College Football Playoff: Rose Bowl Preview and Prediction

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The 2014 Rose Bowl Game will be the 101st installment of “The Grandaddy of Them All.” As one of two semifinal games in the inaugural College Football Playoff, this year’s matchup between the Oregon Ducks and Florida State Seminoles will take on a whole new meaning. The winner will earn the right to play for the first CFP National Championship in Arlington, Texas, a week later.

Throw out the CFP implications and this game would still be one of the most highly anticipated bowl games in recent memory. There will be a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback leading each team, two rosters loaded with NFL-caliber talent all over the field, and two programs with a combined record of 76-6 over the past three years. Of course, Florida State is also riding a 29-game winning streak and will be out to defend its national championship from a year ago.

Here is a look at three things to watch for when Oregon and Florida State meet in the Rose Bowl Game and CFP semifinal on New Year’s Day.

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1. Will this game turn into Marcus Mariota versus Jameis Winston?

This game will mark only the third time in college football history that two Heisman Trophy winners will be squaring off against each other. Mariota (pictured) is fresh off winning the 2014 Heisman Trophy, and Winston took home the honors in 2013. The two signal callers could also very well wind up being the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the 2015 NFL Draft — if they both choose to leave school early.

Mariota has had the vastly superior season in 2014, but there is something to be said for Winston having an undefeated career record as Florida State’s starting quarterback. Both have excellent supporting casts, but Mariota is a more integral part of his team’s offensive success.

If both teams are able to slow down the opposition’s running backs, which will be no easy task, this game will likely turn into a battle of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks.

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2. Will Oregon be able to overcome the loss of Ifo Ekpre-Olomu?

Ekpre-Olomu earned All-America status and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award before obtaining a knee injury that will keep him out of this game. Unfortunately for the Ducks, not only was he their best defensive player in 2014, but he also would have matched up well with Florida State’s Rashad Greene (pictured), one of the best wide receivers in the country. Expect to see the Seminoles test the Ducks’ secondary early and often without Ekpre-Olomu in the lineup.

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3.  Which freshman running back will have the best performance?

Royce Freeman (pictured) of Oregon rushed for 1,299 yards and 16 touchdowns this season en route to being named a freshman All-American. Dalvin Cook emerged down the stretch for Florida State, averaging 105.8 yards per game and 6.6 yards per carry in the Seminoles’ final six games of the regular season. In a matchup that is shaping up to be an offensive shootout led by the quarterbacks of each team, these two talented first-year ball carriers have the potential to be game changers.

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Final predicton: Oregon 38, Florida State 30

The explosive Oregon offense, led by Mariota, will be too much for the Florida State defense to contain. The Seminoles have yet to face a team with the firepower of the Ducks, and Florida State will likely be overwhelmed by their speed and depth. Look for Oregon to make a trip to next week’s CFP National Championship game in Arlington.