DALLAS — It’s almost like they already know.
So what if Oregon is favored to beat them in the inaugural College Football Playoff championship game? The point spread has moved, by the way, from more than a touchdown down to an even seven and, now, to well less than that. But Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and the Ducks are the golden boys of this here get-together, and you know what?
The Ohio State Buckeyes just don’t seem to be the least bit moved by that.
Yes, it’s almost like Urban Meyer and his players already know they’re going to be fine here Monday night. Already know they’re good enough. Already know they’re hot enough. Already know they’re peaking at the ideal time. Already know they’re going to win.
“I like where we’re at,” Meyer said during Saturday’s media day. “We’re ready to go.”
Doubt the man if you dare. Doubt a guy whose Florida teams stifled Heisman-winning quarterbacks Troy Smith of Ohio State and Sam Bradford of Oklahoma on the national-championship stage. Doubt the coach who stared down Alabama icon Nick Saban in the Sugar Bowl 26 days after these Buckeyes annihilated Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten title game.
This isn’t about Meyer and Meyer alone, of course. It isn’t about Meyer the superstar coach against his low-profile counterpart, Oregon’s Mark Helfrich. By the way, Helfrich is far more than the caretaker of the house Chip Kelly built. He is a rising star in his own right, an offensive-oriented coach, sure, but one who has overseen a drastic improvement in the Ducks’ defense. Helfrich is the real deal, and his program quite clearly is, too.
“We certainly don’t think that we’re in anybody’s shadow,” he said.
That Meyer fella casts a pretty long shadow. Just sayin’. But the presence of his team — its confidence, its determination, its cool swagger — seems to be growing by the day. Maybe it won’t matter. Maybe Oregon is too good. The Buckeyes, though, believe it’s all about them. They are a living equation: E + R = O. Event plus response equals outcome. That’s their motto, and they expect their response to this event, the first of its kind in college football’s history, to be more than appropriate.
“It’s just on to the next step,” said dominant defensive end Joey Bosa. “This was our final goal and what we’ve been working for.”
Quarterback Cardale Jones — the former backup to the backup — fails to see why he doesn’t belong on the same field as the brilliant Mariota. He is a burgeoning talent with a gigantic arm. How far can he throw a football?
“About 80, 85 yards,” he said.
Is that all? Jones described himself as “calm, cool, collected” and definitely not the least bit rattled by his sudden fame and enormous responsibility. Which merely made him sound like all the Buckeyes.
“They are approaching their business like a bunch of pros right now,” Meyer said. “If you’re hoping to see a bunch of players walk around nervous and tight, I don’t think you’ll see that right now.”
What you’ll see — what we’ll all see — very likely is the Buckeyes at their finest. Maybe it won’t be good enough. Maybe their sky-high confidence will be shot as surely as Florida State’s was in the Rose Bowl. Or maybe Ohio State is on the verge of its best performance yet.
“That’s a possibility,” said linebacker Curtis Grant. “Yes. Definitely, yes.”