Overlooked College Football Playoff Championship Game narratives heading into Monday night

By REED NELSON

ncf_e_natchampuni_576x324OhmyGodOhmyGodOhmyGodOhmyGod.

It’s almost here. Like a gift delivered to us by a cosmic Santa Claus with little regard for dates, history, tradition and the presence of Christmas trees, the conclusion to the inaugural College Football Playoff is just days away.

By now, the narratives have been well articulated: In one corner stands Ohio State, a team steeped in blue-blooded college football tradition, championed by a twice all-conquering captain and quarterbacked by a building-sized human being that throws a real football like it’s a Vortex.

In the other corner, waiting like a horse in a starting stall, is Oregon and their rat-a-tat-tat offense, their coach-from-nowhere and the quarterback that is so good at football and life that people have resorted to referring to the latter part of that description as a “weakness.”

Ohio State overcame considerable odds, a couple of injured star-caliber quarterbacks, a recent scandal and a loss to a Virginia Tech team that, at one point during the 2014 season, played the vaunted Demon Deacons of Wake Forest to a 0-0 regulation tie.

Oregon overcame a depleted offensive line, a disappointing October loss to Arizona and a… Nevermind. That was basically it. Oregon’s road to Arlington was relatively smooth, minus the Arizona hiccup, but even that was essentially rendered moot by the time the last few seconds on Pac-12 Championship Game clock were running off and Oregon had a 51-13 lead over those same Wildcats.

Then there’s the Pac-12 vs. B1G thing, the “Where’s the SEC West?” thing, the Ohio State has more practice time thing and the “Last time a school without a championship won a championship was 1996!” thing. Those are all well-tread narratives. This is not a list, compendium or celebration of those narratives. Those narratives are celebrated plenty1. This is a celebration of the unheralded narratives leading up to — and into — Monday night’s Grand Kerfuffle.

Anyways. Lists.

Those uniforms…

Ohio State’s aren’t the worst, but the black numbers — tribute to 1968 or not — are no good. The red-silver-white color combination isn’t the greatest color combo2 in college sports, but it isn’t the worst. The recognizable combo lives up to my own personal Three Color Rule3 that all uniforms should absolutely abide by, the helmet stickers are undoubtedly4 the coolest in the NCAA, and it’s the scheme worn in their last BCS title win (and loss, but still). They shouldn’t be messing with tradition, the same way Michigan should have exactly two uniform combinations. Some teams get to have all the uniform fun and sell a bazillion jerseys (more on one of those teams in a second), and others get to basically exist on reputations died a deep indigo over decades of relevance. You can’t have everything Ohio State, and trust me, you would’ve sold plenty of run-o-the-mill jerseys after you threw a CFP Championship patch on the chest. Don’t ruin classics, especially in a way that doesn’t provide a transformative element. The Packers, Jets and Steelers all have terrible throwbacks, but at least they’re memorable. The black numbers just look like a typo.

ncf_oregon_d1_600x400And Oregon. Oregon, Oregon, Oregon. What did they do?! I am 100 percent aware that uniforms are Oregon’s thing. One “oregon uniform combinations” Google search yields a “50 Oregon Football Uniforms That Changed The Way We See College Football,” an “Oregon Football: 10 Uniform Combinations Ducks Must Wear Again,” a “Top 10: Worst Oregon Ducks Uniform Combinations of All Time” and a plethora of other lists. With the contents of their current uniform closet, the Ducks could allegedly play until the year 3176 without repeating a combination. Sorry. That stat is aggressively untrue. The real number, according to Wired5, is… 2777??? 2777? That’s insane. 3176 wasn’t aggressively anything. The Ducks uniform selection is going to outlast the Earth, Mars and probably Saturn. The permutation possibilities are more complex than the code that built Halo, but I digress.

This is going to be the highest-rated college football game of all time, the first finale to the thing that college football fans have been begging for since the Clinton administration, and relative upstart Oregon is going to go with uniforms that are caught in the middle of an Oakland Raiders-Miami Sharks-White Power Ranger Venn Diagram.

If you’re wondering what that looks like, here’s a visual representation created on Microsoft Word using the “Menu” template:

Screen shot 2015-01-09 at 11.11.03 AMBesides the near-violation of the Three Color Rule — silver, white and black make the cut because the rule allows for little flexibility in regards to counting, but they don’t rank high on the list of preferable combinations, nor does the fishing-line border count for much — the uniforms are essentially absent of school colors. Green and yellow is a historically great combination — the Packers seem to think so — and to shun them for something so boring and desperately futuristic is lame. If they were planning on playing in uniforms that had exactly nothing to do with their school’s stated colors, the storm-trooper getup would have been the only acceptable alternative. Period. Sorry.

Media Day

The single media obligation for the players arriving in Dallas, will feature an already-waiting media crew entrenched in the DFW like the Trojans in the Battle of Troy.

That was way, way overdramatic, but so is the aforementioned Trojan Media Army. Subjects destined to be broached: Cardale Jones’ Twitter account, Mariota’s last game, Chip Kelly, Jim Tressel, Nike, gift bags, “the responsibility of playing on this stage,” how worthy an opponent each team happens to be, Chip Kelly’s weird relationship with Urban Meyer, tradition vs. ingenuity…

We usually learn nothing from a Media Day at any event — at last year’s Super Bowl, Percy Harvin supposedly body slammed Golden Tate prior to kickoff and somehow the hundreds of media members present for the main event didn’t find out until months later — but it’s not for lack of trying on the media’s part.

At this point players are media-trained well enough to lift a hot air balloon, but the fun part about media day is learning who can loose the funny. That’s really it.

The guaranteed weirdness the WON NOT DONE t-shirts will bring

ESPN_OSUvsORE_300x100Nike is offering shirts — set in black with school colors on top — for both teams that read, in classic Nike Impact Black style, WON NOT DONE. It’s kind of clever, but in a that-sorta-works-if-we-need-something-this-week kind of way instead of a that-actually-makes-sense kind of way, and the shirt is probably well-constructed, because Nike makes nice things6, and it looks good, because Nike designs cool things.

The problem with this shirt is that by not creating a distinct shirt for each team, an entire population of WON NOT DONE t-shirt owners will have little choice but to burn their garment on the evening of Monday, Jan. 12. You can’t donate an item like that to a Goodwill, because there’s an off-chance you’ll see it again. And the knowledge that there’s an opposing faction of WON NOT DONE t-shirt owners that can still proudly wear their pre-CFP Championship Game purchase would be enough to put even the sanest, most rational Losing Team WND t-shirt owners over the edge.

The cold, calculated, time-released psychological torture Nike is hawking is absolutely terrifying. Also, school colors.

North Carolina vs. South Alabama: What could have been

Why can’t there be an undercard for the ‘ship? I’m not done with college football, and even if it was a battle of the dregs, with the lone two losing teams left following Bowl Season squaring off for nothing but quantified mediocrity, I’d be cool with it. In fact, I’d be more than cool with it. I’d love it. I don’t really have anything besides that, I just want more college football that matters, even if all that matters is avoiding the title of “Worst Bowl Team.” That might be the hardest played game of the year. Jadeveon Clowney might have even played hard if his South Carolina Gamecocks were picked to play in that game. Might.

Urban Meyer’s last game as the B1G’s unquestioned alpha-male

Following his introduction press conference at Michigan, Jim Harbaugh climbed into the back of his gold-plated Brinks truck, sat down on his chair made of money, punched in *67 to make sure he was invisible to Caller ID and called up Urban Meyer. Meyer answered the phone with a confused “Hello?” “Hello Urban,” Harbaugh said, really drawing out the r in Urban when he said it. “Hello?” Meyer said, once again. Harbaugh responded to the second salutation by breathing like an asthmatic into the receiver on his Motorola StarTAC for 93 seconds. At the conclusion of these planned 93 seconds of asthmatic breathing, he laughed like a hyena and slammed his flip phone shut with authority.

This probably didn’t happen, but I have no evidence of it not happening. On a side note, I have no evidence of it actually happening, but something like a lack of evidence stops no one in 2015. No one.

But in all seriousness, with Harbaugh’s ballyhooed B1G arrival, this will be Urban Meyer’s last game for the foreseeable future in which he is the conference’s unrivaled Top Dog.

Even if Michigan is terrible, there’s always the potential that Harbaugh is going to devise some sort of scheme, say something during a handshake or make faces from the opposite sideline that will eventually result in Meyer grabbing the yard-to-gain marker, tearing it from the chains and chasing Harbaugh around the Big House screaming an incoherent stream of adjectives.

Cue JP from Angels in the Outfield:

It Could Happen

Dr. Pepper napkin brackets

I get that Dr. Pepper could’ve probably purchased multiple island nations with what they spent on their trophy sponsorship, but I’m super sick of Larry Culpepper’s omni-presence during the telecasts. Funny sounds like the way to go, but some variation might have been nice when considering the playoff-conceiving in-game refreshment provider seems to be taking his character cues from Stephen Root’s Gordon in Dodgeball.

Again, those uniforms

They suck. MORE GREEN AND YELLOW, LESS BLACK. NONE OF YOU HAVE BLACK IN YOUR LOGO WITH THE EXCEPTION OF BORDERS. STOP COUNTING BORDERS. IT’S WEIRD. GO WITH THE CLASSICS.

Close games: Yes or no?

Oregon has a weird history with close games. I wrote a little bit about this during Chip Kelly’s tenure, but it hasn’t gotten much better. (Disclaimer: I know there’s a tiny sample size, but the sample is growing, and the results aren’t dramatically changing.)

Here’s a quick breakdown: In Kelly’s time at Oregon, he compiled a 45-7 record, which was good for an .865 winning percentage. He blew out people nearly all the time. In fact, in 52 games he coached, only nine were decided by seven points or less7. In those nine games, the Ducks were 6-3, good for a .667 winning percentage, or nearly 20 percent worse than his overall record. Included in those three losses was a National Championship loss to Auburn decided by both a field goal and one of the weirdest non-tackle’s the sport will likely ever see, but it still counts. Kelly lost some close ones, and his record slips to just 4-3 in games decided by less than a touchdown.

In the last two seasons, the heir to Kelly’s Electric Station Throne, Mark Helfrich has compiled an even more impressive 24-3 record (.889 winning percentage) overall. But in — the admittedly few — games he’s coached in that have been decided by seven points or less, he’s just 2-2.

I’m not suggesting a conspiracy, a lack of anything precise or even a verifiable trend, just the makings of one.

It could represent nothing more than the ridiculously simple notion that close games tend to be 50/50 endeavors and everyone’s won-loss record isn’t going to look nearly as glossy when you take out definitive victories.

But what’s a little alarming with Oregon is how often their victories are definitive, and the seeming lack of pragmatism in close games when their offense isn’t doing Oregon things. It’s also interesting to note, then, that their defense isn’t usually the one to cave in these close games. Of the close games they’ve lost, only once in the past six years has the defense yielded over 30 points — to USC in 2011 — and only one time since 2009 have they allowed 50 points period.

If anyone can carve up the Oregon defense, it’s the heavily Oregon-influenced Ohio State attack, but if the Duck offense can trade blows into the fourth quarter, it’s not like they have a Montana-Walsh track record on potentially game-winning drives.

Other narratives that didn’t make the list

Arlington’s best outdoor dining situations for coldweather weekends; the ludicrous consistency of Urban Meyer’s barber; what would’ve happened if the BCS still existed; the insanity that the DFW would’ve encountered had the Cowboys NOT inexplicably lost to Colt McCoy’s Washington Red Team, thus securing them homefield advantage throughout and creating a scenario in which an NFL Divisional Round playoff game and the first-ever CFP Championship Game would’ve been played in the same venue within 48 hours of each other; funnel cake.

Footnotes

  • Consider this kind of like a CFP-version of Mike Beradino’s Hall of Fame ballot, a casualty of the Championship Game coverage’s own special Rule of 10. Jump
  • That honor goes to, unfortunately, Florida State, followed closely by Delaware State. But, to be honest, the Delaware State pick probably has a lot to do with the Air Jordan V Retro ‘Laney’s’ than anything college football. Jump
  • Any team playing outside of fictional athletic arenas should have a minimum of three colors on their jerseys. White is almost always included, and always counts, so this shouldn’t be difficult. Two-color jerseys look terrible, and I won’t be dissuaded on this point. I’m talking to you Rockets. And you, Nets. Add a third color, join the ranks of IRL uniforms. Jump
  • The sentence almost sent me headfirst out of a six-story window. If I write nice things about Curt Schilling today, I might just have glass and hot charcoals for dinner. Jump
  • And this was in 2012, mind you. Jump
  • I said nothing about how those nice things are made. Literally nothing. I can’t get in trouble for not saying something. Jump
  • There were four games that Kelly lost by more than a touchdown-extra point combo, but that was four times in 52 games. Jump


Categories: Analysis, Features

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