If you asked the national media, Ohio State wasn’t even supposed to be in college football’s national championship game.

But not only are the Buckeyes there, they’ve gained considerable favor with the experts.

In early picks for the national championship game, Ohio State already has more media members picking it to win the national championship than it had picking it to beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

No. 2 Oregon is still the favorite in Monday night’s game in Arlington, Texas, in an informal survey of national media picks done Sunday afternoon. With much of the national media holding off on announcing picks until later Sunday or Monday morning, Oregon is the favorite in 19 of the 31 picks we found.

While that might make it seem like the Ducks are the clear favorite, consider that a week ago, 79 of 83 pickers in the national media liked Alabama to beat the Buckeyes in New Orleans.

That’s three times as many pickers having faith in OSU in a little more than a third the number of picks.

Why? Perhaps the impressive display the Buckeyes put together against Alabama is the key factor. Perhaps it’s the mounting injuries and suspensions to key Oregon players.

Regardless, most are now expecting a competitive game. Here’s what they are saying:

• At CBS Sports, its panel of six experts are split 3-3, but its “prediction machine,” breaks the tie in favor of Oregon. Dennis Dodd, Jon Solomon and Jerry Palm all picked the Ducks while Tom Fornelli, Jerry Hinnen and Chip Patterson all favored the Buckeyes.

• At SB Nation, five of eight picks went for Oregon, including Bud Elliot, Steven Godfrey, Spencer Hall, Peter Volk and Jason Kirk. Matt Brown, Bill Connelly and Luke Zimmerman all liked Ohio State. Dan Rubenstein picked Oregon in a separate feature.

• ESPN’s expert predictions have not come out yet, but its Football Power index calculates Oregon as the favorite with a 62 percent chance of winning. Online writers K.C. Joyner, Steve Coughlin and Chris Fallica all agree that Ohio State is their pick.

• Yahoo! has not had a picks feature, per se, but Pat Forde made his pick public on Twitter (Oregon), though he noted he hasn’t had much luck picking against the Buckeyes this year.

• Bleacher Report had a trio of experts pick and two of the three — Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer — picked Oregon while Michael Felder went with the Buckeyes. In a separate feature, Brian Pederson picked Oregon.

• Athlon Sports had four pickers and they split, 2-2, with Mark Ross and David Fox picking the Ducks, but with Mitch Light and Steven Lassan going with Ohio State.

• Could Oregon be jinxed? Not only did Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples pick the Ducks, but the pick was the cover of the magazine.

• At Fox Sports, Clay Travis picked the Ducks to win the title.

As for my pick:

I’ve been an Oregon guy since roughly early November, when it became apparent that they had worked out the kinks in their injury-riddled offensive line and were playing dominant football.

That’s still the case today. The bottom line is that the best player in college football, Marcus Mariota, touches the ball on every play for the Ducks on offense (with Oregon’s up-tempo offense, that’s a lot of plays) and even though he lost some key receivers, it’s not as though Oregon has a singularly dominant receiver in the mold of, say, Amari Cooper at Alabama.

I liked the way Oregon was able to cover Florida State’s receivers in the Rose Bowl, even without the injured Ifo Ekpre-Olomu in the secondary. As fast as Ohio State is, I still think Oregon is a little faster.

At the end, nobody has an answer for Mariota. If you don’t pressure him, he’s accurate enough to pick you apart. If you do pressure him, it almost works against you because he can extend plays and turn a quarterback pressure into a big play down the field.

He’s a threat on the ground, especially with his outside speed complementing perfectly by 230-pound Royce Freeman’s inside running.

If Oregon plays well, especially offensively, I don’t think anybody — including Ohio State — can stop the Ducks. And that wins the day. … Oregon, 34-28

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