A Disinterested Viewer’s Guide to Tonight’s College Football National Championship

By  · Published on January 12th, 2015

College Football Playoff

There are no movies coming out tonight. There are no major TV premieres this evening. The most likely thing that will be on TV screens around you will be the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship between the Oregon Ducks and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Even if you’re not a big football fan, chances are that you’ll get roped into watching by someone who is. I expect my Twitter feed to be full of movie loving friends who have been reluctantly tossed into the fray of potato chips, buffalo wings and football on television. And not to mention all those people who will end up watching the game for the premiere of the full Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer that’s debuting during the game.

How will you survive this night? As someone whose heart is full for both movies and football (such a thing is possible), I am here to help you with a special mailbag-style Q&A session.

What is football? And what does “pass interference” mean?

Next question…

Why does this game matter?

This evening’s game will be an historic event for college football at large, as it marks the first time the nation’s top division of football has held a playoff at the end of the year. For the last 17 years, college football’s national champion has been decided by a confusing and often derided system known as the BCS. It involved computers, polls and mathematics so befuddling that even the most attuned football fan was usually left frustrated by the end of the year. Now that system is gone and the College Football Playoff is here. It marks a new era for the sport.

Within the college football bubble, this game is also significant because after the semifinal games on New Year’s Day, last year’s champion (Florida State) and the most perennial powerhouse from the most lauded conference in the country (Alabama) were both eliminated by teams that would not be here if the BCS still existed. It leaves us with a game between two of the most exciting teams in college football: the Oregon Ducks and the Ohio State Buckeyes. It’s the highest form of drama that college football can deliver. If you’re into drama, stay tuned.

Also, between tonight’s game and the Super Bowl in a few weeks, that marks the end of football until the fall. So you won’t have to worry about placing filters on your Twitter feed.

Who should I root for?

Now that you know who is playing, it’s important to pick a side. It’s much more fun that way. Think of the way Oscar night is more fun if you’ve got your picks lined up and you’re emotionally invested in the outcome. Otherwise, what’s the point of watching.

The first strategy is to play things geographically. If you’re from the West Coast, as much of our readership is, you might be an easy target to jump into Oregon’s corner. Their conference, the Pac-12, includes schools from California, Washington, Arizona, Utah (hello, Sundance) and Colorado. If you’re into rooting for the local team, the Ducks are probably your most local team in this matchup. Then again, it’s possible that Oregon’s high powered offense embarrassed your alma mater if you went to school in the area. If you went to UCLA, Washington, Cal, Stanford, Utah, Arizona or Oregon State, your team lost to Oregon. Never forget.

For folks who live in the rest of the country, Ohio State might be a divisive pick. If you live anywhere outside the South Eastern area of the country, you’re probably pro-Ohio State. Mostly because you hate the South Eastern Conference (SEC) and their constant championship winning with Alabama and Auburn. Plus, there’s no such thing as a football fan from the SEC who isn’t a little smug about their conference. For this and proximity reasons, folks from the Northeast should be a shoe-in for Ohio State. Though readers from New York or New Jersey who went to Rutgers won’t soon forget that Ohio State beat them 56 to 17 on October 18. Then again, if you’re a film nerd who went to Rutgers you might not have known until now that Rutgers actually had a football team.

Geography doesn’t matter to me. Who should I root for?

Let’s take a different approach to picking a side in this game and compare these teams to current Oscar frontrunners. With the Golden Globes in the books, we now know that both Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and Ava DuVernay’s Selma are still high on the list of potential Best Picture winners.

The Oregon Ducks are very similar to Wes Anderson and his film. They have come on strong in recent years, as Anderson has with Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom and Grand Budapest. They are always interesting to the eye, somewhat flashy in the eyes of many, but consistent in their approach. But they haven’t really won anything. If Anderson wins a Best Picture with Grand Budapest, it will be a nice surprise that will also be the culmination of a lot of hard work. They’ve got plenty of star power and style, which is why they are the favorites.

The Ohio State Buckeyes, like DuVernay’s Selma, are an unexpected challenger. They’ve faced a great deal of adversity just to get here and their program is built on a long history. Not that I would even begin to equate Ohio State’s season to the events portrayed in Selma, but the movie’s path to winning awards is similar: the film has taken an undeserved beating in the press, it’s been overlooked by many and if it wins it will vindicate what a lot of people who really know what they’re talking about have been saying all along. Ohio State is in a similar situation. Their season has been a roller coaster ride. They’ve lost two star quarterbacks to injury, they lost one player in a horrible suicide and no one expected them to be anywhere near the championship. But they are very good when you sit down and watch them. Revelatory good. Well constructed by a confident, talented leader (for Selma it’s DuVernay, for Ohio State it’s coach Urban Meyer). As the Las Vegas line shows us, the Buckeyes are an underdog on the field this evening, but they’ve been battling up hill all season. If you’re into rooting for the underdog, the cinderella story, this year’s Buckeyes team is as close as there is.

That’s all fine, but who are you rooting for?

Movie bloggers don’t often make disclaimers about conflicts of interest, but perhaps this article should have come with one. I was born and raised an Ohio State Buckeye. From my time rooting with family as I grew up in Cleveland to the years I spent drinking away my formative early 20s on High St. in Columbus, I’ve always bled Scarlet and Grey (mostly Scarlet, mostly after falling down drunk). I still have the Anthony Gonzalez #11 jersey I wore while watching the Buckeyes defeat the University of Miami in the 2002 championship game. It doesn’t fit anymore, but I have it.

So if you want to just be one of the cool kids, root for the Buckeyes. It will make for a better story.

Care to make a completely unbiased pick for the game?

Don’t mind if I do. Thank you for asking. I’m going to echo the predictions of my favorite football writer, fellow Ohioan Matt Borcas of Grantland, who predicted that Ohio State will win 45–31. That sounds like a fun game to watch.

What time is this game on so that I can leave the house?

The game airs on ESPN tonight at 8:30p EST. Don’t worry, I’m not judging you. But these guys might be…

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)