02:07 - Source: CNN
The new National Championship game is here!

Story highlights

Monday's national championship game first in new playoff system

It's a matchup of Heisman winner versus a third-string quarterback

Oregon and Ohio State played in first men's hoops championship

CNN —  

No. 2 Oregon will square off against No. 4 Ohio State for the national championship on Monday night. But this isn’t like any other college football national title game from years’ past. This is the first one that will be decided through a playoff system.

Here is the what-you-need-to-know information about this game and how the teams got there.

1. This game is historic for college football

For the first time ever, the highest level of college football has a playoff system, something the fans and media have desired for years. This is the first year of the College Football Playoff, a four-team playoff that consists of two national semifinal games and a final.

The top four seeds were, in order, Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State. The teams were selected by a committee. The College Football Playoff, which replaces the Bowl Championship Series, runs for 12 years through the 2025 season.

Despite the change, the bowl-game structure is still in place. No. 2 Oregon routed No. 3 Florida State 59-20 in the Rose Bowl in the first semifinal, while No. 4 Ohio State upset No. 1 Alabama 42-35 in the Sugar Bowl, the second semifinal. Oregon and Ohio State will play for the national championship at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

There is other history to consider. Coincidentally, the first time that men’s college basketball had a national championship game, back in 1939, the two teams were Oregon and Ohio State. The Ducks won that game against the Buckeyes, 46-33, on Northwestern’s campus in Evanston, Illinois.

But with Oregon’s super-fast-paced offense – and Ohio State’s ability to go high tempo as well – there is a chance the football game might have an even higher score.

2. Historic for TV, too

ESPN ponied up $7.3 billion – that’s billion with a “B” – for the rights to broadcast the College Football Playoff for 12 years. It’s an investment that already seems to be paying off, as the semifinals set records for cable TV.

According to ESPN, 28.2 million viewers tuned in to watch Oregon defeat Florida State in the Rose Bowl. The Sugar Bowl, in which Ohio State shocked Alabama, attracted 28.3 million viewers. Both of those games were the highest-rated shows in cable TV history.

Compared to last year, the Sugar Bowl saw a 130 percent ratings’ increase, while the Rose Bowl increased by 45 percent. Expect record-breaking numbers for Oregon vs. Ohio State.

3. This game is such a big deal, cities are adjusting their names

At least in Ohio, anyway. The city of Oregon, which is near Toledo, announced it would be known as “Oregon, Ohio Buckeyes on the Bay, City of Duck Hunters.” The new name is a play on the city’s “Oregon on the Bay, City of Opportunity” slogan.

Additionally, Urbana, Ohio, elected a temporary name change, announcing on Facebook it would drop the “a” and become “Urban” in support of the Buckeyes and their coach, Urban Meyer. When asked for his reaction, Meyer said, “Wow. That’s very nice.”

It doesn’t appear that there are any name changes in the works in the state of Oregon, but the fandom at times still borderlines on religious, particularly for the Ducks’ star player, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Earlier this season, a student from O’Hara Catholic School in Eugene informed Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich the talk around the school: “There’s Jesus, there’s girls, and there’s Marcus Mariota.”

Helfrich couldn’t help but laugh. “We’ve got a poster in the works,” he joked.

4. Unlikely story: Heisman Trophy winner vs. a third-string quarterback

Talk about different circumstances.

Oregon has been hovering around the top of the college rootball rankings all season, led by the quiet and calm Mariota. Aside from an upset loss to Arizona, Oregon has been steady all season with Mariota running the offense. This season, the junior has completed 68.6% of his passes, throwing for 40 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

Meanwhile, Ohio State’s season looked like it had ended before it even began. Starting quarterback and Heisman candidate Braxton Miller suffered a noncontact shoulder injury in practice in August and was out for the season. With little time to prepare, inexperienced backup quarterback J.T. Barrett took over for the Buckeyes, struggling in an early-season loss at home to then-unranked Virginia Tech in Week 2. At that point, no one put Ohio State in the College Football Playoff conversation.

Ultimately, the struggles didn’t last, as Barrett ending up flourishing in Ohio State’s offense, becoming a Heisman contender himself. However, against rival Michigan – the Buckeyes’ final game before the Big Ten Championship game – Barrett suffered a broken ankle, ending his season. Again, Ohio State looked to be finished, stuck on the outside of the College Football Playoff top four rankings.

Down to barely-used third-string quarterback Cardale Jones, Ohio State stunned the college football world, routing then-No. 13 Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten championship game. It was Jones’ first career start. The win catapulted Ohio State into the College Football Playoff. But Jones wasn’t done. The sophomore, who is nicknamed “12 Gauge” because of his uniform number and arm strength, shocked fans again, leading the Buckeyes to the upset win against Alabama in the semifinals.

5. This matchup never would have happened with the BCS

It’s widely assumed that the old system, the BCS, would never have pitted Oregon and Ohio State to play for a national championship. The BCS used human polls, computer rankings, and strength of schedule to match the top two teams in the country to play for the national title, and the process had always been open to criticism. With that formula, Ohio State wouldn’t have had a chance, and Oregon’s hopes probably would have been slim.

It’s likely that defending national champion Florida State, who was undefeated in the regular season, would have played Southeastern Conference champion Alabama if the BCS was still in place.