Can Oregon Pull off a Shocker at the ‘Shoe?

Joshua Whitted Editorials 58 Comments

Oregon beating Ohio State this fall wouldn’t be David beating Goliath. Both teams will likely be ranked in the top 15 heading into the matchup, and both are the preseason favorites to win their respective conferences, after all.

But don’t get it twisted, an Oregon victory in week two would undoubtedly be a shocker.

Although the Ducks are serious playoff contenders and are more talented than ever, Ohio State is on another level. Over the past five years, the Buckeyes have recruited better than everyone not named Alabama or Georgia, assembling a roster that is one of the best in America. But as we know, recruiting isn’t everything; getting elite talent to produce is what counts. It’s safe to say that, with a 20-2 record over the past two seasons (with both of those losses coming in the Playoff), Ryan Day and his staff have done just that.

Ohio State will have another loaded squad in 2021, fielding arguably the top two receivers in the country — Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson — a pair of elite offensive tackles, and plenty of future pros on the defensive line. At quarterback, the Buckeyes lose one of their top signal callers in program history, but they’ll likely have CJ Stroud, one of the fastest risers and top quarterback prospects in the 2020 recruiting class, replacing him.

From Twitter

Stroud has the makings of a superstar.

In Columbus, there’s no rebuilding — just reloading. So, how does Oregon stack up?

Unfortunately, the Ducks don’t quite have the horses up front that the Buckeyes do. That is, with one notable exception: Kayvon Thibodeaux. The pass rush extraordinaire will be the best player on the field in the early season matchup, and he’ll have to be at his best to slow down what should be a potent and multi-faceted Ohio State offense. Oregon also features a talented secondary, with proven playmakers like Mykael Wright and Verone McKinley III, that could make life hard on Stroud, given it will only be his second collegiate game.

Offensively, it might be hard for the Ducks to find room to run against a fierce front seven and an Ohio State defensive scheme that is predicated on loading the box. But Oregon’s new and improved stable of long, athletic receivers could have some success against a maligned Buckeye defensive backfield.

Oregon is certainly capable of pulling off a shocker in its biggest game of the season. Ohio State isn’t an easy out to say the least, but this is a bigger, stronger and more complete Oregon team than the one the Buckeyes last saw in the Playoff a few years ago.

What do you think it will take for Mario Cristobal to get his statement win against the Buckeyes this season?

Joshua Whitted 
Morgantown, West Virginia
Top Photo by Tom Corno

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I’ve actually thought about this quite a lot. Why are we starting Anthony Brown this year instead of bringing up our burgeoning QB talent which, outside the tOSU game could take us the rest of the way through our schedule?

I believe Brown is in place to focus on beating the Buckeyes. I think his instant readiness and maturity to develop and be a weapon in the run game is the way we CAN beat them. He can be very effective in the Run Option formations and he is very effective throwing the ball to the short and middle zones.

We will we beat them? I certainly carry my doubts, it would take a massive improvement in only the second game of the year over the offensive ineptness that we saw last year. However!, given the maturity of Brown and an offensive staff that should and better start clicking on all cylinders-we have a chance!

At this moment I would give Ohio State an 8 point advantage and maybe a 65 point over/under.

Go Ducks!!


There’s really only one way to beat tOSU, and that is to play close in the first half and then dominate the third quarter. Keep the ball away from their offense in the first half, and then hit them with explosive plays in the third quarter. The program has a tendency to implode when down 14+ in the fourth.


I’m very confident we can actually finally beat the Buckeyes and that this game will much closer than the 2014-15 natty, we shouldn’t understimate Ohio State tho, they have a very good recruiting class as well as the JTT dude. but they lost a lot of experience too, in case we are extremely lucky this could end up like the 2007 Oregon-Michigan game which was played in Michigan’s stadium.

In case Oregon wins I predict they will make the Orange Bowl against Alabama as the one-loss number 4 seed in the semifinals (I dunno who would they lose to before that tho, but definitely not the Fuskies)


I’m calling for Oregon to be what we expect them to be and that’s talented on both sides. I have them beat them finally.


What I remember about some past big games that came up short:

Auburn 2010 championship – Could not block Nick Fairly, D front 7 did not stop the run, Could not get that extra yard on the ground

LSU 2011 – O line could not control LSU’s D line

Ohio St 2014 championship – could not stop Zeke Elliot, could not block Joey Bosa

Common theme: O line needs to block and D front 7 needs to stop the run. Skills players were not the issue.

Oregon has been beating USC for years, since near the end of the Pete Caroll era, and USC has skills players as good as anybody’s.

Offensively, it might be hard for the Ducks to find room to run against a fierce front seven and an Ohio State defensive scheme that is predicated on loading the box. But Oregon’s new and improved stable of long, athletic receivers could have some success against a maligned Buckeye defensive backfield.’ — IF OSU loads the box – the Ducks have to make them pay for it.


In the past, Oregon lost to top teams at the line of scrimmage. This year, they have a chance to play equal or close to equal with Ohio St.  The talent gap has narrowed. I’m not yet sold on the O line, but I think the rest of the team will compete. If the O line plays really well and opens some running lanes, then that would be my ‘shocker’.

I think the rest of the team will play well, including whoever is at QB. If Oregon cannot run the ball and Ohio St brings a heavy pass rush, then the offense will not create a lot of scoring chances. But if the O line can block their front 7, then this game could be a classic and THE BIGGEST WIN in program history. 

(I consider the biggest win to be vs Oklahoma in 2006, the second biggest vs Fla St in the playoffs, third biggest vs USC in 2007). I give the Ducks a 30% chance to win the game. Likely score in a loss: OSU 31, Oregon 13. Likely score in a win: Oregon 30, OSU 27. 


