Offense is fun, offense is exciting. We want to see the big plays. We want to see Royce Freeman bulldoze his way to the end zone. We want to see Marcus Mariota drop back and complete a 50 yard pass, and we want to see the Ducks light up the score board. There is one problem, however. Can you rely solely on offense if you want to compete for a championship? History would say no.
In the last five years the teams that have won the national championship in college football have had one thing in common: great defense. Alabama, Auburn and Florida State had respectable offensive attacks, but the major thing that set them apart from the rest of the pack was their physical defense.
Oregon is known across the country as a flashy and high-scoring team. From 2009 to 2013 the Ducks’ prolific offense averaged 44.8 points per game and they were always in the top 10 in scoring. Oregon has been just as strong this season, averaging 45 points per game. Although the Ducks have dominated their opponents with their offensive attack in recent years, it’s clear that their kryptonite has been bigger and tougher teams, particularly teams that excel defensively.
The Ducks passed the first test in Week 2 when they outplayed a physical Michigan State team. Their victory against Washington, second in the nation in sacks, during Week 8 was very convincing as well. The Ducks’ victory against Stanford last Saturday propelled them, for now, into one of the four playoff slots. Tomorrow night’s matchup against No. 17 Utah, however, may be the most difficult test that the Ducks have had to take so far.
Utah possesses one of the best defensive teams in the nation. They attack opposing offenses from all angles, which includes heavy blitzing by their front seven and tough coverage by their secondary. Utah’s defense is led by their standout linebacker Jared Norris. By himself, this junior has produced 72 tackles while the team as a whole has amassed 39 sacks and 10 interceptions. Not only do the Utes rush the quarterback well, but they also do a great job of stopping the run game. Utah is second in the Pac-12 in rushing defense; on average they only allow a meager 3.2 yards per rush.
Oregon, however, loves to run the ball. They lead the Pac-12 with 5.4 yards per carry and 26 rushing touchdowns. Also, the Ducks lead the Pac-12 in total offense and their 54 touchdowns are by far the best mark in the conference.
It will be interesting to see what plays out tomorrow night. Will Utah’s physical defense be too much for the Ducks? Or will Oregon continue to show the critics that their explosive offensive attack is unstoppable?
Top Photo by Kevin Cline