Any sports fan knows that “defense wins championships.” In the case of the College Football Playoff, defense doesn’t just win championships, it gets you a spot to contend for one in the first place. In professional sports, regular season rankings don’t matter, it all comes down to a team’s final win-loss record. The Ducks need to convince the nation they deserve a chance to play for the National Championship this year, and Oregon’s defensive play will be the deciding factor in the Ducks’ playoff hopes.
Jason Quick of The Oregonian laid out the problems the Oregon defense is going to have convincing the College Football Playoff committee of their right to play for a title. The Ducks’ defense is allowing more passing yards per game (290), yards per carry (4.4), and points scored (26) than any National Championship winner in the last 10 years. There is no doubt that their high octane offense is impressive, but members of the playoff committee are going to want to see a complete team, one that’s competitive on both sides of the ball.
Defensive coordinator Don Pellum and head coach Mark Helfrich aren’t overly concerned. Both seem pleased with the way the defense has improved since the beginning of the season. Pellum’s first year as coordinator has been marked by ” several tactical and personnel adjustments.” and the players are beginning to get comfortable with the system. Pellum is utilizing all the talent he has, shifting players around throughout games. Now over halfway through the season, the defense is used to the flow of substitutions, and are communicating well.
Oregon’s defensive numbers are somewhat bloated owing to the offenses they have played so far this season. Arizona, Washington State, Michigan State, and Cal are all in the top 20 in the nation in yards per game. Oregon’s remaining schedule is much friendlier, facing Colorado, Oregon State and Stanford, none of whom are averaging more than 12 points per game.
Oregon’s playoff hopes are in the hands of the defense. The Ducks’ offense will continue to put up eye-popping numbers that will grab everyone’s attention, but it’s the defense that needs to show it’s ready to step up and prove to the committee and the nation that the Ducks are a force to be reckoned with.
Top Photo: Gary Breedlove
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