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Championship X factors: offense

1/12/2015



Both Oregon's and Ohio State's high-powered offensive attacks are well stocked with stars, and the impact the quarterbacks can have on Monday night's College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) is well documented.

But winning titles usually requires some unexpected contributions, and with kickoff quickly approaching for No. 2 Oregon and No. 4 Ohio State, ESPN.com reporters Chantel Jennings and Austin Ward look at a couple of potential difference-makers for the huge showdown.

Ohio State H-back Jalin Marshall: Whether or not he’s needed to throw a pass, the redshirt freshman figures to play a crucial role for the Buckeyes if they’re going to spring one more upset. Of course, if the de facto backup quarterback is pressed into duty behind Cardale Jones, certainly his ability to handle the offense with a limited playbook would determine the outcome, but Ohio State would rather not test out an arm the coaching staff has called “better than you think.” Marshall has left little doubt the rest of his game has been undervalued. He emerged as a legitimate weapon as both a receiver and a rusher in the versatile H-back role after Dontre Wilson was injured in November, and Marshall's punt return for a touchdown was pivotal in sparking a second-half surge against Indiana. Cardale Jones looked for Marshall in some meaningful situations against Alabama and was rewarded with five receptions for 55 yards, and those totals could go up against the Ducks. -- Ward

Oregon WR/RB Byron Marshall: Marshall has been an interesting player for the Ducks all season. From an opposing defensive coordinator’s perspective, Marshall is a nightmare. He has the skills of both a wide receiver and a shifty running back. He began this season as the starting running back before being moved into more of a slot role, but opponents can’t count him out when it comes to carrying the ball. With receiver Darren Carrington not making the trip, Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost is going to look for those passes to go somewhere else, and the short-pass game is a likely possibility. In that case, look for Marshall to be the recipient. But just to mess with the Buckeyes' defense, he’ll also likely tote the ball quite a few times as well -- gotta keep those defenses honest. -- Jennings