By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
LOS ANGELES – Three weeks of hype, chatter and prognostications are just about over. In just a few hours, the Florida State Seminoles and Oregon Ducks will make history by playing in the first College Football Playoff semifinal. It’s only fitting, then, that the game is played in one of college football’s most historic and venerable stadiums, the Rose Bowl.
There have been 101 Rose Bowl games played since its inception in 1902 (it’s been played annually since 1916), but there’s never been any like this. Whereas previous Rose Bowl winners went straight to the offseason on a high note, this year either FSU or Oregon will be on to the first College Football Playoff championship game in Arlington, Texas.
Alabama and Ohio State, who will meet in the Sugar Bowl semifinal, make up the other half of the bracket.
So, obviously, the implications of this game are huge. There’s the unparalleled pageantry of the Rose Bowl and the first ever meeting between two of college football’s heavyweights. There’s the dream matchup between Heisman winners Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. And, most importantly, there’s the chance to play for a national championship.
There are two outstanding football teams playing in the Rose Bowl, and this is the end of the road for one of them. It should be a lot of fun.
So, with that in mind, here’s an extended look at the players, numbers and notes you need to know before the Seminoles and Ducks kick off.
2015 Rose Bowl Game: No. 3 Florida State (13-0, 8-0 ACC) vs. No. 2 Oregon (12-1, 8-1 Pac-12)
When/Where: Thursday, 5 p.m., Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, Calif. (92,542)
TV/Radio: ESPN/Seminole IMG Radio Network (103.1 FM in Tallahassee)
Coach: Mark Helfrich (23-3 in two seasons at Oregon)
Last game: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota cemented the Heisman Trophy while scoring five touchdowns in a 51-13 victory over Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Ducks avenged their only loss of the season, having suffered a 31-24 setback against Arizona earlier this season.
Last game vs. Florida State: This is the first meeting between the Ducks and Seminoles.
OG Tre’ Jackson **
TE Nick O’Leary *
K Roberto Aguayo *
DB Jalen Ramsey
QB Marcus Mariota **
CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (not playing in the Rose Bowl due to injury) *
OL Jake Fisher
OL Hroniss Grasu
** – Unanimous All-American, *- Consensus All-American
FSU’s recent bowl history
2004 Gator Bowl: FSU 30, West Virginia 18
2005 Orange Bowl: Penn State 26, FSU 23 (3 OT)
2006 Emerald Bowl: FSU 44, UCLA 27
2007 Music City Bowl: Kentucky 35, FSU 28
2008 Champs Sports Bowl: FSU 42, Wisconsin 13
2009 Gator Bowl: FSU 33, West Virginia 21
2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl: FSU 26, South Carolina 17
2011 Champs Sports Bowl: FSU 18, Notre Dame 14
2012 Orange Bowl: FSU 31, Northern Illinois 10
2013 BCS National Championship Game: FSU 34, Auburn 31
One offensive and defensive player from each team who could swing the game
In 2013, Bryon Marshall ran for 1,000 yards as a running back. A year later, Marshall has established himself as Mariota’s favorite target – as a receiver. Injuries among the Oregon offense led coaches to give Marshall some looks as a slot receiver and the move paid off. He’s caught a team-high 61 passes – 20 more than his closest teammate – for 814 yards and five touchdowns.
With unanimous All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu sidelined by a knee injury, Oregon will rely on redshirt freshman Chris Seisay to fill in. Seisay, a former four-star recruit, has broken up three passes in 11 games this season.
Dalvin Cook has already had an excellent freshman season, but he’s become virtually unstoppable. The Miami native set back-to-back career rushing highs in wins over Florida (144) and Georgia Tech (177) and enters the Rose Bowl having already shattered the FSU record for rushing yards by a freshman. If Cook can get going on Thursday, it could go a long way toward helping FSU control the clock and keeping Mariota and Co. on the sideline.
FSU DT Nile Lawrence-Stample is hoping to return from injury for the Rose Bowl.
All indications are that defensive tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample is set to return against the Ducks, which is a huge development for a defense that can always use extra depth up front. Even if Lawrence-Stample can just rotate in for a few plays and allows his cohorts to rest a little longer, it will help keep the big men fresh into the second half.
