The Seminoles have been dubbed the underdogs for today’s match-up with Oregon in the 101st Rose Bowl. So what has happened this season to cause the undefeated, defending national champions to come into the inaugural College Football Playoff with anything less than assurance of a second consecutive title?
Chantel Jennings of ESPN.com stated 10 reasons why Oregon will be successful against the Seminoles, starting with Heisman winner Marcus Mariota. The Oregon QB was a preseason favorite to win the Heisman and he came through with flying colors, completing nearly 70% of his passes, throwing for 3,783 yards and 38 touchdowns. With his physical skills carrying an explosive offense and his leadership on and off the field, the Ducks are primed for success.
As good as Mariota has been all season, he would be the first to tell you that championships are won by teams, not individual players. The Ducks’ second biggest playmaker has been freshman Royce Freeman who will be matched up against the tough FSU linebackers Terrance Smith and Reggie Northrup. The FSU defense gave up 331 rushing yards to Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game, and Freeman has been on a tear for over half the season.
Oregon has earned a reputation as a finesse team over the years, a brand the Ducks want no part of. While FSU may not buy into the Ducks being soft or a finesse team, the Ducks will still be looking to prove to the nation they are a physical team that is ready to compete with the best. Should Oregon continue on to the National Championship game on January 12, the Ducks will face either Alabama or Ohio State, perennial college football powerhouses looking for any weakness in their opponents.
The offense has shown its ability to handle tough defenses this season, winning out against Washington and Stanford, and the defense has come into its own as well. The dominant performance in the Pac-12 Championship game capped off a strong end to the season where the Oregon defense allowed more than 20 points only twice in the final six games. Troy Hill will step in for Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and while he may not be as decorated, he is a playmaker. The second team All Pac-12 cornerback who lead the conference with 17 defended passes will be responsible for Rashad Greene who Jameis Winston will rely upon heavily.
The Ducks have fought a long, hard, injury-riddled season to get to this point. Their chances at making the playoff were written off by critics and fans alike following their loss to Arizona early in the season. Again and again they have shown that they can put games away, and FSU has stayed alive by coming back late – a feat that will be made difficult by a high-powered offense and stout defense making a statement to the nation.
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove