It's not No. 1 vs. No. 2, it's No. 2 vs. No. 4. In the first College Football Playoff National Championship, Oregon and Ohio State square off at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
The Ducks are playing for their first championship. They advanced to the final in emphatic fashion. Oregon demolished Florida State in the Rose Bowl semifinal, ending the Seminoles' 29-game winning streak in a 59-20 romp. The Ducks set all sorts of Rose records in their win. With Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota leading a dynamic offense, Oregon is in great shape to pick up its biggest win in school history, even with top healthy receiver Darren Carrington lost to suspension.
Despite the more impressive pedigree and history of seven national titles, Ohio State enters as the plucky underdog. The Buckeyes overcame an early loss to Virginia Tech to sneak into the Playoff, but once they arrived, they shocked the nation by taking down No. 1 Alabama. Just like J.T. Barrett did when he replaced Braxton Miller, quarterback Cardale Jones has proved to be a serious threat. In his first two starts, against Wisconsin and 'Bama, the dual-threat completed 30 of 52 passes for 500 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception.
How to watch, listen, and stream
Game time: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN (Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Heather Cox, Tom Rinaldi). You can also watch live commentary by three current head coaches on ESPN2, a broadcast with no announcers on ESPN Classic, and 10 other options throughout ESPN networks.
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Rankings and records: Oregon (13-1) finished the regular season No. 2 in the Playoff rankings, and Ohio State (13-1) came in at No. 4. The Buckeyes hold an 8-0 advantage in the all-time series.
Vegas: Oregon's favored by six points, via Odds Shark, down from the seven-point opener. The over/under is 74.5 points.
Weather forecast: The game's indoors, but it should be about 38 degrees and partly cloudy at kickoff.
Two things at stake
Besides the obvious national championship?
From a conference perspective, an Ohio State win would go a long way toward restoring the Big Ten's football reputation, which has suffered greatly in recent years. An Oregon victory would cap a terrific season for the Pac-12, giving it a solid claim as college football's best.
The winner has a chance to enter 2015 as the preseason No. 1, with TCU among those also in the running. Both teams return the majority of their biggest contributors, albeit with a few like Mariota likely gone to the NFL.
One big matchup
Opportunistic defenses vs. ball security on offense
Oregon-Ohio State is a great matchup with plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball. Both teams can put up points in bunches -- Oregon ranks second in scoring offense; Ohio State is fifth -- and the defenses rank 27th and 26th, respectively, in points allowed per game. Mariota took home the Heisman in December, and the Buckeyes are on their third quarterback who appears to be good enough to contend for the award.
So with two fantastic teams playing similar brands of football, there's a high chance the winner will be determined by which side does a better job of protecting the ball. Both are great at forcing turnovers -- Ohio State ranks sixth in takeaways; Oregon is 10th -- but the Ducks do a much better job of avoiding catastrophic mistakes. They lead the nation, turning the ball over just 10 times this season (seven fumbles, three interceptions). Ohio State has committed 22 turnovers this year, ranking 65th.