This afternoon we finish up the Off Tackle Empire Potluck by looking at the dynamics of the game between the Oregon Ducks and Ohio State Buckeyes by talking about the offensive weapons on each side of the ball, how either team will plan on slowing someone down, and how we see the game going down. If you missed part one where we discussed fun things like matchups and narratives, click here.
3. Marcus Mariota is a scary thing for any defense, and while Ohio State has looked better as of late - especially in shutting down the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship Game - one still thinks back to some of the not-so-distant breakdowns against good offensive teams. How does Ohio State stop the Oregon offense? Rather, how does Ohio State go about even slowing these guys down?
AK: Rattling Mariota is probably the only way, but good luck doing that. His command of the tempo and reads involved with this offense is horrifying. About the best thing you can do is at least make them work a bit for points, and certainly don't do what FSU did and give them extra possessions via turnovers.
C4B: Ohio State wins this game by getting a ton of pressure on Marcus Mariota. Yes, he won the Heisman, but even Heisman winners can look average if they end up flat on their backs 4, 5, or 6 times in a game. Make him make mistakes, and take advantage of at least one, and Oregon is in real trouble.
AY: The shutout against Wisconsin showed that Ohio State isn't going to get beat to the edge easily in this game. That's a great place to start against an Oregon offense that is built on speed. The passing game will prove to be a different animal, but if the Buckeyes can get pressure with its four-man line and avoid blitzing too much, they should be able to pressure Mariota into some incompletions.
GF3: The Buckeyes are going to have to do three things to stop the Ducks: confuse Mariota, disrupt routes, and tackle in space. Make no mistake, Oregon will score points. Probably 40 or more. Mariota's massive numbers owe in part to the fact that his receivers are usually open by a huge margin, and the Buckeyes will need to disrupt their releases and bump them off routes to slow down the passing. Secondly, they'll need to confuse Mariota with stunts and disguised coverages. Dropping a DE into pass coverage like they did against Alabama (resulting in a pick-six) is a good example. Lastly, when Oregon does catch those balls (and they will), the Buckeyes need to make sure tackles. The Ducks tend to catch the ball in stride, and that's trouble if you miss a tackle.
MNW: Cloning Joey Bosa at least 2-3 times would help. Other than that, I got nothing. Force fumbles? Get interceptions? I'm here all week, folks. Chewing clock don't work, as the Ducks are 117th nationally in TOP. So this "slowing it down" myth is one I don't really buy into. If Ohio State can capture some kind of magic on 3rd down, they might stop Oregon, who's ranked 4th (behind OSU at 3rd) in 3rd down conversion %, at 51.6. Otherwise...score last.
GF: I would love to see Marcus Mariotta take a couple hits. He just doesn’t get hit, because of numerous reasons, and so he goes about his business distributing the ball, running for 8 yards a pop, and looking barely perturbed. If he doesn’t get frazzled at all, then Oregon will score it’s garden variety 40-50 points.
JC: I agree with MNW, it's sort of gonna come down to scoring last. This has all the trappings of a game that will come down to some last possession type efforts. It's not that I completely discredit Ohio State's defense either, but this is an offense that can - and does - score points. If the Buckeyes want to win, a lot of it will be to capitalize on offense when the defense gets a stop here and there. It would help if that happens early, forcing the rhythm of the Ducks to be off.
Jackass Emeritus Ted Glover (JETG): I think keeping them off the field is probably the best answer. I have no illusions that Oregon will score points, but if OSU can manage some time consuming drives, they'll limit the amount of plays Oregon can run. And if they can manage either a turnover or a couple of back to back three and outs or punts, Ohio State could really start to wear down the Oregon defense. But on the flip side of that, if Oregon can do that to the OSU offense, well...we saw what can happen against Florida State in the Rose Bowl. If Oregon's offense gets rolling downhill, it could be a very long night for the Buckeyes.
4. On the other side, it's been nothing short of spectacular for Cardale Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, and all of those receivers (Devin Smith stands out to me). Oh, and while Oregon has looked better on defense against some pretty good teams, it also quite susceptible to points getting put up on the board. The best thing you could say is that they capitalize on turnovers? All of that in mind, what will Oregon need to do to stop Ohio State? Or, is it basically a similar problem in that it's all about maybe slowing it down for a while?
AK: As solid as he's looked so far, the first thing to do is put the game in Cardale Jones' hands, by which I mean cover the quick reads that Barrett used to make this offense so good and don't lose track of Devin Smith over the top. Of course, even if you take care of those things, there's Ezekiel Elliott to worry about. Plainly, both defenses are at disadvantages in this game.
C4B: I probably don't have the best perception on this, but I feel like Oregon's defense is not the best the Pac-12 has to offer, and even their best defense seems pretty susceptible to being scored on. Oregon wins by keeping Ohio State out of the endzone, period.
AY: Oregon needs to stop the run, or this game could get surprisingly ugly. The only reason Ohio State even fell behind Alabama early was because it failed to punch the ball into the end zone. During the entire game, the Buckeyes were getting the yards they needed in the running game. When they started taking advantage with Jones throwing over the top, the Tide couldn't keep up. Considering how well Florida State ran the ball against the Ducks, Oregon knows this is an area they have to urgently address early in the title game.