Total Offense: FSU: 434.7 YPG (40th nationally); UO: 546.2 YPG (3rd)
Scoring Offense: FSU: 34.8 PPG (27th); UO: 46.3 PPG (3rd)
Passing Offense: FSU: 299.8 YPG (14th); UO: 275.4 YPG (31st)
Rushing Offense: FSU: 134.8 YPG (101st); UO: 237.3 YPG (20th)
Total Defense: FSU: 378.3 YPG (50th); UO: 406.3 YPG (77th)
Scoring Defense: FSU: 23.0 PPG (30th); UO: 22.5 PPG (29th)
Passing Defense: FSU: 218.2 YPG (49th); UO: 248.1 YPG (91st)
Rushing Defense: FSU: 160.1 YPG (60th); UO: 154.2 YPG (49th)
“The good thing about playing a mobile quarterback, when you hit him, he won’t be able to keep running for long if you get a good lick on him.” – FSU defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. on playing against a dual-threat quarterback like Marcus Mariota.
“If we go down and score, you have to think it’s (going to be) 7‑7, 14‑14 just because Jameis and that offense will find ways to get back in the game. He’s such a good player that they are never down and out.” – Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota on FSU’s ability to come back and win close games.
“Honestly, I’m kind of disappointed. I never wish anything bad on anyone, being that he is a senior and something tragic like this happened late in the year like that. … At the end of the day, I was looking forward to competing against the best. That’s how I judge myself.” – FSU receiver Rashad Greene, when asked for his thoughts on lining up against an Oregon defense that’s missing top cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.
“You have one of the best teams and one of the best high school talent bases with Florida State out of the state of Florida. They’re always talented. Before I watch Florida State, even before I watch film, I know those guys are good. They’re the best team in the state of Florida, so they have to be good.” – Oregon defensive coordinator Don Pellum on the caliber of football players to come out of the state of Florida.
“I don’t know how that’s possible. Almost 30 games unbeaten – (FSU is) just tremendously talented at every position.” – Oregon coach Mark Helfrich on the Seminoles’ 29-game winning streak.
“I never knew we were favored (before). We’re always an underdog to me. We’re always having to prove something when (we) go on that field.” – FSU coach Jimbo Fisher on the idea that his team is an underdog against Oregon.
Is it possible to think of the Rose Bowl without also thinking of Keith Jackson? This (admittedly lengthy) video has Jackson narrating through some of the highlights of the Rose Bowl’s history. It’s worth a watch just to hear Jackson talk college football and also to see some of the old footage.
And, for a bonus video, there’s nothing wrong with a little reminder of what happened the last time Florida State played in this stadium.
When it comes to the Trickett family, football is in the blood, writes Corey Clark of the Tallahassee Democrat
Dalvin Cook, Royce Freeman fortify historic freshman RB class, writes Dan Wolken of USA Today
From not being able to read a defense, Oregon Byron Marshall has come a long way in 2014, writes Tyson Alger of the Oregonian
Here we are. What started in Dallas has wound up in Pasadena, the same place Florida State won its national championship not even 12 months ago.
FSU vs. Oregon is the kind of matchup the College Football Playoff was designed to create. Between Ducks-Seminoles and Ohio State-Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, it’s safe to say that this New Year’s Day is going to be an all-timer for football fans.
But the Rose Bowl is not the ultimate goal. And FSU’s preseason prize of going “Dallas to Dallas” is still attainable. Just one step stands in the way.
That step, though, is an awfully big one. Oregon is the best team that FSU has faced this season, and Marcus Mariota is the best player.
The Seminoles have yet to play a true, complete game this season. Now would be a great time for their first.
Those same things can be true in reverse, too. Oregon hasn’t faced a team like FSU, either. And Mariota might be the only quarterback in the country who compares with Jameis Winston.
In a game where there will likely be points aplenty, this one could come down to whichever defense can make a stop in the fourth quarter. And then it will be up to a star quarterback to seal the deal.
Winston is 25-0 as a starter at FSU. And he’s usually been at his best when the spotlight is at its brightest.