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Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott best player on field in CFB title game

LM Otero / Associated Press
Four scores and 246 yards later, Ezekiel Elliott and the Buckeyes were crowned national champions.

In a game littered with stars, it was a 19-year-old running back who shined brightest.

» Social media reacts to CFB Playoff National Championship Game

Ezekiel Elliott was the best player on the field in Ohio State's 42-20 win over Oregon Monday night in the CFB Playoff National Championship Game. He was the clear difference in the game, rushing for 246 yards and four touchdowns against a Ducks defense that was baffled by the run all night.

Elliott's running style reminds me of Fred Taylor's. He was explosive between the tackles as well as outside. He gave the Buckeye's favorable situations throughout game, and was money in short yardage.

He's one of many young Bucks players who should keep Ohio State in contention for the next few years. The Buckeyes might have problems keeping the sophomore around that long.

CFB Championship:
Ohio State 42, Oregon 20

Other players in the game who made impressions on me:

Marcus Mariota

It sounds strange to say, but after being at Oregon's 39-point victory over Florida State last week in the Rose Bowl, and then watching Monday night's 22-point loss, I actually thought Mariota played better against Ohio State than he did in the big win against FSU.

Ducks receivers must have been approaching a half-dozen drops in the title game. In the Rose Bowl, Mariota missed several throws, had one passed picked off and at least one more that should have been intercepted. Against Ohio State, he didn't have the support of a running game and the Ducks couldn't convert in the red zone.

I saw a lot of criticism of his play Monday night on social media, but he didn't really have that bad of a game. The bigger question now is what he'll be at next level. Projecting that takes some imagination.

He doesn't take full drops, which complicates the projection. If he comes out this year, I believe NFL teams will find him to be one of the most difficult evaluations of the last five years. Having seen him live and also studying him off tape, I see an eventual payoff for a team that selects him, but it might be years down the road.

If a team takes him and expects success in Year 1, he'll need to play in a similar system that Oregon does. If you draft him to fit a traditional system, he can do that but I believe it will take a lot of time.

Cardale Jones

When you study the quarterback position you always look for players with exceptional traits. Jones has many -- rare size and arm strength, and he has above-average touch and athleticism. He had a couple turnovers, but I was really impressed by how he didn't let the game get away from him like Jameis Winston did in the Rose Bowl. Jones showed much more poise, and was even keel throughout the game. He reminds me of Daunte Culpepper.

Devin Smith

Three of fastest-rising prospects in Monday's game all flashed -- Oregon defensive linemen DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead, and Ohio State WR Devin Smith. They weren't all dominant but you saw the quickness and range of Buckner, the strength and power of Armstead at the point of attack, and the deep speed from Smith.

Smith reminds me some of Mike Wallace because he is a pure deep threat. He needs time to develop route trees but can take the top off a defense with his speed. I'm eager to see him at the Senior Bowl next week because there will be a few corners there that many wonder if they can really run; we'll be able to see right away when they line up across from Smith.

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.



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