Few teams had a more fearsome defensive line this season than Ohio State. The line’s anchor was sophomore Joey Bosa, who enters the championship game tied for sixth nationally in sacks and is alone at fifth nationally in tackles for loss. Bosa, who still has at least one more year in Columbus, was the Big Ten defensive player of the year and a consensus All-American. But he’s just one member of a strong unit that includes another All-American selection, defensive tackle Michael Bennett, and veterans like junior tackle Adolphus Washington and ends Steve Miller and Rashad Frazier contribute to a group that ranked 13th in sacks per game and 10th in tackles behind the line of scrimmage each outing. The pressure in the backfield was instrumental in the Buckeyes having the fourth-best passing efficiency defense in the country and a top-25 group in terms of 3rd-down conversions allowed.
Oregon plays in a system that usually only utilizes three guys with a hand on the ground in Don Pellum’s defensive scheme. Alex Balducci anchors the center of the line at nose guard, bookended by DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead at the ends. Buckner led the team with 12 tackles for loss and added four sacks, while Armstead is healthy again after suffering an ankle during the October loss to Arizona. Junior college transfer Tui Talia and redshirt sophomore T.J. Daniel provide depth at end, while Balducci is backed up by junior Sam Kamp. Together the unit is the first line of a defense that ranks third nationally with 18 fumble recoveries. They’re an opportunistic group, one that is prone to let opponents get to the second level more frequently than the Buckeyes but also one that can turn the game with a timely turnover.
ADVANTAGE: Ohio State