CFP National Championship: Buckeyes vs. Ducks
Ben Stockwell reviews Elliot, Mariota and more standout performances from Ohio State's win over Oregon in the College Football Playoffs National Championship game.
CFP National Championship: Buckeyes vs. Ducks
A historic season of college football came to a close last night in Arlington with the Ohio State Buckeyes clinching the national title at the culmination of the first ever College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes scraped in to the playoff field but demolished the top two seeds en route to their first national championship in more than a decade.
A close first half were both defensive lines appeared to have the edge in the trenches gave way to a lopsided second half in favor of the Buckeyes. Ohio State’s offensive line took over and all that threatened Ohio State’s supremacy was their own poor ball security in the third quarter. Once their offensive line got to grips with the Ducks’ defensive line they wore them down and set the stage for Ezekiel Elliot to wreak havoc time and again at the second level of the Oregon defense, finishing the game emphatically with the final touchdown off Taylor Decker’s block.
Oregon Ducks – Performances of Note
Marcus Mariota, QB: +5.4
Breakdown: Mariota got off to the fast start using his mobility to open up passing lanes down the field, notably on the opening touchdown evading quick pressure inside and finding Keanon Lowe open in the end zone when Vonn Bell vacated his coverage early. However, his fine work early in the game wasn’t matched in the second half when the Buckeyes’ physicality took the game away from the Ducks. After his 70-yard touchdown pass on a busted coverage to Byron Marshall, Mariota finished the game just 5-of-13 in the last 20 minutes of the game.
Signature Stat: Mariota lost out on some big plays through no fault of his own, on top of Eli Apple’s force-out, Mariota lost at least 59 yards on four passes dropped by his receivers last night.
Tyrell Crosby, RT: -8.6
Breakdown: One of the stars of the Ducks semi final win over Florida State in the Rose Bowl, Crosby went to the opposite end of the spectrum last night in a disastrous performance against Joey Bosa. The freshman acquitted himself well against Florida State’s defense, working particularly well as a run blocker, but last night when the Ducks were pressed into chasing the game, he was simply outmatched in obvious passing situations.
Signature Stat: Against the Seminoles, Oregon averaged 9.7 yards on six carries off right tackle. Last night the Ducks gained only 7 yards on three carries off Crosby’s outside shoulder.
Team Run Defense: -21.1
Breakdown: The final analysis makes for some grim reading for the Ducks on the ground, whether you go by stats, grades or watching the tape again. The likes of Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner helped Oregon hold their own in the first half, but when they wore down in the second half there was no one to pick up the slack. The inside linebackers struggled in particular, whether they were taken out of the play by blockers or doing the damage themselves by simply over-running the play.
Signature Stat: Oregon defenders missed 13 tackles last night and surrendered 3.3 yards per carry after first contact.
Ohio State Buckeyes – Performances of Note
Ezekiel Elliot, RB: +7.0
Breakdown: Apparently demolishing Alabama’s vaunted run defense wasn’t enough for Elliot this month, he just had to go and do it again. Topping 200 yards for the second time in the playoffs, Elliott took advantage of numerous opportunities to bust into the second level and physically impose himself on the Oregon defenders. In the two playoff games combined, Elliot broke 13 tackles on the ground and averaged 4.3 yards per carry after contact as he drove the Ohio State offense to the national title.
Signature Play: Elliot leveled the game with 4:44 remaining in the opening quarter with his best run of the night. A sharp cut through a tight crease at the line of scrimmage got him on to the Oregon safeties, beating both of them across the field to break up the left side for a scintillating score.
Darron Lee, LB: +5.1
Breakdown: The Ducks would have loved to have had a player like Lee at the second level for them last night. The redshirt freshman contributed in all three phases of the game collecting five pressures (only bettered by Joey Bosa), three stops against the run, and breaking up a pass intended for Dwayne Stanford which could have gone for a big play in behind him early in the fourth quarter.
Signature Play: One of Lee’s positive plays a pass rusher came against Oregon’s left tackle Jake Fisher at Q2 12.39, beating Fisher quickly to his inside and only denied a bigger play by Mariota quickly spotting a coverage bust up the right sideline.
Taylor Decker, LT: +3.4
Breakdown: Much like the rest of the Buckeyes’ ground game, Decker did the majority of his damage in the second half. On occasion he struggled with the length of the Oregon defensive ends, but as they wore down his power was a major factor in Ezekiel Elliot getting so many clear paths into the second level.
Signature Stat: The Buckeyes gained 93 yards and two touchdowns outside of Decker last night, including the final touchdown that he keyed with a punishing block on Sam Kamp.
PFF Game Ball
His offensive line gave him an excellent platform in the second half, but Ezekiel Elliot stole the show last night in a dominant display to cap off a spectacular playoff run.
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Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.