Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, January 12, 2015

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

We are hours away from kickoff of the inaugural College Football Playoff championship game. This is the cherry on top of postseason structure America has desired for years. So, who?s gonna win: Oregon or Ohio State?

I have picked against the Buckeyes the last two times they have played. I didn?t think with a first-time starting quarterback that Ohio State had a shot vs. a Wisconsin team that statistically had one of the best defenses in the nation. How could Cardale ?I am a third-stringer for a reason? Jones possible beat the Badgers in the Big Ten title game?

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It was too big of a moment vs. too good of a team for a too inexperienced quarterback.

Jones delivered big-time, completing 12-of-17 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in a stunningly dominant 59-0 win. Jones earned game MVP honors in leading the Buckeyes to 558 yards (301 rushing).

Next came a game vs. playoff No. 1 seed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Yes, Jones starred vs. Wisconsin. But the Crimson Tide was a different beast, an SEC behemoth coached by Nick Saban, the sharpest defensive mind in the game. With over a week to prep, Saban surely would devise a defensive formula to cripple Jones.

It was too big of a moment vs. too good of a team for a too inexperienced quarterback.

Jones delivered big-time, again, hitting 18-of-35 passes for 243 yards with a touchdown and pick to go with 43 yards rushing. Ohio State finished with 537 yards (281 rushing) in taking a 42-35 victory that could have been even more lopsided.

That brings us to Oregon, a program with off-the-charts uniforms and an offense to match that operates at a break-neck pace while being piloted by the best player in America in Marcus Mariota. Ohio State has no chance, right? Wrong.

I?m picking the Buckeyes. I?m finally won over by Ohio State. Yes, I love the Buckeyes? talent. And their coaching is off the charts. But it?s the intangibles that make this Ohio State team special.

Yes, the Oregon offense can bury foes in an avalanche of points–and the unit will get its share tonight vs. a good Buckeyes defense. But OSU will get more vs. a Duck defense that isn?t on par with Ohio State?s unit. That will be the difference: The Buckeyes have a better defense and will bleed less in what should be a fun, high-scoring affair.

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Oregon is No. 86 in the nation in total defense and 111th in pass defense. The run defense? It?s 51st. Look for Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott to run for well over 100 yards (maybe get a third 200-yard rushing game in a row).

And look for Jones to have another big night while also limiting mistakes. This moment isn't too big for Jones.

Ohio State 42, Oregon 38.

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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