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Scout's Take: Key matchups in the CFB national title game


The College Football Playoff Championship Game will come down to which team wins the majority of matchups on the field. Although turnovers and miscues will certainly impact the outcome of the game, the final score will be decided by the play of the stars. With that in mind, here are three matchups to watch on Monday night:

Oregon QB Marcus Mariota vs. Ohio State DLs Michael Bennett, Adolphus Washington, Steve Miller and Joey Bosa

It's tough to imagine a defense coming up with a solid plan for slowing down Mariota after watching the Heisman Trophy winner account for 55 touchdowns with only six turnovers. The spectacular dual-threat playmaker is a maestro with the ball, exhibiting explosive running skills and terrific passing ability on the move. The combination makes him nearly impossible to defend when executing the Ducks' patented zone-read or any of their movement-based passing concepts. For the Buckeyes to have any shot of slowing down the Ducks, the defensive line must find a way to keep Mariota from generating big plays on the perimeter. With the onus on the defensive line to keep the quarterback inside the pocket, Bennett, Washington, Miller and Bosa must own the line of scrimmage and build a wall around the Ducks' most explosive playmaker.

CFB Championship:
Ohio State 42, Oregon 20

Ohio State QB Cardale Jones and RB Ezekiel Elliott vs. Oregon DEs DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead

Jones shocked Wisconsin with his passing skills in the Big Ten Championship Game, but it was his underrated running ability that keyed the Buckeyes' win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound sophomore has averaged 276 yards of total offense in those games and turned it over just one time. With Jones capably moving the offense as a runner and thrower, the Buckeyes have the ability to torment the Ducks on zone-read plays with Elliott attacking a variety of gaps between the tackles. The 6-foot, 225-pound sophomore has rushed for 992 yards since the start of November, including a pair of 200-yard performances on the way to title game. Facing the Buckeyes' dynamic 1-2 punch in the backfield, the Ducks will need huge games from their defensive ends to contain a potent zone-read attack. Buckner and Armstead must drop the hammer on the quarterback on QB keepers, yet remain in a position to run down Elliott on dive plays between the tackles. If the Ducks can discourage Jones from running the ball early in the game, they can focus their efforts on slowing down Elliott as the Buckeyes' feature runner.

Ohio State WR Devin Smith vs. Oregon CBs Chris Seisay and Troy Hill

The Buckeyes' big-play receiver led all players from Power 5 conferences in receptions (16) and touchdowns (10) on passes of 20 yards or longer downfield. He excels at blowing past defenders on vertical routes, yet is also capable of turning short passes into big gains with his explosive running skills. Given his impact on the Buckeyes' passing game, the Ducks' cornerbacks must find a way to keep Smith with tight coverage on the perimeter. Without the services of Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, the Ducks will lean on Hill and Seisay to take turns locking up Smith in coverage. Whether it's in man or zone, the Ducks' cornerback tandem must keep the ball and Smith in front of the defense to keep the Buckeyes from lighting up the scoreboard.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.



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