Finally, college football to decide national champion on the field

David J. Phillip/APOregon coach Mark Helfrich

David J. Phillip/APOregon coach Mark Helfrich

DALLAS — Ohio State and Oregon will meet in a game that has never been played for a trophy that has never been raised.

The winner Monday night in North Texas can be called the truest champion in the history of major college football.

The first College Football Playoff national championship game matches the second-seeded Ducks and fourth-seeded Buckeyes at AT&T Stadium.

“It's college football history,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Sunday during a news conference with Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, with that new championship trophy sitting in between them.

The days of bowls, polls and the BCS having the final say about who is No. 1 are over. The playoff that fans wanted for so long — and finally got — will determine a champion without a doubt.

Oregon (13-1) and its Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota are in search of the program's first national title, the last remaining goal for a school that has barged onto the national stage over the last two decades with ostentatious flare and flashy uniforms.

Ohio State (13-1) is shooting for national championship No. 5, but the first under coach Urban Meyer, who returned to his home state three years ago to take over a college football goliath that was looking to start its next golden age.

Tradition rich vs. cutting edge.

The Ducks from the Pac-12 raced into the championship game with an emphatic 59-20 victory against Florida State last week at the Rose Bowl.

The Buckeyes from the Big Ten upset Alabama 42-35 at the Sugar Bowl to cap an improbable rebound from an early season loss and injuries to two star quarterbacks.

“This is much more of a business trip, this time around,” Ohio State All-America defensive end Joey Bosa said. “Last week we went, we hung out and had some fun. This week it's all about business; no going out, no messing around. We're just preparing.”

Ohio State has won 12 straight since stumbling at home to Virginia Tech in September.

The Ducks have won nine in a row since, all by double-digit margins, since losing to Arizona in October.

“We've been playing, both our program and Ohio State have played with that kind of early loss, and your back was against the wall to get to this point every play of every game, the entire rest of the season, it was to the those words: do or die,” Helfrich said.

For decades college football's best team was picked by poll voters and postseason matchups were set with little regard for determining a national champion.

The Bowl Championship Series was implemented in 1998, a system designed to create a No. 1 vs. No. 2 national championship game to end the season. It was an awkward and imperfect step in the right direction, often leaving everyone involved unsatisfied. The conference commissioners who ran the BCS relented a couple of years ago and decided to create a four-team playoff.

Here are some things to know about the ultimate winner-take-all-game:

SUPER MARIOTA

Mariota can become the seventh Heisman Trophy winner since 1996 to win the national championship in the same season he won the Heisman. Florida State's Jameis Winston did it last season.

Another victory in what is very likely his last college game would top off a career that can go down as one of the best in college football history.

Mariota has thrown for 10,463 yards, 103 touchdowns passes and just 13 interceptions while winning 35 games in three seasons as Oregon's starter.

“Our No. 1 concern is their quarterback,” Meyer said.

The Buckeyes hope to contain the fast-moving Mariota with a defensive line, led by Bosa, that is among the best in the nation.

“They've got an awesome front seven,” Mariota said. “Big, physical guys that really control the line of scrimmage.”

MEYER'S MILESTONE

Meyer can become the second coach in college football history to win national championships with two schools, joining Nick Saban, who won the BCS title in 2003 with LSU and then three more titles with Alabama.

Meyer won national titles with Florida in 2006 and 2008. A third championship would make Meyer the ninth coach in college football's poll era (dating to 1936) to win at least three championships. Bear Bryant leads with the six he won at Alabama.

MISSING

The Ducks will be down their most productive receiver over the last two games.

Darren Carrington is ineligible after failing an NCAA administered drug test. He is second on the team in yards receiving with 704 and averages 19 yards per catch. He's been especially good lately.

In the Pac-12 championship game against Arizona and the Rose Bowl against Florida State, Carrington had 14 catches for 292 yards and three touchdowns.

Oregon also lost Devon Allen, second on the team in catches (41) and touchdown receptions (seven), at the Rose Bowl to a knee injury.

“We don't have things in our system that it's, hey, we need to throw this guy the ball in this play period,” Helfrich said. “That doesn't exist.”

OH-FER OHIO STATE

This will be the ninth meeting between Oregon and Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won the previous eight.

College Football PlayoffCollege SportsOhio StateOregon

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