USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg breaks down the matchup between Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

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00:03 Among the many story lines for this year’s Rose Bowl

00:05 is the fact that this game pits each of the last

00:08 two Heisman Trophy winners organs Marcus Marianna and sort of state

00:11 quarterback came as Winston. They’re similar in a few ways one

00:14 is that they’re both perfectly suited for the offense they play

00:17 an organ demands that Marcus Mario and it is elusive thing

00:20 makes plays outside the pocket and he’s perfect for that Florida

00:22 State. Is happy with Winston staying inside the pocket delivering the

00:26 ball downfield anymore and I felt like system. Also they’re both

00:29 great under pressure they’re both great leaders and obviously they’re two

00:32 of the most productive players in the country. No production is

00:35 very similar how they go about it however is a little

00:38 bit different markets far go to. Is that his best when

00:40 he’s outside the pocket when he can extend plays kind of

00:43 make plays with his legs. She was once on the other

00:45 hand is at its best v.s inside the pocket and handling

00:48 the pressure and delivering the football this pro style office. And

00:52 players from both teams that we spoke to said that the

00:55 key to stopping each quarterback is forced them to be uncomfortable

00:58 and Mario this case for a state defenders think that if

01:00 they can force him to stay inside the pocket. To be

01:03 less effective for organ. Making Winston role to this left or

01:06 to his right we’ll cut down how well he’s able to

01:08 see the field and deliver the ball was wide receivers. You’re

01:11 as big as this game is and it’s huge it’s for

01:14 the national semifinal on a spot in the championship game. It’s

01:16 hard not to focus on these two individual players don’t have

01:19 to had obviously how each one please don’t determine how far

01:22 his team goes where they can win this game. And going

01:25 to play and Alison January 12.

USA TODAY Sports national college football writer Paul Myerberg analyzes the Florida State-Oregon College Football Playoff semifinal:

Offensive line

Oregon’s patchwork offensive line has survived despite injuries and an early season bout with ineffectiveness. The line turned a corner with senior left tackle Jake Fisher’s return from injury, but the Ducks also have played without All-America center Hroniss Grasu. Time to heal will help Oregon prepare for Florida State’s defensive line. In particular, the young linemen on the right side need the extra practices.

The line that was supposed to be the best in college football has been merely good, not great. Senior Cameron Erving has not been consistent, for one, nor has senior left guard Josue Matias. But senior right guard Tre’ Jackson has been strong, and freshman Roderick Johnson has solidified Jameis Winston’s blind side at left tackle. Just because the line hasn’t met expectations doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a strength.

EDGE: Florida State


Florida State has the best receiver in Rashad Greene, who led the Atlantic Coast Conference in receptions and receiving yards. The Seminoles also have an All-America tight end in Nick O’Leary and a number of promising underclassmen out wide. Few offenses in the country do a better job exploiting weak links in the secondary through the passing game.

Even more so than FSU, the Ducks will look toward a number of targets rather than relying on one single receiver or tight end. But the receiver corps is at its best when focusing on Byron Marshall, Devon Allen and Dwayne Stanford, the team’s three leading pass catchers. Marshall’s ability to transition to receiver — largely because of preseason injuries — after starting his career at running back has given this offense an enormous boost.

EDGE: Florida State


Marcus Mariota brings into the national semifinal every piece of conference and national hardware imaginable, including the Heisman Trophy. His was one of the great seasons by a quarterback in recent memory: Mariota tossed just two interceptions during the regular season, matching that flimsy total with 38 passing touchdowns and another 14 scores on the ground. He is the total package.

Oregon is the only team in college football with the quarterback edge on Florida State. Even if his numbers have taken a dip, Jameis Winston remains among the very elite players in the entire country — regardless of position — and an individual more than capable of willing his team to victory, as evidenced throughout the regular season. And when he’s hot, not even Mariota can match what Winston brings to the table.

EDGE: Oregon

Running backs

True freshman Dalvin Cook’s growth during the second half of the year propelled the Seminoles to a perfect regular season. Cook had 20 or more carries three times as a rookie, including in each of the Seminoles’ last two games; he surpassed 100 yards each time. His surge has pushed Karlos Williams into a reserve role, one for which he’s best suited within Florida State’s offense.

