Monday’s National Championship Game pits the Heisman winning quarterback, Marcus Mariota, who is averaging 294 passing yards per game against the nation’s fourth most efficient pass defense. Similarities between the two fast-paced offenses have been drawn but the Buckeyes will have to stop Mariota and the offense if they want their points to mean anything.
While the speed of the offense has undoubtedly been a factor in the Ducks’ success this season Ted Miller of ESPN.com believes that the Ducks are about more than tempo. Keeping a high tempo against an unconditioned team means big plays and plenty of points for the second highest scoring team in the country. However the Buckeyes, who run a similarly fast paced offense, are not going to be caught off guard by the speed of the boys from Tracktown USA.
If speed isn’t the killer for the Ducks then their dynamic play will have to keep the Buckeyes’ defense adjusting. A run heavy team that relies on freshman Royce Freeman to force defenses to watch the inside run, allows Mariota to pick apart secondaries or torch a defender with his legs. As fast as Mariota is, it has been his arm that is working the magic, leading the FBS in yards per attempt (10.1) as well as completing 55 passes of 15 yards or longer.
The Buckeyes however have a strong pass defense down field which has allowed only five touchdowns and brought in nine interceptions on passes of 15 yards or more. Add to that a pass rush unit that has 43 sacks this season, averaging three per game, and the offensive line will have their work cut out for them.
What has truly set Oregon apart this season has been the momentum they are able to gain and keep not only throughout the game but through an injury riddled season. Since their loss to Arizona in October the Ducks have outscored their opponents by an average of 27 points, and have allowed more than 20 points only twice in their last nine games.
Momentum throughout games once the offense figures out how the defense is reacting has been the key to success for the Ducks. Nine times this season they have put up 21 or more points in a quarter. Averaging slightly more than a touchdown in the first quarter, the Ducks break out in the second, averaging a nation leading 16.5 points and second best 12.2 points in the third. Miller points out that Mariota only gets better as time wears on, as his six touchdowns, no interceptions, 81% completion rate and 12.52 yards per attempt in the fourth quarter show.
The Rose Bowl was a chance for the Ducks to prove they are a physical team that is ready to step into the national spotlight, now one final hurdle remains and the Ducks are poised to keep rolling right through.
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck