Mariota vs The Machine: Can Oregon’s High-Flying Neon Offence Break Through Meyer’s Ohio State?

by Kolby Solinsky

White Cover Magazine

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Football is a violent game played by awesomely huge men. Each season is a marathon, even though the years are shorter than they are in any other major professional sport we watch. Hockey and basketball’s regular seasons top 80 games, baseball’s ends after 162, and the best soccer players are forced to participate in a never-ending marathon of friendlies, domestic matches, league championships, internationals, and basically anything else the sport’s governing bodies can conjure up. Even individual efforts like tennis and golf have their stars flying around the world to a new exotic venue every week, throwing themselves into the next purse available. The best (Tiger, Phil, any other you golfer you can recognize from their first name alone) gets to choose which tournaments to enter like Daniel Day-Lewis gets to choose his movies. And why? Because those guys can afford it, and they’ll never lose their Tour card.

But like the NFL, college football is a gauntlet. Each division beats itself up; only a couple times a year are schools given a game or so outside their conference, where the husk that remains is forced to go tooth-and-nail against an enemy from a distant land, a weird foe they’ve never met but are made to hate.

So it’s no surprise that injuries are suddenly making their presence felt ahead of tonight’s national championship – the first of its kind, now that the NCAA is using a four-team playoff to narrow down the field and pacify Barack Obama the mob.

But is a surprise, I’d think, at how little injuries have mattered. At least, if the ends justify the means.

Ohio State has overcome the bug all year, leaping over the final two hurdles and reaching Monday’s finale without quarterbacks J.T. Barrett or Braxton Miller. It was third-stringer Cardale Jones who trumped Alabama two weekends ago, only a fortnight or so after the Buckeyes slammed Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten’s championship.

Ohio State’s eyes have adjusted to the darkness, and while most teams are early-morningly blinded by seemingly devastating overhauls to their roster, the Buckeyes have proven themselves primed for survival.

Read: ‘Ohio State, Oregon Title Game Will Crown a ‘True Champion’‘ via Surrey Leader (Jan. 11, 2015)

It’s been a similar something in Oregon this season, although the Ducks are lucky to have had the services of Heisman winner Marcus Mariota for the full 2014 season.

Other than that, though, the country’s most entertaining Tron-like spectacle has had trouble keeping the band together – game-changing running back Thomas Tyner, defensive end Arik Armstead, and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu have missed time or have suffered through injury, and tight end Pharaoh Brown and wide receiver Devon Allen will both be out for tonight’s championship, and maybe much seriously more after that.

And now there’s Darren Carrington, the wideout who punched in two scores against Florida State on January 1, in the Ducks’ 39-point throttling of the Seminoles and undefeated pivot Jameis Winston. He’ll miss for drugs, not injury – but still, the skin of what’s made Oregon a terrifying opponent is being cut away like crusty skin follows a solid tan.

(And I’m biased towards Oregon, but you tell me how the NCAA can suspend a player for using marijuana in a state where it’s actually legal to do so, and you are probably already working for the NCAA. Because only someone that mentally old and culturally detached would work for an organization with values so old and culturally detached.)

But the fact is: both teams got here without either the king (Miller) or his horses (Allen, Brown). And they line up tonight as two teams that have earned their shot, both deserving of the belt.

It’ll be a shame to see either lose – to see either team end a fantastic season without the proof it existed.