ARLINGTON, Texas -- Cardale Jones started the year as Ohio State's third-string quarterback and led the Buckeyes to a national championship, while Heisman winner Marcus Mariota's season ended without the honor that mattered to him most.
Both are now left pondering a jump to the NFL.
Entering Monday night's game, Mariota said he would trade the Heisman Trophy he won this season for a national championship because the team honor was more important to the Oregon Ducks' junior quarterback.
Instead, Jones and the Buckeyes overpowered the Ducks for a 42-20 victory in the College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T.
It might have been Mariota's final game with Oregon. He has until Thursday to decide whether he will skip his senior season and declare for the NFL draft. Mariota, who already has completed his degree, is expected to be a top pick.
Did the devastating loss change his mind about coming back?
"I'm sure it will weigh in a little bit, but there's a lot of other things that have to play into that decision," Mariota said. "There's starting grad school, coming back for another year to improve, there's a lot of other things that could bring me back. It's just not specifically this loss."
Jones, a third-year sophomore, is also eligible to enter the draft. It's now a feasible option after the way he played in the final three games of the season, and since there's no guarantee he'll be the Buckeyes' starter next season.
He was the MVP of the Big Ten championship game, a 59-0 rout of Wisconsin, in his first college start. He then led the Buckeyes to wins over Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and Oregon in Monday night's national championship game.
Asked about the NFL, Jones said, "It's definitely a 'who knows?' right now."
His top priority is getting his degree. But if he returns next season, there's no guarantee he will get the No. 1 job with Braxton Miller
Miller told ESPN after OSU beat Oregon 42-20 to win the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T that he hasn't made a decision yet and that he doesn't know when he will make one.
Asked whether he would be at Ohio State next season, Miller added: "I've got to get my shoulder right."
Miller suffered a season-ending shoulder injury before the 2014 campaign started.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer previously said he expects Miller to return next season.
Miller, after graduating, could transfer and play immediately at another school this fall if he desires.
J.T. Barrett, the redshirt freshman who replaced Miller before also suffering a season-ending injury, told SI.com on Monday night that he doesn't think there will be any movement.
"This is from somebody who is going to be in the competition, I don't believe anyone is going to transfer," Barrett told SI.com.
Cardale Jones went from third-stringer to title-winning quarterback, leading the Ohio State Buckeyes to a 42-20 win over the Oregon Ducks in the first College Football Playoff National Championship.
His reward (in addition to adulation, fame and the thrill of victory)?
A hug from Ohio native, injured Cleveland Cavaliers star and Buckeyes fan LeBron James:
Good to be the (favorite college quarterback of) the King.
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The first College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T was won by the No. 4 seed. Led by Ezekiel Elliott's 246 rushing yards and four scores, Ohio State thumped Oregon 42-20 in front of more than 85,000 fans at AT&T Stadium. Here's how a historic night in college football went down:
How the game was won: Nasty, brute power. Ohio State overcame four turnovers and pulled away by getting timely stops on defense and whatever it wanted on offense in the final two quarters. Cardale Jones was sensational again in his third career start, but the Buckeyes' punishing brand of rushing made all the difference once this game got close.
Game ball goes to: Elliott. What a relentless night of rushing. “Zeke” put the Buckeyes on his back to take over the game and pounded the Ducks for 148 second-half yards with a lethal combo of north-south power and speed when he found space. The sophomore surpassed 200 rushing yards in all three of his postseason games and was by far the most dominant player of the College Football Playoff.
Unsung hero: Ohio State’s offensive linemen won’t receive nearly enough credit. They didn’t just pave holes over and over again for Elliott. They wore Oregon out up front in the fourth quarter on a night when the Ducks knew loading the box was imperative. This line, deemed one of OSU’s greatest questions entering 2014, was as consistent as could be and won the day.
Stat of the game: Finishing 2-of-12 on third-down conversions played a big role in dooming the Ducks. A couple dropped passes were to blame early on, but the ineffectiveness on pressure downs did real damage. Oregon punted six times, and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota couldn’t find a way to fix that flaw.
What it means: Urban Meyer takes home his third national championship, and the Big Ten gets to thump its chest for eight months. Oh, and it means the College Football Playoff committee made a pretty good call Dec. 7 with that final playoff spot.
Best play: Elliott had longer rushes and tougher rushes, but the way he broke away and finished this one to put OSU ahead 28-20 on the final play of the third quarter was impressive.
What's next: Ohio State will be an early favorite to defend its title in 2015, regardless of how its embarrassment of riches at quarterback shakes out. This is a team loaded with impact underclassmen and poised to get even better. The Ducks must somehow replace the marvelous Mariota and a few key seniors but should be right back in the Pac-12 title race next season.
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