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Oregon's Marcus Mariota next in line of Heisman Trophy finalists Ohio State must conquer to win title
By James Vogel
The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner is next in line for the Ohio State defense.
Photo courtesy of

COLUMBUS, Ohio — They say in order to be the best you have to beat the best. When it comes to Ohio State this season, though, this statement is essentially a moot point.

It is in no way the team’s fault, but if Ohio State wishes to take the final step and be named college football’s national champion it must go through the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner and Oregon Duck quarterback Marcus Mariota.

The thing is, Ohio State’s already beaten the other two finalists for the award — Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon and Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper — in consecutive games.

“We played them right in a row? Wow,” Urban Meyer said Tuesday. “I didn’t realize that.”

Whether or not Meyer was pulling the leg of the reporter who asked the question is something only he would know, but he and Ohio State are attempting to finish the season by taking down the three best players the country has to offer — in as many games.

“It’s been difficult, definitely,” junior linebacker Joshua Perry said of the plight of the Ohio State defense against those great players in the last month. “It’s going to be a big one, obviously, and a huge measuring stick of what we have in terms of personnel, scheme, toughness and all of that.”

It’s almost as if the entire 2014 season has been a measuring stick for the Ohio State football program and for Meyer himself.

First, the Buckeyes had to overcome the loss of Braxton Miller and Noah Spence, two All-Big Ten performers. Then they had to bounce back from an ugly loss to Virginia Tech in September, take down Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich., then beat Wisconsin for the Big Ten Championship without J.T. Barrett, the guy who finished fifth in the Heisman voting.

Ohio State held Heisman finalist Amari Cooper to 71 yards receiving, 52 below his season average.
Photo by Jim Davidson

What next but a date with big, bad and top-ranked Alabama in the College Football Playoff, a team that had the best receiver in the country in Cooper and the nation’s top-ranked run defense.

Now, here Ohio State stands as it prepares to go toe-to-toe with Mariota, the guy who only threw two interceptions in the regular season and has scored 56 touchdowns.

“Going against a Heisman quarterback like Marcus Mariota, I mean the man is smart, he makes the right throws, so it's up to us to read our keys and do everything that we are supposed to do,” safety Tyvis Powell said. “Basically I feel like the secondary will be tested.”

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