Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, January 7, 2015

When Oregon and Ohio State meet in the national championship game on Monday night in Arlington, Texas, each offense will feel like it?s looking in the mirror.


"There are a lot of similarities between the two programs as far as how you go target a defense," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said this week.

These are two spread offenses that are built around a strong power rushing attack. It?s all about making defenses defend the entire field, stretching them vertically and horizontally. Yes, passing is important-but running is even more vital.

In an era that is all about offense, it?s fitting that the teams meeting for the first College Football Playoff are all about moving the ball and scoring. The numbers for these attacks are very similar:

  • Scoring: Ohio State (45.0 ppg); Oregon (47.2)
  • Rushing: Ohio State (262.2 ypg); (241.9)
  • Passing: Ohio State (247.5 ypg); (311.0)
  • Total: Ohio State (509.7 ypg); (552.9 ypg)

?I've watched a lot of their offense,? Meyer said. ?Not to the point where I'm going to make decisions. I give suggestions, because we run similar offenses, a lot of similar plays. Their tempo; and then the thing that, the best player, the Heisman Trophy winner ? I'm glad he got it. For a lot of reasons, I'm glad he got it. I just love who he is.?

Meyer, of course, is referencing Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota, the ultimate do-it-all signal-caller. This season, Mariota has rushed for 731 yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He also has completed 68 percent of his passes for 4,121 yards with 40 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

?I've been around him when he first when he was a young player, I went out and visited and I remember them telling me about him,? Meyer said. ?I think (former coach) Chip (Kelly) recruited him ?

?Was a backup for a while and just a great kid. I think that's so good for college football to see a guy like that who goes out and wins it. Great, great player. Great, great person, great leader, you can tell. Plays his best when it's hard.?

One Big Ten team already got an up-close look at Mariota earlier this season: Michigan State. The vaunted ?Spartan Dawg? defense was torn apart by Mariota on Sept. 6 in Eugene, taking a 46-27 win. Mariota completed 17-of-28 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns with no picks. He also ran for 42 yards. It was vintage Mariota. On a key series in the second half, Mariota was able to avoid Spartan tacklers and make a key pitch for a 17-yard gain that altered momentum and the course of what was a close game.

"We had to stop the momentum and we had him dead to rights and he got out. We had him. I even said, 'He's sacked.' " Mark Dantonio said. "But again, you have to credit him, that's why he's the player he is."

The Ohio State offense has its share of playmakers, even with quarterbacks Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett both out with season-ending injuries. Their loss hasn?t slowed the Buckeye offense, as sophomore Cardale Jones has been a quick-study and revelation the last two games in leading OSU to a 59-0 win vs. Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and a 42-35 victory vs. Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. In those two tilts-the first starts of Jones? career-he completed a combined 30-of-52 passes for 500 yards with four touchdowns and just one interception. He also has rushed for 52 yards.

While many of the aspects of these attacks are similar, there is a striking difference: tempo. Oregon likes to work at a break-neck pace all the time, while Ohio State is a bit more methodical and varies speeds.

"The risk of tempo offense, which I debated for years, you three-and-out them and 24 seconds you just took off the clock. And you're playing a good team, that's not good," Meyer said. "So there's plus and minuses."

But the advantages are many, as defenses may not be able to sub-in defensive personnel for matchup purposes. And the quick pace can keep a defense on its heels and wear it out. Points also can come in bunches. To wit: Oregon has jumped on foes in the second quarter, outscoring them, 235-91. And the dominance has continued coming out of halftime, with the Ducks holding a 166-79 edge. By the start of the fourth, it?s usually game over in favor of Oregon.

"It's an advantage for the offense," Meyer said. "And if you don't take it, then that's fine. But even I know Alabama is moving in that direction. Is it full speed all the time? We're not. But certainly that gives us an advantage at times."

Bottom line: Expect this game to be played in the 30-point range with the winner probably needing at least 40 points to win.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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