Oregon meets Ohio State tonight in the inaugural College Football Playoff finale, and I’m most excited about the ESPN Megacast, which, in addition to the above, includes an ESPN Radio play-by-play broadcast as well. ESPN gets knocked around plenty for doing things like bowing to the will of “partners” like the NFL at the expense of its own journalistic integrity or hosting a platform for grey-matter destroyers like Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith, and Colin Cowherd, but there are times when they leverage their resources to make significant improvements to the fan experience. ESPN introduced the Megacast concept for the final BCS championship game one year ago, and it was such a success that it’s back again this year, bigger and better than ever. In the interim period, other networks have experimented with the concept, loosely defined, in other sports, and I believe this is the way we will enjoy all major sporting events in the near future.
(If at this point you are wondering what ESPN Goal Line is, it appears to be a Briagdoon-like offering that will materialize on your TV sometime today, maybe. Anyway, you can find me tuning into ESPN Classic’s “sounds of the game.”)
As Sports Illustrated graphically illustrated in this week’s issue, Ohio State and Oregon actually were quite close to each other this year in statistical terms. Initially, there are two reasons to question that apparent parity, however: 1) Oregon plays in the stronger Pacific Twelve conference, while OSU spent much of the season feasting on relatively weaker conference opponents, and 2) Ohio State earned much of its production with quarterbacks not named and thought to be superior to Cardale Jones, the man who will be under center for the Buckeyes tonight. It is right to regard Oregon as the better team in this matchup.
There are a number of factors that cut against Oregon’s edge, however:
- Injuries/losses: The Ducks will be without their second receiver, Darren Carrington, who is ineligible following a failed drug test (marijuana). Running back Ayele Forde succumbed to the same fate. (Forde was not a major contributor to the team’s rushing attack, however.) Oregon already was playing without top cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who injured his knee before the semifinal game against Florida State. Their third receiver, “fastest man in college football” Devon Allen, also is expected to miss tonight’s game due to a knee injury.
- Perception: Oregon blew Florida State out of their semifinal game, but a closer look reveals that that game might’ve been a little closer than we all believed. For example, for all their apparent dominance, the Ducks only outgained FSU by 111 yards (Jameis Winston actually outpassed Marcus Mariota by ten yards), and they benefitted from five turnovers. The Oregon defense deserves some credit for those turnovers, of course, but Florida State was known to be turnover-prone, and interception-prone in particular, and only one of those five turnovers was an interception.
- Cardale Jones, the Buckeyes’ third-string quarterback and tonight’s starter has only started two other games this season, but they were OSU’s biggest: a 59-0 destruction of Wisconsin that launched OSU into the playoffs and a 42-35 win over Alabama, thus proving the tweet that launched him into the public consciousness prophetic:
First, you are invited to further augment your Megacast-addled reality tonight by following @ALDLANDia on your twitter-connected machines and thereby receive from us nothing but the hottest and most insightful takes on the action.
Second, in ALDLAND tradition, here’s some pregame reading for your information and enjoyment:
- The BCS is dead they say: Long live the BCS. It amazes me that people are continuing to tsk potential College Football Playoff © critics by reminding them that the BCS would have given us a final pairing of Alabama and Florida State. This is an irrelevant, and probably inaccurate, comment and you should ignore it when people say it to you today.
- College Football Playoff Selection Committee takes credibility hit with Manning departure. The CFP Selection Committee had conflict-of-interest problems from the start, and the mid-season departure of Archie Manning, one of the least conflicted members, didn’t help. Now that Oliver Luck, one of the more conflicted members, has departed, the Selection Committee now has two vacancies.
- National Championship Bingo. As if you don’t have enough to do during the game, SB Nation’s got a bingo card for your pleasure.
- Oregon-Ohio State Preview: Breaking Down the Inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship. If you want something far more in-depth and serious than anything in this post, Grantland’s Matt Hinton is your man of the moment. His post includes some graphics that at a literal quick glance appear to bear out what I wrote above about this being a close-ish game.
See you in the gleam of the Ulticast.