GF3: Pressure Jones. Period. They'll slow down Elliott, but probably not stop him. Jones has been pressured once in the last 22 passes. If you let the big man stand in the pocket, he'll burn you.
MNW: Get OSU into third-and-long situations. The Ducks are not good at stopping teams on third down, and forcing Cardale Jones into passing situations on the big stage might do it. I don't know. I'm gonna have a shit-ton of popcorn and beer ready for this points-fest.
JC: It's all about limiting finishes for the Ducks. This Oregon team has actually given up a lot of yards both on the ground and through the air, but they've been pretty good at holding teams to FGs over TDs, which in a game where every point might matter, could be all the difference in the world. Ohio State works best in space, and if you can shrink the field and force the Buckeyes to play in uncomfortable positions, you could trade 7 for 3 all night. While it's probably insane to think the Ducks will keep the Buckeyes out of the endzone all night, it might not take that much. After all, the Ducks will be forcing OSU into similar problems.
JETG: Create turnovers. In the Sugar Bowl, Ohio State got in a deep hole after Alabama converted an Ezekiel Elliott fumble and Cardale Jones interception into touchdowns. It was impressive that Ohio State came back and turned the game around...but I don't know that they could rattle off 28 straight against Oregon. Oregon's defense is one of the most opportunistic in the country, and if they win the turnover battle by a +2 margin, I think it would be very difficult for OSU to overcome that. In a perfect world, with no turnovers, I really, really like OSU's offense vs. oregon's defense. They should be able to run and throw the ball effectively, but man, when they get in the red zone, they have to score TD's. I don't see Marcus Mariota having a Blake Sims in the Sugar Bowl type game.
5. Okay, finally, who are you taking? Bucks? Ducks? Meteors? Give me your rundown of the game.
AK: Man, I have no freaking idea. Before the semis, I would have thought Oregon comfortably, but then OSU suplexed Bama, but then Scott Frost isn't going to give his best player 12 touches. Coin flip says OSU. These teams are so similar to each other in a lot of ways that it's tough to pick, but when the chips are down I'm going with the guy who's already bagged two rings. The good news is that thanks to established OTE precedent, Buckeye fans will be obligated to be humble and demure about their team's accomplishment, lest they be accused of dominating every conversation and generally be categorized with war criminals. @Can't wait@
C4B: Having actually seen some of OSU-Bama, and having seen basically none of Oregon's games the entire year, I am not impressed at all by the Ducks. Every year, Oregon has a high powered offense, and every year, Oregon gets shut down in at least 1 game for some inexplicable reason. Wash, rinse, repeat ad nauseam. If the Buckeyes defense can come out and force 3 or 4 stops (read: field goals or less), they've got an excellent shot. The only thing that worries me about Ohio State is that we're still pinning our national titles hopes on a team that trailed Zander Diamont-led Indiana late in the third quarter in a game IN COLUMBUS. Sure, taking on Bama in the South is basically a road game no matter where you are, and that's probably a much rougher environment than Dallas will be, but I'm still kinda concerned, even if it probably means nothing in the end. Give me the Buckeyes by a touchdown or less.
AY: Ohio State because it can slow down the Oregon running game as well as punish them on offense.
GF3: I think the Ducks start out anemic and the Buckeyes look strong. Then the Ducks nab a turnover, capitalize, and start an avalanche of points. Essentially the reverse of the Alabama scenario. The Buckeyes look decent but not great, and the Ducks win their first over OSU and their first Natty, leaving the B1G as the only power conference without a national title in the past ten years. Ducks by 15.
MNW: Ducks, 45-35. Because in my #BOLDPREDICTION at the start of the year, I picked OSU to be natty runners-up (I was #8).
GF: Ducks, 40-30.
JC: I don't know yet... My current lean is Oregon because Mariota is a beast and he has intangibles on his side, but Cardale has looked like a monster so far, and it's not like they haven't showed up and taken care of business either. I'm going to drop a preview piece soon, so maybe I'll give a prediction in one of those. Maybe...
JETG: I'm not predicting anything. "TED THAT'S SUCH A COP OUT RAWR RAWR RAWR". Yeah, it is. But I'm an OSU fan first, and I am a superstitious one. See, in 2006, I was sure OSU was going to beat Florida. Positive. So positive I dropped $3000 for airfare and a ticket to Glendale. And I'll tell you, as a fan base we had that ass kicking coming to us. See, in all the talk leading up to the game, it wasn't "hey, do you think we're going to beat Florida? It was more like "hey, how much do you think we're going to beat Florida by? Are you guys going to stick around until the end of the game, or are we gonna hit some bars and celebrate?"
Yeah, I quit running my mouth about OSU before big games since then, and I'm not making that mistake again. I know I desperately want OSU to win, and I think they're talented enough to win, but a lot of things have to go their way. I do sense it's going to be a close game, and whoever wins the turnover battle wins the game.