Had it not been for Cardale Jones, the Ohio State Buckeyes might not even have gotten a chance to play for a national championship. After losing Braxton Miller for the year, the Buckeyes seemed to be set at quarterback with J.T. Barrett. But that was before Barrett went down with a fractured ankle against Michigan. Suddenly, the Buckeyes were forced to turn to Jones to lead them to the final spot in the College Football Playoff. And they just didn't need a win over Wisconsin, they needed a statement.
That's exactly what Cardale Jones provided.
In the Big 10 Championship Game, Jones completed 12-of-17 passes for 257 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He made no mistakes in a game that he needed to be perfect in. As a result, the College Football Playoff Committee rewarded the Buckeyes handsomely with the final spot in the inaugural playoff field. Jones' next challenge? The No. 1 team in the country, the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Jones wasn't as dominant in the Sugar Bowl as he was against Wisconsin, completing 18-of-35 passes for 243 yards with a touchdown and interception, but he did enough to propel the Buckeyes into the title game as Ohio State came out on top in a 42-35 shootout, one that initially looked to be a blowout by Alabama during the first half.
Now, the Buckeyes will need Cardale Jones to pull out some magic one last time. Oregon might have handed Jameis Winston his first (and what will be his only) collegiate loss, but Cardale Jones is a whole different kind of beast. Jones is taller and stronger than Winston with his 6'5'', 250-pound frame. Jones not only has a cannon for an arm (hence the 12 gauge nickname), but he's a physical runner as well.
Oregon will need to put pressure on Jones and when he does get out of the pocket, they'll need to make sure to wrap up and finish their tackles. Jones won't just run around defenders, he'll truck straight through them.
Jones' arm strength is impressive, so Oregon will have to be careful not to get beat deep. In the Sugar Bowl against Alabama, jones threw only one touchdown, but he made sure to make it count. With the Buckeyes threatening to take the lead after initially falling behind 21-6, Jones hit Devin Smith for the 47-yard touchdown pass, giving the Buckeyes a lead they would never relinquish.
Going into the Rose Bowl, there were many questions surrounding how Oregon would respond to the loss of Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. The Ducks responded by holding Winston to his second-lowest QBR of the entire season, forcing Winston to make mistakes. If Oregon can do the same to Jones, they'll be in good position to win the game as the Ducks are among the best in the nation at forcing turnovers.