With a dominating 42-20 performance against Oregon in the national championship Monday, Ohio State may have ushered in a new era – both for the Buckeyes and for the Big Ten as a whole.
“When people talk about the Big Ten, they often talk about size and brawn and strength, but rarely do we talk about speed,” FOX Sports college football analyst Charles Davis said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “When you talk about Ohio State, they may be a part of the Big Ten, but they run like they’re part of – wait for it, wait for it – the SEC. And I know that drives people crazy. But the truth of the matter is, Urban Meyer constructed a team that can run with anyone. And tonight, in this game with Oregon, we had two teams that could run with anyone. I think that was the thing that was overlooked a little bit going in. I know the Alabama win opened up eyes for people. It was like, ‘Whoa, they can really run,’ but then they fell back on, ‘Yeah, but they’re playing Oregon now.’ Well, guess what? Ohio State can run with anyone because they have speed at every position. All levels on the field.”
Indeed, Marcus Mariota beat the Ohio State defense one time – with a 70-yard touchdown pass to Byron Marshall on the first play after a Buckeye turnover. Other than that, Oregon’s speed was not a factor.
“Well it’s because of their speed, too,” Davis said, referring to the Buckeyes. “When you look at Ohio State’s defensive front – speed that they converted into power – that really held them at bay, really negated a lot of what Oregon wanted to do. Going into the game, I kept saying that Oregon is a run-first team. They want to run the football. That’s who they are. And really (they) were never able to get a sustained running attack going, which now means Marcus Mariota’s got to beat you with his arm. He’s good enough to do that, but not when Ohio State has dictated when you’re going to throw the football. It changes your coverage. It changes who’s open and who’s available. They got plenty of heat on him in the pocket, made him move around a little bit. I thought he did a number of things that were masterful that kept it form being worse. He turned some 15-yard losses into 1-yard gains that I thought were magnificent. But all in all, you can’t do that all night with an Ohio State team and expect to win.”
Ohio State, meanwhile, could have a quarterback controversy on its hands next season. As of now, Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones are all slated to return to Columbus.
Which one is the best?
“That’s going to be a very interesting and complex question because No. 1, we got to see who comes back,” Davis said. “And right now, the popular thought is Braxton Miller (will transfer). We know there’s some quarterback-needy contenders out there. I’m going to throw something at you: Cardale Jones is draft-eligible, okay? And I know it’s only been three starts, but you know the NFL is a quarterback game, a quarterback-centric league. And when you look at what’s out there with the draft this year, if Mariota declares, it’s him and Jameis Winston that I think people would have first-round grades on. Cardale jones’ skill set, size (and) arm will make a lot of people do a lot of homework and say, ‘You know something? In a year like this, he might be worthy a high draft choice,’ – and maybe in a place where your quarterback is a little bit older or (hasn’t been productive). There aren’t many that have (his) total makeup.”
In fact, Davis compared Jones to Cam Newton, who was the No. 1 pick in 2011.
“I don’t know what the kid plans to do,” Davis said of Jones, “but I think that he and his family may have a decision to make.”