But Cook won’t be the best true freshman running back on the field. That honor belongs to Oregon’s Royce Freeman, the team leader in carries, rushing yards and rushing scores. In reserve, the Ducks can utilize sophomore Thomas Tyner, a supremely talented backup, and will rely heavily on Mariota’s ability to move the chains with his legs. This group will keep Florida State’s defense on its heels.

EDGE: Oregon

Defensive line

Both defenses play out of a 3-4 base formation but spend plenty of time with four down linemen. Both lines are equally large: Oregon can match up with anyone in terms of its size from end to end, and can tout that size along with the disruptive play of juniors Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. The Ducks have added enough depth to roll out five or six reliable linemen against the Seminoles’ offensive line.

The play of Florida State’s line depends almost entirely on the play of junior Eddie Goldman, an all-conference pick along the inside. In fact, it’s fair to make the case that Goldman’s play will dictate the overall production of the Seminoles’ entire defense. As good as Goldman is, the Seminoles’ line has been a disappointment. FSU has only 17 sacks all season, and only 10 of those came from players classified as linemen.

EDGE: Oregon


The play of Florida State’s linebackers has been the Achilles’ heel of the entire defense. Terrance Smith and Reggie Northrup have been far too inconsistent and unreliable as starters, though redshirt freshman Matthew Thomas has provided a boost since entering the rotation in October. In all, however, this is a unit the Ducks can exploit offensively.

The Ducks’ second level plays the run, defends the pass and rushes the quarterback in equal measure. The linebacker corps is at its best on third down, when defensive coordinator Don Pellum can allow senior Tony Washington and junior Christian French to pin their ears back and put pressure in the backfield. In the middle, juniors Joe Walker and Rodney Hardrick have quietly played extremely well all season.

EDGE: Oregon

Defensive backs

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu’s season-ending knee injury robs Oregon of one of the premier cover cornerbacks in the country. Though senior Troy Hill is ready for the challenge of defending the Seminoles’ top target, the injury will strain Oregon’s depth in the secondary. That’s a big story line as the Ducks prepare for the Seminoles’ deep and talented receiver corps.

Of this there’s no debate: Florida State’s secondary has matched every preseason expectation in standing as one of the nation’s best units. It’s a group paced by safety Jalen Ramsey, a wrecking ball of a defensive back whether lining up along the back end, in the slot or rushing the quarterback. Juniors P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby can run with any receiver pairing put in their path.

EDGE: Florida State

Special teams

Even if he lost out on this year’s Lou Groza Award, given to the nation’s best kicker, FSU’s Robert Aguayo is the best at his position in the country. The Seminoles can also tout a solid return game and above-average coverage teams, even if the team’s inability to locate even a satisfactory performance from its punter remains a huge mystery. Aguayo alone gives FSU an advantage, however.

Oregon has shuffled kickers in search for the best formula, though both options, Matt Wogan and Aidan Schneider, have been reliable on makeable field goals. The punting game is average — better than Florida State’s, actually — and the return game electric, particularly when freshman Charles Nelson is back on punts.

EDGE: Florida State


Mark Helfrich is 23-3 since replacing Chip Kelly following the 2012 season, offsetting any fears that Oregon would be unable to maintain its pace under a new head coach. Though Kelly left, the Ducks’ coaching staff has remained the same: It’s the most experienced in college football, going by years served with the same program. Largely thanks to this experience, Oregon’s group has a level of confidence perhaps unmatched by any staff across the country.

Outside of Alabama, no team in the College Football Playoff knows how to handle the prime-time stage more than Florida State. The Seminoles are even familiar with the Rose Bowl, having topped Auburn in early January to claim last year’s national championship. Jimbo Fisher knows exactly how to prepare his team for marquee games in the postseason.

EDGE: Florida State


There’s something to be said for not losing a game in more than two years. Even as teams gave Florida State their best shot on a weekly basis, the Seminoles always had just enough in the tank to fend off defeat and remain in the Playoff hunt. The big question: Can Florida State fall behind by two or three scores against Oregon and still find what it takes to win in the fourth quarter?

Oregon handled its own fair share of adversity, overcoming a run of potentially crippling injuries to win the Pac-12 and earn a spot in the Rose Bowl. Oregon also has one intangible the Seminoles can’t match: Mariota’s unrivaled talent for turning even a broken play into something special. Florida State’s refuse-to-lose mentality still gives it an edge.

EDGE: Florida State

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