Ohio State's coaches aren't sure if the benefits were physical or mental, or whether it actually made a difference in the game.

But most have a hunch that a short-lived diet made a big difference for Ohio State's football team.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Ohio State's coaching staff was impressed by the speed and finesse of Oregon's squad when it first sat down to watch game tape after the playoff semifinals. The Ducks' high-speed offense and playmaking agility stood in stark contrast to the power game employed by Alabama, whom Ohio State defeated to reach the title game.

Such a different team required a different approach. So Ohio State took an unusual angle.

"I told them: 'I don't want you to starve,'" Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson told the Journal. "Just eat less."

"I should launch my own weight-loss program."

Coaches pushed the players to drop several pounds ahead of the game by cutting down on their food intake and avoiding sweets. Each player had a goal weight to aim for, and that goal was monitored by the coaches.

When game day arrived, players were hungry to win. And the staff believes the physical deprivation heightened their on-field intensity. Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell wasn't sure if the physical effects were significant, but he believed the diet affected players' mental states.

"You’re not going to get in better shape in 10 days," Fickell told the WSJ. "But you lose a couple of pounds, you think: 'I’m leaner, I’m lighter, I'm faster.'"

The Buckeyes surprised many observers by matching Oregon's stamina and speed, stifling its offense and responding to fast strikes and moves with equally swift counters.

In the end, Oregon's finesse game was snuffed out. Ohio State rode its hunger to victory.

Oregon-Ohio State: Breaking It Down


Best Coaching Pedigree

Mark Helfrich isn't a known name by any means, but he worked under Chip Kelly before becoming Oregon's head coach. Considering that Kelly's offense is all the rage at both the college and professional levels, that's no slouch line on the resume. Helfrich was also the offensive coordinator for an Oregon team that reached the BCS title game in 2011. Still, it's not enough to match Urban Meyer's two national titles or his 141-26 record. ADVANTAGE: OHIO STATE


Best Nike Uniforms

Nike is fortunate to design the jerseys for both of this year's participants. While Ohio State will be donning a sleeker version of its classic look, Oregon will go extreme and wear an all-gray uni that is absent of any green. It would be a questionable move for any program other than the Ducks. But this is par for the course in Oregon, where uniform styles change every week. And that draws the school a lot of attention from recruits. ADVANTAGE: OREGON


Best Celebrity Fan: Ty Burrell vs. LeBron James

Few people on the planet are more famous than LeBron, who is very clear about his love for the Buckeyes. But 'Modern Family' star Ty Burrell is serious about his Duck love: He's doing everything he can to be at the national championship game despite his obligations to the ABC show. Meanwhile, it's a little too convenient to have an athlete as your team's top celebrity fan. ADVANTAGE: OREGON


Claim to Fame: The Simpsons vs. The First Banana Split

'The Simpsons' creator Matt Groening is from Eugene, and he revealed within the last few years that the fictional Springfield in 'The Simpsons' is, indeed, based on Springfield, Oregon, a twin city to Eugene. Columbus, Ohio, doesn't have a similar claim to pop culture fame, but it IS home to the world's first banana split, invented at Foeller's Drug Store. Great, interesting fact, but not enough to topple the cultural giant. ADVANTAGE: OREGON


Famous Alumni: Chuck Palaniuk vs. George Steinbrenner

The now-departed Yankees boss was a Buckeye before he was THE Mr. Steinbrenner. He joins a very long, very accomplished list of Ohio State alumni, although its reputation is taken down a few notches by the inclusion of serial rapist/murderer/cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer. Chuck Palaniuk is the author of Fight Club and numerous other wildly popular books, but he's not enough to carry the Ducks. ADVANTAGE: OHIO STATE


Best Mascot: Duck vs. Buckeye

Oregon is able to use Donald Duck as the template for its logo thanks to its athletic director's friendship with Walt Disney back in the 1940s. Ohio State's Brutus Buckeye, on the other hand, is simple and traditional, with a history dating back to 1965. No offense to Brutus, but he's kind of a nut. And his story isn't as good. ADVANTAGE: OREGON


Best Legacy: Oregon Football vs. Ohio State Football

Oregon football certainly exemplifies the term "new hotness": World-class facilities, ever-changing uniforms, mountains of Nike money at its disposal. But all that money props up a program without much history: No national championships, only 12 conference titles, and one Heisman. Compare that to Ohio State, which has seven Heisman winners, 37 conference titles, and seven national championships. The math is easy. ADVANTAGE: OHIO STATE


