As confetti fell from the sky at AT&T Stadium and the two participants in the College Football Playoff National Championship left the field, the elephants in each postgame locker room were the quarterbacks.
For Ohio State, redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones had just wrapped up winning his third title in as many starts—the Big Ten title, Sugar Bowl title and national title. Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, who helped the Buckeyes win the Big Ten championship and posted an 11-1 record as a starter, should be back after fracturing his ankle in the win over Michigan.
Braxton Miller, longtime starter and superstar dual-threat weapon, could return from a shoulder injury suffered in August for one more shot at glory.
It's a "rich man's problem."
Oregon doesn't have that luxury.
Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota announced on Wednesday that he will be going pro instead of returning to Eugene for his redshirt senior season.
Who will replace him? One contender could have been in the winning locker room on Monday night, rather than the losing one—Ohio State's Braxton Miller.
Miller entered the season as a Heisman contender, graduated last semester and is eligible to play immediately as a graduate transfer.
He was noncommittal on his future in Columbus following the title game.
"I've got to get my shoulder right," he told Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com.
Former Oregon State running back (and current Atlanta Falcon) Jacquizz Rodgers seems to think it's a possibility.
Once Miller's shoulder is 100 percent, Eugene would be the perfect place for him to finish his career.
Playing Time Available
The world got a brief glimpse of backup quarterback Jeff Lockie late in the title game, when he came in for Mariota after Buckeyes defensive end Joey Bosa came down hard on the Heisman Trophy winner. Lockie was 0-of-1 in the game and 21-of-28 on the season, and he really hasn't had the chance to impress for prolonged periods of time heading into his redshirt junior season.
Is he the guy?
What about Georgia Tech transfer Ty Griffin, rising redshirt freshman Morgan Mahalak or incoming dual-threat stud Travis Waller?
If there's a quarterback of the future, it's Waller—a 4-star stud from Anaheim, California, who has been impressive to scouts.
"Waller is an awesome quarterback prospect to watch," said Bleacher Report national college football video analyst Michael Felder. "He's a kid with good athleticism, but who is comfortable in the pocket slinging it around. In watching him live and on tape, the ball just jumps out of his hand and he's got quality accuracy moving the ball vertically."
Elusiveness? Arm strength? The ability to create behind the line of scrimmage?
Yep, Waller has all of that, as evidenced by this 92-yard touchdown pass in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Would any of the current quarterbacks transfer if Miller showed up this offseason? With the possible exception of Lockie, probably not.
Waller, Mahalak and Griffin could all use some polish as backups, and sitting behind Miller for a season would allow all of them to battle in 2016 for a spot with another year of work in the system under their belts.
Weapons to Succeed
It didn't look like it during the title game at times, but Oregon still has plenty of weapons to be successful and make a run to the Pac-12 title. Miller has thrown for 5,292 yards, 52 touchdowns and 17 picks during three seasons in Columbus, and he added 3,054 rushing yards and 32 rushing touchdowns.
Those are video game numbers, so why not join the "video game offense"?
Running backs Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner are both coming back, as are receivers Byron Marshall, Darren Carrington, Devon Allen, Bralon Addison and Dwayne Stanford, as well as tight ends Evan Baylis and Pharaoh Brown.
That's an embarrassment of riches for any quarterback, particularly one who has top-tier talent.
What's more, Oregon already has 4-star running back Taj Griffin and 4-star wide receiver Alex Ofodile in house as early enrollees in the class of 2015 and more coming in a class that ranks in the top 20 in the 247Sports team recruiting rankings.
The offensive line has to replace some key pieces including tackle Jake Fisher and center Hroniss Grasu, which should be a concern, but that would be really the only concern for Oregon's offense if Miller is the one taking the snaps.
Acclimation Wouldn't Take Long
What would the adjustment be like for Miller? While the two offenses are different in terms of pace and style, he's used to the spread elements, efficient passing game and zone-read concepts that are common in Oregon's offense.
What's more, Oregon's fast-paced system is designed for simplicity at the line of scrimmage, which speeds up the learning curve for everybody associated with the offense.
That could be a big piece of the transfer puzzle for Miller, who might not be ready for spring practice, as noted by Matt Hayes of Sporting News (via Chris Littmann):
As a graduate, he can transfer now if he can find a home, and simply getting mental reps during spring practice would help not only him but also the younger players who get actual first-team reps.
Mariota stepped in as a redshirt freshman in place of Darron Thomas, and the offense didn't miss a beat. Thomas stepped in as a sophomore for Jeremiah Masoli and led the Ducks to the 2011 BCS National Championship Game following the 2010 season.
It's a great system that's designed for simplicity, speed and efficiency—all of which would benefit Miller as he recovers from his shoulder injury.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.