DALLAS — It might seem easy to pick the most valuable player for Ohio State.
It has to be sophomore defensive lineman and sack leader Joey Bosa, right? Or maybe top rusher Ezekiel Elliott, who has more than 1,600 yards rushing in a breakout season? Or even a quarterback — J.T. Barrett, who led the charge all season before getting hurt, or Cardale Jones, who has pulled a Lou Gehrig since taking over the past two games?
Yet coach Urban Meyer's choice isn't among the top six on the team in any major statistic.
Give up? According to Meyer, there's no question that the most important Buckeye heading into Monday night's national title game against Oregon is senior wide receiver Evan Spencer.
"He's the MVP of our team," Meyer said this week, allowing no wiggle room for anyone else. "He's the leader of our team. He's the guy that, at the right time, I'll probably make an executive decision and make him a captain."
Spencer's numbers won't wow opponents or impress pro scouts. He's ninth on the team in receptions (15), has one carry for 9 yards and is tied for 10th on the team in scoring with three touchdowns.
"There's a lot of things I can do on the football field," said Spencer, the son of a former Ohio State running back Tim Spencer, now the running backs coach with the Buccaneers. "I just try to do everything I can when I'm out there, whether it's block or throw something or catch something, I try to do it to the best of my ability."
Spencer was crucial in the 42-35 Sugar Bowl win over Alabama on Jan. 1. If he didn't do what he did on three plays, Ohio State might well be home stewing instead of gearing up for the biggest game in college football.
With 12 seconds left in the first half and the Buckeyes trailing 14-13, Spencer took a pitch, pulled up and fired a perfect spiral into the end zone where Michael Thomas made a leaping catch while barely planting one foot inbounds for the touchdown.
Then with 3:24 left in the game, Alabama, trailing 34-28, had the Buckeyes pinned at their 15. That was when Elliott took a pitch around left end and turned the corner just as Spencer wiped out two prospective tacklers with a crunching block. The 85-yard touchdown run allowed the Buckeyes to regain their footing.
And after Alabama scored with just under two minutes left to pull within a touchdown, Spencer leaped high to snag the onside kick.
"You turn on the film and he doesn't get targeted a ton (on passes), doesn't have the most touchdowns on the team, most receptions, most yards or whatever," linebacker Joshua Perry said. "But (he makes) great special teams plays, clutch plays when we need them, great leadership, selfless player."
Ducks receiver out: Oregon receiver Darren Carrington has been suspended for Monday's game after testing positive for marijuana, Comcast Northwest reported. The freshman was second on the team in receiving yards with 704, on 37 catches.
Hmm, Really? Well look who new Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is pulling for in the title game: "I'm going to be rooting for Ohio State," he said on the Rich Eisen Show. "I'm a Midwesterner, and I was raised in Ohio and went to Michigan and raised in Michigan as well, but for Big Ten football, for Midwest football, a lot of talk about other conferences, I think it's just fabulous that a team in our conference is playing in that game."