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THE MATCHUP

Jan. 12, 2015
Jan. 12, 2015

Table of Contents
Jan. 12, 2015

INBOX
NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
  • YES, ROB GRONKOWSKI IS STILL FIESTA, BUT AFTER TWO SEASONS MOSTLY LOST TO INJURIES, HE'S A MORE MATURE—AND EXTREMELY DEDICATED—FRAT-HOUSE HERO. HOP ON, NEW ENGLAND: ROB IS DRIVING THE PATRIOTS' BUS

  • JOHN ELWAY SEES LIFE AS A PENDULUM, A CONSTANT BALANCING OF ECSTASY AND ADVERSITY. WITH FOUR SUPER BOWL BLOWOUTS AND TWO TITLES ON HIS RÉSUMÉ, THE BRONCOS' FORMER QB AND CURRENT ARCHITECT IS SURE HE HAS ANOTHER LOMBARDI TROPHY COMING TO HIM—SO HE BUILT A TEAM DESIGNED TO GRAB ONE RIGHT NOW

GEORGE RAVELING
  • George Raveling, the pioneering African-American college basketball coach, crossed paths with Martin Luther King Jr. on a landmark day in 1963. He came away with one of the defining documents of the civil rights movement

THE MATCHUP

Ohio State (49--37) and Oregon (46--27) each beat Michigan State this year. Those scores and a long list of stats suggest a close final

This is an article from the Jan. 12, 2015 issue Original Layout

SEMINOLES BACKS Dalvin Cook and Karlos Williams averaged 6.8 yards a carry against Oregon, so the 6-foot, 225-pound Elliott should be effective on the ground. (He'll need to make ball protection a high priority, though: The Ducks scored twice in the decisive third quarter after strips of Cook.) Oregon will have a difficult time dragging down the 6'5", 250-pound Jones (his listed weight, which might be a few biscuits low), but if Armstead, Buckner and Washington can beat the Buckeyes' blockers as frequently as they did Florida State's, they can force the QB into costly mistakes. Ohio State, meanwhile, can't expect Mariota, who has thrown only three interceptions all season, to cough up the ball as Sims did. With Tyner (9.5 yards a carry against Florida State) back from a shoulder injury to join Freeman and Mariota, the Ducks' running game will create ample opportunities for the Heisman winner to make plays through the air.

THE PICK: OREGON 45, OHIO STATE 41

OREGON

THE DUCKS crushed the myth that they're soft with a 59--20 Rose Bowl blowout of a Florida State team loaded with future NFL draft picks. Defensive linemen Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, both juniors, and senior linebacker Tony Washington repeatedly harassed Jameis Winston, and an offensive line again led by senior center Hroniss Grasu—who played for the first time since injuring his lower left leg on Nov. 8—blasted holes for backs Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner, who combined for 168 yards. Oregon's pass defense was supposed to suffer after losing All-America cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu to a right ACL tear, but senior Troy Hill handled star receiver Rashad Greene while freshman Chris Seisay and senior Dior Mathis capably manned the other corner: The Ducks forced five turnovers that led to 34 points. Other than an uncharacteristic interception, Marcus Mariota showed why he dominated the Heisman Trophy voting, throwing for 338 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 62 yards and a score.

OHIO STATE

THE BUCKEYES also exposed a misconception on Jan. 1—the one about the Big Ten having slower teams than the SEC. Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott outran Alabama's entire secondary for an 85-yard touchdown that clinched Ohio State's 42--35 win, racking up a Sugar Bowl--record 230 rushing yards on 23 carries. And in only his second career start, sophomore Cardale Jones outplayed second-team All-SEC quarterback Blake Sims. Jones made some decisions that reflected his inexperience, but he passed for 243 yards and a touchdown and ran for 43 more. Ohio State's defense flummoxed Sims all night, sacking him three times and coming up with three picks. The Tide's offensive line struggled against senior tackle Michael Bennett and sophomore end Joey Bosa, who opened gaps that allowed freshman linebacker Darron Lee to rack up seven tackles, including three for a loss.

BY THE NUMBERS

OSU AND OREGON LOOK VERY SIMILAR IN A LOT OF KEY STATS

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TWO PHOTOSROBERT BECK/SPORTS ILLUSTRATEDPHOTOJEFF HAYNES FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (JONES)ILLUSTRATION