Best Film: The Goonies vs. The Deer Hunter

Astoria, Oregon has been home to a number of major movies over the years, including "Kindergarten Cop" and the classic kids flick "The Goonies." It's tough to top "The Goonies," but Ohio found a way: parts of the movie "The Deer Hunter" were shot there, and, well, the De Niro classic gets to raise its glove. ADVANTAGE: OHIO STATE


Best Brews: Great Lakes vs. Deschutes

There's no shortage of craft breweries in either state, and many Ohioans point to Great Lakes as the standard for local microbrews. In Oregon, meanwhile, you'll find plenty of locals that would point to smaller brewers making great beer in relative national obscurity: Laurelwood, Double Mountain, Lompoc, and many others. But Deschutes is both delicious and recognizable, and it makes an impressive Black Butte Porter that ranks among the best in the country. ADVANTAGE: OREGON


Greatest Duck vs. Greatest Buckeye: Mariota vs. Griffin

Oregon is no stranger to talented football players, but only one of them has brought home the Heisman. That makes Marcus Mariota's an easy nominee. Ohio State has plenty of great players to choose from as well, but only one of them lays claim to two Heisman trophies. Maybe if Mariota leads Oregon to a national title, the conversation can be revisited. For now, though, the Buckeyes have the lead. ADVANTAGE: OHIO STATE


Autzen Stadium vs. Ohio Stadium

Autzen is loud, imposing, and beautifully built -- but also relatively small, seating just 54,000. Ohio Stadium, otherwise known as "The Horseshoe," is more than twice that size, fitting more than 108,000. it's also 92 years old, and that kind of history can't be overlooked. ADVANTAGE: OHIO STATE


Iconic Food: Marionberry Pie vs. The Cincinnati Chili

If you haven't had marionberries, you're missing out: slightly more tart than blackberries, they grown in abundance in Oregon and are great in pies, jams, basically anything amenable to fruit. The Cincinnati Chili loses this one on name alone, but it gets worse: the dish attributed to Ohio's culinary profile consists of a type of chili poured over spaghetti noodles. Sort of like haute fusion cuisine, except it's terrifying. ADVANTAGE: OREGON


Best Book: Ready Player One vs. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

Written by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One is a dystopian science fiction book set in a version of Columbus, Ohio several decades into the future. Published in 2011, it's a wildly popular book among both teens and adults, and is being turned into a movie. A great book to claim, but it can't match Oregon alum Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which is a modern classic that evicerated the mental health system of the mid-20th century. ADVANTAGE: OREGON


Best Football Broadcaster: Dan Fouts vs. Kirk Herbstreit

Both former football quarterbacks themselves, Dan Fouts is a Pro Football Hall of Famer who now does color commentary for NFL games on CBS. Herbstreit has become the top color commentator for ABC's college football broadcasts, and he works as an analyst for ESPN's College GameDay program. Herbstreit will be helping call the national championship game, which tips this one in his favor. ADVANTAGE: OHIO STATE


Best Climate: Temperate Oregon vs. Four-Season Ohio

The Ducks play in a climate that's never too hot or too cold, that rarely snows, but deals with a lot of cloud cover and rain. Ohio is home to all the extremes: Hot summer and cold winters, thunderstorms and blizzards, and general climatic brutality. Many prefer Ohio's distinct seasons and dramatic temperature swings to Oregon's unending stretches of gray and precipitation, and that's perfectly fine -- it's just a touch misguided. ADVANTAGE: OREGON


Best Band: Cherry Poppin' Daddies vs. Rascal Flatts

The Cherry Poppin' Daddies are a swing and ska rock band that learned to blend genres while serving as critical influences in Eugene's developing music scene in the late 1980s. They're a much different band than the pop-country group Rascal Flatts, which came together in Columbus and has been serenading arenas ever since. If this were a question of the most popular band, Rascal Flatts would be the clear favorite. But this is a matter of quality. ADVANTAGE: OREGON


Best Game Tradition: Dotting the 'I' vs. Fourth-Quarter 'Shout' Rendition

Ohio State is famous for its marching band's tradition of having one distinguished tuba high-step out to serve as the dot on the 'I' in the script 'Ohio.' Oregon's best game tradition is welcoming the fourth quarter of every home game with a raucous rendition of 'Shout' by The Isley Brothers. The only problem? It's not an original tradition -- many credit Purdue with having used 'Shout' first. ADVANTAGE: OHIO STATE


Overall Winner: Oregon

The Ducks pull it out in the end, squeaking by Ohio State 9-8 to claim the championship of unofficial, unimportant facts. Though only tangentially related, it could be a forebearer of things to come. Given Oregon's offense and the Buckeyes' ability to put up points in its last few games, The first-ever College Football Playoff championship game could become an earth-scorching shootout that goes down to the wire. We should be so lucky.

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