The College Football Playoff selection committee announced its final rankings today, naming Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State as the top four.
This afternoon, Oregon Coach, Mark Helfrich, and Floridia State Coach, Jimbo Fisher, began their match-up chatter in a media teleconference. As expected, both coaches commended each other’s team and talked about the honor of playing at the Rose Bowl and of course, in the Inaugural College Football Playoff.
An Oregon vs. Florida State match-up seemed to be widely expected despite undefeated FSU’s position they should have been first in the rankings, which would have matched them up with Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. That being said, Coach Fisher stated he felt the selection committee criteria would develop and become more consistent “as this thing goes on.” He went on to say the match-ups in the top four didn’t matter too much. “It doesn’t matter who you play, they are all going to be good, ” Fisher said.
Marc Helfrich told reporters it was simply a “huge honor” to be in “the same bracket” as the other top 4 teams and that it showed how far the Oregon program has come.
Whether or not the selection committed intended to or not, they managed to create a great storyline for the match-up with the two respective quarterbacks, especially if Oregon quarterback, Marcus Mariota snags this year’s Heisman Trophy, as expected. Winston, who has had made a name for himself in the media, both good and bad, was last year’s recipient of the prestigious award.
Since winning that Heisman Trophy, Winston’s off-the-field conduct has dominated headlines and caused many to question whether on not he should even be playing at all. Nonetheless, Winston has thus far emerged from the season-long controversy relatively unscathed, but did spend 12 hours last week spent about 12 hours over the course of two days attending a student code of conduct hearing, prompted by sexual assault allegations in December 2012. The hearing was said not to be much of a distraction for the team, but did result in practice being pushed back 3 hours to 6:30pm.
Coach Fisher has continued to defend his quarterback and according to USA Today, told reporters that despite testifying in the hearing, Winston had the best week of practice he’s had all year. He even added that moving the practice time was beneficial and caused the program to consider moving to evening practices.
On the flip side, Winston’s counterpart on the Oregon squad, Marcus Mariota, has become a media darling with his on-the-field talent and respectable off-the-field conduct. He is so nice in fact, NFL Scouts have raised questions about his ability to be more assertive as a leader- questions he chooses to answer on the field. Whether fair or not, it could be said that Mariota is the most loved player in college football right now, while Winston is the most disliked.
Regardless of the reputations each quarterback has garnered, both bring a winning team.
“These are two guys that the team has 100% confidence in, whatever they do,” Coach Helfrich said.
Coach Fisher added,
“These are two of the greatest players in college football. This is what football is all about.”
Mariota has lead his team to a 11-1 season, breaking numerous records and becoming the Heisman front-runner while Winston has lead his team to 29 straight wins, a difficult feat and something Coach Helfrich said, “Just doesn’t happen.” Both he and Coach Fisher discussed the difficulties of keeping a team focused long enough to accomplish such a task, especially when you are getting every other team’s best shot each week.
Perhaps what Oregon fans might find interesting, albeit not terribly surprising, is just how little Coach Fisher has watched Oregon play. He said more than once that he hadn’t had a lot of opportunity to watch the Ducks in action, often because of the late game times. He did however say he admired what they did and gave a lot of credit to Marcus Mariota, saying he should be one of the Heisman frontrunner, admitting however he had only seen him play a couple of times.
Also noteworthy was Coach Fisher’s response when asked about the impact the upcoming award circuit can have on a particular player, like Mariota when preparing for a January match-up. Coach Fisher stated he felt it did take a big toll because it takes time away from preparation and being with the team. “It can be a wearing procedure . . .but I’m sure [Oregon] will have a plan for that.”
Yes, Coach Fisher, Oregon will have a plan for that. Mariota will be just fine.
Tickets for the January 1, 2015 game will go on sale Tuesday, December 9th at 11am EST.
Follow Nichole Brown on Twitter @UOgridirongirl