Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, January 9, 2015

Not all players are created equal. Some are more important than others.

Here?s a look at the five most important players for Ohio State in its quest to beat Oregon and win the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship.


1. RB Ezekiel Elliott. This guy may be the hottest player entering Monday night?s title tilt in Jerry?s World. In the last two games, he has carried 40 times for 450 yards and four TDs with 81- and 85-yard dashes. The sophomore has rushed for over 100 yards four games in a row and eight times in the last 11 games (Heisman Trophy 2015?). It will be vital for Elliott to eclipse the century mark vs. the Ducks, as Ohio State needs to extend possessions and control the ball for long stretches to keep it away from Oregon?s prolific attack.

2. DE Joey Bosa. The man-child is just a true sophomore. But he?s already NFL-ready. Heck, he probably could have gone straight to the NFL from high school. But, he?s here, ready to introduce himself to Oregon. Bosa needs to bring the heat on Heisman quarterback Marcus Mariota. The Duck signal-caller can?t run wild or work unfettered in the pocket. If he does, OSU likely is doomed.

3. QB Cardale Jones. The redshirt sophomore has been a revelation since being thrust into the starter?s role for the Big Ten title game vs. Wisconsin. Some fretted about Jones? acumen, skills and overall readiness. Alas, he has proven to be a quick study, completing 30-of-52 passes for 500 yards and four touchdowns in his first two career starts. Best of all: Jones has just one turnover. Who needs Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett? Jones may be the best third-string quarterback ever. He must continue to protect the ball and maintain his remarkably deft touch on deep passes. And it also wouldn?t hurt for the 250-pounder to truck a few Ducks on runs.

4. ATH Jalin Marshall. The redshirt freshman is the ultimate wild card and perhaps Ohio State?s best big-play option. He can line up in the backfield, at receiver or under center. Marshall also is a dynamic punt return man. Long story short: He?s the type of dynamic, swift athlete that usually dots Oregon?s roster. Marshall needs 2-3 big plays on Monday night.

5. Cameron Johnston. There may not be much punting in the title game, as the points figure to be flying. But when these teams do punt, they must deliver. Johnston is one of the best in America, coming off a big Sugar Bowl effort in which he averaged 46.5 yards on six punts, with two boots inside the 20-yard line and a long of 60 yards. Johnston must turn over the field and make Oregon work long distances for touchdowns when he backs up to punt.

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.

And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.