Both Oregon and Ohio State have suffered significant injuries this season yet both find themselves as the last two standing. Oregon’s Mark Helfrich, in only his second season as head coach, finds himself taking his team up against another great coach with national championships to his credit, Urban Meyer. Despite that, Oregon finds themselves 6 point favorites to win their first national championship in football.
Oregon’s Defense vs. Ohio States Offense
Ohio State is putting a third string quarterback, Cardale Jones, on the field as their starter. This will be only his third start. As I result I only reviewed their last two games. During those two games Wisconsin and Alabama seemed to think they could rattle him by rushing a lot of people at him. Conversely they seemed to think playing man-to-man defense to strengthen their defense against the Ohio State running game would be a good strategy. This turned out to not work so well. Cardale Jones is a very big and strong QB. When all else fails he throws the ball long with some success. The key for Oregon on defense, as always, will be to squash any big plays and make Ohio State drive the length of the field. They also will try to continue to get some turnovers with their aggressive defense. The Ducks like to disguise their defense and confuse the opposition. It is easier said than done but Oregon has had a fair amount of success.
So if Cardale Jones is so talented why was he third string? Mainly because of his tendency to make costly bonehead plays. His tendency to just wing the ball down the field fits this category. He has gotten away with it in two games because both teams played a one-on-one man defense so it was just a battle to get the ball. If he does this against Oregon it will likely be two defenders against one receiver.
What I expect the Ducks will do is something similar to what they did with Florida State. They will rush in a way to contain the Ohio State QB in the pocket, keeping him from scrambling for yards. Mean time they will play coverage that will prevent Cardell from throwing deep or have him risk an interception if he forces it into double coverage. This could leave the middle of the field open at times but it works to keep everything in front and forces them to make a long drive to score.
The vulnerability will be in the middle of the field. Both rushing and passing. But if Oregon can keep the play in the middle they will be happy with that.
Oregon’s Offense vs Ohio State’s Defense
Oregon’s only real vulnerability that I can see is with protecting the QB. If they can protect Marcus Mariota then everything else should take care of itself if they execute the way they have since November. There is just no way for a team, Ohio State or anyone else, to cover all the options that Oregon throws at you. The key then becomes having a Quarterback who can read and execute, the open running or passing option. There is no one as good at this as Marcus Mariota.
- Oregon needs to protect their QB and avoid sacks.
- Oregon needs to protect the ball when running and not drop any passes they should catch.
- Oregon needs to keep Cardell Jones from successfully throwing long to receivers.
- Oregon needs to keep Cardell Jones from faking pass, and then rushing straight ahead for first downs.
- Oregon needs to keep up the fast pace, because in spite of the talk about OSU being ready for it I don’t believe they will be any more ready for it than any other opponent that Oregon has faced.
- Ohio State will need to have a very successful running game, a mistake free game by their quarterback and a couple of huge plays for scores.
Oregon will continue to play at a high level and will wear down Ohio State leading to big plays and Touchdowns.