The 2020 Ohio State Virtual Season at long last has reached the College Football Playoff, and after Alabama choked away the SEC Championship last weekend, the Buckeyes suddenly find themselves as the No. 1 seed. Be sure to follow LandGrantHolyLand on Twitch and tune in at 8 p.m. ET to watch Ohio State go for a national championship!
Last week, Ohio State got out to a strong start against Minnesota in the Big Ten Championship, ripping off 24 unanswered points after giving up the opening touchdown. Their largest lead of the game came after Justin Fields hit Jeremy Ruckert in the front corner of the endzone for his second passing touchdown of the game:
Ohio State continues its offensive showcase in the second half. Jeremy Ruckert hauls in the TD pass from Fields, and the Buckeyes are starting to pull away in the B1G title game up 24-7 in the third quarter. https://t.co/ZIA9od2KXb pic.twitter.com/tQvveri6NZ— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) October 17, 2020
Minnesota put up some garbage time points, but when it was all said and done, Ohio State emerged victorious by a final score of 31-21. Fields continued his trend of remarkably efficient football by not missing a single throw in the first half, and his performance coupled with Alabama getting doubled-up in the SEC Championship allowed Fields to jump in front of the Heisman Trophy race.
Not only did Fields win, he claimed nearly 500 more first place votes than Najee Harris, and more than double the total votes of second place:
After what amounted to an easy deliberation, the College Football Playoff was set. No. 1 overall seed Ohio State will take on the SEC Champion Florida Gators, while the undefeated No. 2 seed Oklahoma Sooners received the ACC Champion Clemson Tigers as their opponent. Oklahoma has already defeated Clemson in the sim, which means the winner of the 1v4 game will take on the Sooners in the National Championship.
We’ll stream both contests back-to-back assuming the Buckeyes win the first game, so here’s a quick breakdown of what to expect from both matchups:
What to Watch: Ohio State Offense vs. Florida Defense
Though Trey Sermon ended the season as a top five Heisman finalist, we stunningly saw Ryan Day give the start to Master Teague III in the Big Ten Championship. Teague proved the move correct by ultimately finishing the game with nearly 100 yards rushing, but with a full month off before the first College Football Playoff, I would expect Sermon to reprise his role as starter while still splitting work with Teague.
Though Fields’ passing has been exceptionally efficient this season, the greatest strength of the Buckeyes’ offense remains its rushing attack. We saw it falter a bit against Michigan, but Ryan Day certainly righted the ship from both a play-calling and execution standpoint in the Big Ten Championship. With this offense at full sail heading into the College Football Playoff, it’s going to be tough for anyone to stop them.
That said, the Gators may be up to the challenge. Florida held Alabama’s remarkably strong offense to just 19 points in the SEC Championship, and after they lost their season opener against Clemson by a final score of 41-21, the Gators defense did not surrender more than 24 points in a game the rest of the way. This allowed them to run the table the rest of their season and post wins over five top 25 opponents.
Fortunately, the Gators have one of the weaker pass rushes in college football, as their leader in sacks has only posted four in 13 total games. This has often been the only Achilles’ heel in Ohio State’s offense this season, so if the offensive line can protect Fields, the Buckeyes should have no trouble putting up a reasonable point total.
What to Watch: Florida Offense vs. Ohio State Defense
Kyle Trask has led the Gators to reasonable success on offense this season behind a ~58.5% completion percentage and a 4.25/1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Florida also boasts a solid rushing attack by way of Dameon Piece, himself recording nearly 1300 yards rushing on 5.2 yards per carry and 11 rushing touchdowns.
Shaun Wade will have his work cut out for him covering 6-foot-4 Gator receiver Trevon Grimes, who caught 14 of Trasks’ touchdown passes and 73 balls overall for just under 950 yards this seaosn. The Gators are prone to big plays at any moment and it will take the full efforts from the Buckeyes’ front seven and secondary to keep their opponents in check during the opening stages of the College Football Playoff.
Florida posted north of 30 points in eight of their 12 contests following the Clemson game, so fans could very well be in for shootout between two dynamic high-powered offenses. Buckle up.
What to Watch: Ohio State Offense vs. Oklahoma Defense
On paper, Oklahoma had one of the best defenses in College Football this season. They only allowed more than 20 points in a game three times, and they held opponents to single digits in four of their twelve victories on their way to an undefeated regular season. The Sooners’ average margin of victory as a result was over 26 points per game.
But a bit of further analysis reveals why this might be a fools’ gold record of success. Despite going undefeated heading into the national championship, Oklahoma only beat three teams with a winning record all season prior to the College Football Playoff, and their two wins against ranked opponents easily were the closest games on their schedule.
This defense is by no means a slouch, but it also features a similarly weak pass rush to Florida’s as well as a quick but undersized secondary. Given that, Ohio State’s path to victory in the National Championship could very well be through the air, but Ryan Day will hopefully rely on the run game to keep the ball out of the Sooners’ offense’s hands. Given Oklahoma’s defense certainly has a case against it for being overrated, I would expect Sermon and Teague to have considerable success should they get the call.
What to Watch: Oklahoma Offense vs. Ohio State Defense
Contrary to real life, redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler had a spectacular regular season in virtual 2020. Rattler finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy race and at one point seemed poised to take the award for himself on his way to posting nearly 4,000 total yards and 44 touchdowns against only seven interceptions.
Much like Ohio State, Oklahoma also features a dynamic rushing attack by way of Rhamondre Stevenson and Kennedy Brooks, who combined to post almost 1,800 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns between the two of them. Brooks also caught a whopping 44 passes while averaging a staggering 12.5 yards per reception, and with Charleston Rambo poising a threat of his own down the field, the Sooners are almost always in a position to gain positive yards on any given play.
However, this offense has gone largely untested most of the season, and Ohio State’s defense presents easily the greatest challenge it has faced through the entirety of 2020. Oklahoma’s offensive line does boast Remington award-winner Creed Humphrey, but lacks the weakside protection that it likely needs to protect Rattler against an elite pass rush.
This game could very easily end up being a shootout much like the previous one, so it’s going to take a full effort from Ohio State’s offense and key opportunistic stops from the defense if the Buckeyes are to emerge from the Playoff with their first title since 2015.
Follow LandGrantHolyLand on Twitch and Tune in Tomorrow Night at 8 p.m. ET to watch Ohio State in the Virtual College Football Playoff!
We’ll get the stream going around 7:45 p.m. ET, so be sure to tune in before the game starts! I’ll be using the time before kickoff to provide a recap of the season, take a look at which Buckeyes made the All-American team, and brief the other news from around the virtual college football universe.
Go Bucks! We can’t wait to watch with you one last time before real Ohio State football comes back!