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College Football Playoff Picks 2014-2015: Rose and Sugar Bowl

Blake Sims
Sugar Bowl: 1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes


When Ohio State and third string quarterback Cardale Jones managed to jump both TCU and Baylor for the final Playoff spot, it was met mixed reviews by the college football world. The Buckeyes played in the Big Ten (which has been notoriously down for years), didn't play much of a non-conference slate and lost to a pretty weak Virginia Tech team. Now, the Buckeyes will get a chance to prove those doubters wrong with what would be a pretty major upset over Alabama in a clash of coaching legends, Urban Meyer and Nick Saban. While the loss of J.T. Barrett for the rest of the year spelled doom for Ohio State, Jones filled in a big way in the team's Big Ten Championship game victory, making some fabulous throws en route to a 59-0 beatdown of Wisconsin. The Tide have a defense superior to Wisconsin's and one that will put pressure in Jones' face. A'Shawn Robinson is a 300-plus linemen who has amazing athleticism for his size and could force Jones into mistakes. Though, it isn't Jones who the Tide really have to worry about, it is his weapons around him. Ezekiel Elliott has had a huge year at back for the Buckeyes and gets better as the season goes on. Senior receiver Devin Smith has embarrassed defenders on countless occasions throughout the season, and Jalin Marshall can impact the game in so many different ways, especially on special teams. That offense will certainly be tough to stop, but Kirby Smart and Alabama's defense will be up to the challenge. Not only will Robinson look to make a major impact, inside linebacker Trey DePriest is a leader who can make plays all across the field. In the back, ball-hawking safety Landon Collins will look to capitalize off any mistakes Jones makes, and he will make some. Lane Kiffin has done tremendous things in his one year in Tuscaloosca and he has Alabama's offense humming. Somehow, Kiffin's change to a more up-tempo, spread offensive look has worked seamlessly, despite Saban running a pro-style type look for years. Quarterback Blake Sims has been absolutely fantastic in his senior season, dazzling in his time after waiting for years for this opportunity. Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon, if healthy, will run the ball and challenge an Ohio State rush defense that has had some rough moments. The real challenge for Ohio State will be containing Amari Cooper, who seems to only play better when the stage is elevated. Darian Hicks will most likely be the corner tasked with stopping Cooper, though he will have reinforcements behind him. Hicks is a good athlete with the size and speed to keep up with Cooper in the most part. It will be tough for the Buckeyes to completely stop Cooper, but holding him to relatively pedestrian numbers would be a huge win. OSU defensive end Joey Bosa will play a major role in this game. Bosa is the Buckeyes best pass rusher and will therefore need to apply pressure to Sims, but will also need to help in run support, something he is pretty unfamiliar with. Depending on how well he completes those tasks will be a key point in this Sugar Bowl battle. Few teams can lose both their starting and second-string quarterback and be expected to compete with one of the best teams in the land, but Ohio State is talented enough to hang with Alabama. Though, if Cooper isn't contained or the running game dominates, they will have little chance of an upset. If Jones can limit his mistakes and Elliott and the Buckeyes' other weapons can make plays they have a shot to squeeze out a victory. Unfortunately, stopping Cooper and scoring many points against Alabama might be too much for the Buckeyes to handle.
Alabama, 31 Ohio State, 21

Rose Bowl: 2 Oregon Ducks vs. 3 Florida State Seminoles

Jalen Ramsey
Last year, Jameis Winston was able to win the Heisman and lead the Seminoles to a national championship, doing magical things all along the way. This year, Marcus Mariota has done much the same for the Ducks, except with one major part missing: the national title, which has eluded Oregon since the program's sudden rise under Chip Kelly. Mariota leads an Oregon offense that will put points on the board in bunches. Royce Freeman has rejuvenated the Ducks' ground attack, while Devon Allen is a speedster at receiver. The major change though has been at offensive line, where the return of versatile linemen Jake Fisher has helped keep Mariota on his feet, where he does crazy things. It is hard to get a read on just how good Florida State's defense is this season. While it has had some superb moments, it has also struggled in close wins over Oklahoma State, Notre Dame and Clemson. But, the Seminoles' defense always finds ways to make plays when they need them. Defensive back Jalen Ramsey is among the nation's most versatile playmakers. Ramsey can make some great plays in coverage, in run support or even as a blitzer, where his long, strong frame can bat down balls and get in the face of opposing quarterbacks. Mario Edwards and Eddie Goldman are massive loads to handle as pass rushers and they could also help contain Freeman and the rest of Oregon's playmaking backs in rush defense. While he has not been nearly as good as last year, Jameis Winston is still undefeated as a starting quarterback and continues to lead a balanced Florida State offensive attack. Winston has struggled throughout first halves all year but there are few players in the country that can make some of the plays he makes in clutch times. He seems to come out stronger and more aggressive in the second half and he has made some huge throws this year. The emergence of true freshman Dalvin Cook at back has helped the 'Noles become more versatile and not one-dimensional, which will keep defenses guessing. Rashad Greene, improving Travis Rudolph and steady tight end Nick O'Leary will be Winston's top targets in this one and at least one will have to step up in a big way (like Kelvin Benjamin in last year's BCS Championship Game) if the Seminoles are too pull off the victory. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is a playmaker at cornerback for the Ducks and he will be likely tasked with containing Greene. Ekpre-Olomu has struggled at times but there isn't a better defensive back in the entire nation than him when playing well. Arik Armstead and a plethora of massive Oregon linemen will be tasked with pressuring Winston and forcing him out of the pocket, along with containing Cook. It has been a really weird year for the Seminoles, they are clearly undefeated but if not for a lucky bounce or missing opportunity for the opponent, they could have three or four losses at this point. While the Ducks and their proven Heisman winning quarterback Marcus Mariota are clearly the safer pick, something points to FSU. If Winston can make some of the plays he has made all year in the second half and the defense can pressure Mariota, the Seminoles will be in good position. Too often Oregon has choked in big games and while they might jump out to an early lead, Florida State has the clutch (or maybe just luck) ability to win this game in a thriller.
Florida State, 38 Oregon, 35

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