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston will need to exploit this weakness time and time again to have a good shot of taking down Oregon in this gridiron battle of teams from both ends of the country.
During the regular season, Florida State’s quarterback Jameis Winston and wide receiver Rashad Green were the 1-2 punch that lead FSU to another undefeated season. Green who had 1,306 receiving yards and twice as many receptions (93) as the next wide receiver (47) on the team will need to step up his game for the Noles if they plan on playing in Dallas on January 12.
Even though FSU finished the season without a loss, they come in as the underdog for the first time in their last 50 games. Whether you check「888sport」or「BetOnline」, Oregon is the favorite to win by 8.5 and 9 points respectively. Can Florida State pull off the “upset” and extend their current winning streak of 29 to 30 games in the process? Or will Oregon and their offense prove to be too much for the Noles to handle?
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
Alabama and Ohio State highlight the second playoff game at the Superdome in “The Big Easy”. Alabama enters with confidence expected of the #1 ranked team in all of college football with quarterback Blake Sims getting stronger week after week. However, as good as Sims has been running the Bama offense, the real superstar on the team is none other than wide receiver Amari Cooper coming in with 1,656 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns on 115 receptions, which is more than three times as many as the next wide receiver (37) on the team. For sure the Buckeyes and their 17th ranked pass defense will have their eyes on playmaker Cooper to stop him from burning the Bucks’ secondary and scoring a touchdown or two in the process.
The Buckeyes and Urban Meyer on the other hand will have to contend with trying to move the ball against Alabama’s 11th ranked defense especially with starting quarterback J.T. Barrett out for the season with a fractured ankle. Can third-string quarterback Cardale Jones put together a second dominant performance in a row and expose Bama’s nearly impenetrable defense in guiding the Buckeyes to victory?
As Jones hasn’t taken many snaps this season, Nick Saban and his defensive coordinator have their work cut out for them as they try to formulate their game day defensive plan of action. In addition to the wildcard of Jones, expect the Bucks running back in Ezekiel Elliott, who had a breakout year with 1,402 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on 217 carries, to create problems for Saban’s Tide.
With「888sport」having the Tide favored to win by 8.5 points and「BetOnline」having them at 9 points, expect the Buckeyes to give the Tide a run for their money early on. But in the end, the Tide and Amari Cooper might be just too talented on both sides of the ball for OSU to overcome and pull off the upset.
The National Championship Game
After years of debate and dealing with the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and its flaws, we finally have a true National Championship game years in the making. The biggest game of the year expects to have the No.1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide playing the No. 2 ranked Oregon Ducks at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. If the card is in fact the Ducks versus the Tide, Oregon will be gunning for the school’s first ever national championship while the Tide will be shooting for their fourth championship in the past six years. If the Tide do make it to the championship game and win it all, is it safe to grant the Tide “dynasty” status?
Wisconsin Badgers vs. Auburn Tigers
In other notable New Year’s day action, the 18th ranked Badgers of Wisconsin face the 19th ranked Tigers of Auburn in the Outback Bowl on January 1st at 12:00 pm EST. The Auburn Tigers started the season ranked fifth but didn’t fair too well in the tough SEC West division ending the season with 4 games in the loss column. While quarterback Nick Marshall didn’t live up to expectations, running back Cameron Artis-Payne took his running game to new heights in guiding the Tigers to eight wins on the season.
The Badgers started the season ranked 14th but due to three losses, one of them being an embarrassing shutout at the hands of the OSU Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship game, they have seen their position drop to 18th in the latest rankings. Wisconsin’s menace to society is none other than running back Melvin Gordon who had a huge year with 2,336 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns. Gordon will need to shine in order for the Badgers to pull out the win against what is expected to be a very much pro-Auburn crowd.
As both teams lost their last game of the regular season, who will come out on top to end their season on a high note? 「888sport」and「BetOnline」both have Auburn favored to win by 6.5 points. In what is expected to be a close game throughout, I have Auburn winning 31-28 when all is said and done.
Baylor Bears vs. Michigan State Spartans
Another match-up of interest pits the 5th ranked Bears of Baylor against the 8th ranked Spartans of Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl on January 1st beginning from 12:30 p.m. EST. As the odd team out of the inaugural 4-team playoffs, the Baylor Bears have a lot to prove to the naysayers who excluded them and instead selected Ohio State to join Oregon, Alabama and Florida State.
The high-powered offense in the Bears are led by senior quarterback Bryce Petty who had 3,305 passing yards and 26 touchdowns while only throwing 6 interceptions. Bringing up the rear, running back Shock Linwood also had a stellar year rushing for 1,226 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. For the Bears to come out on top both Petty and Linwood will need to step up and find a way to expose the Spartans defense.
Meanwhile the MSU Spartans also were a scoring machine this season finishing as the 7th ranked scoring team in the nation. Led by running back Jeremy Langford who had 1,360 and 19 touchdowns and quarterback Connor Cook passing for 2,900 yards and 22 touchdowns to just 6 picks, expect both teams to reach the end zone numerous times throughout this game.
Wrapping It Up
As the 2014 season officially comes to a close, it is safe to say that this year’s campaign was a very dramatic one compared to years of recent past. This year saw the emergence of Mississippi State and Ole Miss in the unbelievably strong SEC West division. Arizona and UCLA brought recognition back to their programs in the Pac 12. And TCU along with Baylor finished as the top two teams in Texas and also the Big 12 for that matter as co-champions.
Will there be just a little more drama before all is said and done? All will be told over the course of the next two plus weeks. Get ready as NCAA football reaches its climax!