Site Principal’s Note: Rory Davidson has been the outstanding opponent analyst at FishDuck.com during the season, as I have covered Oregon. As a special preview feature we are joining forces to give Oregon fans some tactics and strategies to watch for by Oregon against Florida State. Each team has their weaknesses — let’s look at the Seminoles and some likely ways Oregon will attack. –Charles Fischer
Charles: Much has been made of the strengths of the defending national champion, the Florida State Seminoles, but let’s take a look at the weaknesses and ponder how Oregon may best attack these weaknesses. Let’s start with Seminole defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, as keeping him blocked is the foundation of our offense for the Inside Zone Read play the Oregon offense is based upon. It is crucial that the double-team block not take too long and that our center (either Hroniss Grasu or Hamani Stevens) be able to take over and complete that block so that the guard helping in the initial double-team can go out to block the linebacker as planned in this play.
Another strategy to slow down this rush is the Mid-Line Zone Read covered recently at FishDuck.com, as it can create hesitation by even the best of defensive linemen. Oregon was not afraid to neutralize an All-American defensive end in the Sun Bowl of 2007, or the Nose Tackle of Arizona in 2011 and even recently in the Pac-12 Championship game. Zone reading can make the actions of the defender wrong every time, as the ball will go the opposite of where the isolated defender moves.
Rory: The Seminoles are very strong over the middle when on offense, as I highlighted in my analysis of FSU yesterday, but they are also very weak over the middle on defense. Remember that 50-yard touchdown pass by Auburn, where the receiver was wide open in the middle with nobody within 10 yards of him?!?!?! Now this obviously won’t happen every play, but Mariota doesn’t need that much space to hit Devon Allen for a big gain.
I say Allen, because teams like Miami have used their speedsters to attack the middle of the field. Against Florida State, Phillip Dorsett, Miami’s speedster receiver, torched Miami for 90 yards and a touchdown. Tight ends have also beat FSU over the middle; unfortunately, Pharaoh Brown is out as we all know, so another big man is going to have to step up for the Ducks. Even though the Seminoles’ weakness is their pass defense, the Ducks are going to have to establish the run to open up the middle.
Charles: Florida State had some difficulty defending the triple option employed by Georgia Tech in the Atlantic Cost Conference Championship game, hence it has been suggested that the Ducks might use more of Oregon’s Straddled Triple Option play or Speed Double Option that was just reintroduced in the Washington game, after being on the shelf for four years.
While we may see them used … more hunch is not because the GT options occur at the LOS with their quarterback taking snaps from center. Oregon’s option plays come out of the shotgun, and thus give the superb athletes of Florida State more time to react and adjust. No — I believe the reason we may see those plays more is due to the extraordinary blocking by the receivers of Oregon, and because the Seminoles demonstrated some weakness in shedding those blocks against the Yellowjackets. Look for Sweep Reads, Straddled Triple Options, and Speed Double Options by Oregon in this playoff game.
Rory: If you watch film of Winston, you will find that he struggles whenever he is pressured. This could be because he is rarely under pressure and isn’t used to having to make a decision so quickly. It could also just be because he needs to mature more. Either way, look for Oregon to try and bring pressure with our linebackers early and often.
The problem … in order to get pressure, you have to bring a blitz, because FSU is so good at pass protection. And when you blitz, you lose defenders to use in pass defense. This would be much easier to do for the Ducks if they had a cover corner that could be left alone to cover Rashad Greene one-on-one. This man would have been Expre-Olomu had he not gotten injured in practice a couple of weeks ago.
Now, I’m interested to see whether Pellum will bring pressure and leave the corners on an island, or whether he will put his trust in Armstead and the defensive line and drop seven or eight men in coverage. I expect that we will see pressure brought early and then switched up to see if the coverage technique does any better.
Charles: One aspect that I believe will be crucial in this game is the innovative use of running plays for the Oregon Heisman winning quarterback, Marcus Mariota. I expect to see loaded option plays by the Ducks, as well as more quarterback draws, and more green lights to run with the zone read.
While the Ducks may have limited his running plays in the past, there is NO tomorrow with a playoff game, and I expect all the stops to be pulled out. I sense FSU saying all the right things about respecting his speed, but I don’t think they truly “get it,” as the conference members of the Pac-12 have experienced.
A final component to this game plan is what plays Coaches Helfrich and Frost are going to pull out of the playbook that have not been seen on the field for years. Helfrich and then Frost have surprised me in the past by how they have utilized elements of surprise, and how at times they have not changed a thing. It is going to be fun and fascinating for me and all the Oregon fans to watch, and these wrinkles will be covered in-depth at FishDuck.com in the weeks after the game.
Readers: What do you expect to see out of Oregon in this game?
Charles Fischer and Rory Davidson, Oregon Football Analysts for CFF Network/FishDuck.com
Top photo by 247Sports