Jan. 1 marked the beginning of more than just a new year; the inaugural college football playoffs took place, and they did not disappoint. In the biggest surprise of the day, an Ohio State team that many believed did not belong in the top four, took the field to prove it deserved to be there. And it did. The Buckeyes scored 42 points against the No. 1 team in the nation, Alabama, and advanced to the National Championship with a 42-35 win in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Third-string quarterback Cardale Jones — only making his second collegiate start — led the Buckeyes, completing 18 of 35 pass attempts for 243 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Running back Ezekiel Elliot ran for 230 yards on 20 carries and scored two touchdowns, including a dominating 85-yard run with 3:24 left in the clock, which sent the team to the championship game.
The Buckeyes’ opponent in the National Title game came from the semi-final matchup between the Oregon Ducks and the undefeated Florida State Seminoles, in the Rose Bowl earlier in the day.
Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and the Ducks routed the Seminoles 59-20 — snapping the FSU 29-game winning streak. Mariota threw for 338 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the win. Royce Freeman, Thomas Tyner and Darren Carrington all scored two touchdowns apiece; Tyner led the team in rushing with 124 yards, while Carrington led in receiving with 165 yards.
The Ducks and Buckeyes will meet in the College Football Playoff Championship presented by AT&T on Jan. 12 in Arlington, Texas. It’s a matchup between two teams that would not have gotten the chance at a title if it weren’t for the playoff system. The usual BCS system would have had No. 1 Alabama and the undefeated Florida State face off for the BCS National Championship.
"Obviously, we're really thankful for the playoff system," said Elliott. "They gave us a chance to go out there and show that we're one of the better teams in the nation and we deserve to be in the national championship. So I think the playoff system definitely helped."