Yes! The Oregon Ducks can and will beat the Ohio Buckeyes.
Ohio State is just a name and a place. That’s all, nothing more.
This will be like when Oregon won against Michigan, in Ann Arbor during the Mike Bellotti Head Coach era.

Mario Cristobal and the Ducks will win versus Ohio State in Columbus on Sept 11th.
A new D-Day for the Buckeyes.
Then following that, JT Tuimoloau can just shake his head and realize he should have chosen Oregon instead.

Another new FishDuck commenter! Great to see you join the wonderful discussion here, and WELCOME!

Santa Rosa Duck

Off Topic: Regarding NIL, I just read that the University of Mississippi QB Matt Corral is offering his services for hire at $10,000 per hour. Pandoras Box has now been officially opened.

Jon Joseph

The twins who play women’s basketball at Fresno State and have over 3M Tik Tok followers are close to signing a deal for $500K+.

What could Johnny Football have made if he been allowed to sell his autograph without breaking NCAA rules? Matt Leinart + Reggie Bush?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Marcus Mariota, DAT, etc. But this wouldn’t bother the offensive linemen who protect and open the holes for them….will it?

Great question and perhaps a big locker room issue?

Santa Rosa Duck

This is what concerns me.


ScoopDuck is all about Seven McGee. Reading the take there reminds me that speed kills. How about mixing more Hutson, McGee and the fastest TE (Webb, Herbert or ?) into the schemes?

Mix and match, shake it up and see what sticks. Gotta play free and loose while protecting the ball. Conservative B1G plodding is not going to win this one.

BBC came out of the gate fast, put opposing teams on their heels wondering “who are those guys?” then put the game out of reach.

Go Ducks! Leave the Buckeyes reeling with “what just happened? Who were those guys? They weren’t supposed to be so good”. Under promise and over deliver the win.


OSU’s secondary and an inexperienced QB provide opportunity but the Ducks need to be able to Run the ball somewhat effectively against the stacked front. We will see what the O line is made of.

The Ducks will also have to get a pass rush and perhaps stack the box themselves to defend the run forcing the corners to play solid coverage against talented WRs.

This game seems to be as much about the coordinators as the players.

Yes the players must make the plays but were they taught well, well prepared, mentally strong and ready to execute the plays?

The game plan, play calls, and adjustments will count even more if there truly is a wide disparity of talent.

Coach D has made opposing QBs shake their heads previously with pressure from all directions leading to bad decisions, sacks, and turnovers.

Joe Moorhead will hopefully have a wrinkle or two up his sleeve and be able to adjust and not get high centered in an Arroyo waiting for the flood.

I’m thinking that there’s at least one first half pick with a new osu QB. We will find out a lot about our Ducks run D as well.

Optimistic but realistic, but let’s also not forget the Beatdown at the Big house. 39-7 Nobody saw that coming. Anything is possible.


VanDown..loved the “adjust and not get high centered in an Arroyo waiting for the flood.”

Jon Joseph

What a game Dixon had in Ann Arbor. Houdini with a football.

Michigan lost to App St, got blown out by the Ducks yet sent Lloyd Carr into retirement with a W against Florida, Urban Meyer and Timmy T.


Yes, Oregon “can” pull off a shocker, but not if the play-calling remains close to the same. I get why the playbook was dialed back after Taggart left and all the WRs went with him, leaving the cupboard bare. The case of dropsies was hard to watch. We all watched what Herbert was capable of doing in the NFL.

We saw bits and pieces of that potential at Oregon. That bothers me. The staff call plays too safe and too predictable. They never unleashed Herbert. That mindset has to die.

This is the first year the WR room is full, TEs… full, RBs… full. The O-Line is still young, but they should be decent this year. The D-Line, I don’t know. DeRuyter gives me hope. He unleashes players like Thibodeaux. and has shown significant improvements… first year, every time. if that trend continues, room for hope.

What I don’t want to see is what I watched for years. The D-line get engaged and focus solely on their opposing lineman. They concentrate on hands, grabbing jersey’s inside, and on moving the player. What I saw was miserable use of eyes and the ability to shed O-lineman to grab a player and close a gap. I’m yelling too often at the screen with my friends… “there they are playing patty-cake again!”

They are OFTEN completely oblivious of the player cutting through to their left or right. I see no effort to shed the lineman, let alone actually shedding them and taking the player down. I also don’t see enough effort to put hands in the air to block passing attempts. I’m hoping there is substantial effort to change that completely this year. If not, Ohio is running up the gut all day. Oregon has the talent and size to be a top-20 defense, or better. Would like to see it.

I’m not excited about Brown. His Spring game did not impress me. He is a 15 yards or closer guy… with high risk of errant throws past that range. No thanks, that’s right up Ohio’s strengths. The deep ball has to be a real threat. The teams that played well and the ones that beat Ohio, all aired it out against them. Didn’t actually look hard. They also lost their good players from last year.

Now, conversely, who the heck does Ohio play? Tulsa? Akron? Maryland? Michigan State? Penn State? Purdue?

Wow what a lame schedule. For me, comment that Ryan Day is “20-2” means little to me. There is one, maybe two, competitors on that list and none would be argued as truly competitive. So Ohio walks its way to the playoffs every year, then either shows up for the finals where; especially last year, they weren’t that good. So, they are 0-2 against real competitors. That is what I see.

I don’t know how good Ohio really is. No way am I buying they are dominant based on that schedule. Oregon would dominate with that schedule too. This is the first time in 50 years they are playing a QB without a snap of experience at the college level. Perhaps, that QB is the one in 50 or more that shows up the first few games, odds are against it.

We know Ohio’s game plan: run, run, run. Yes, they will go for some big plays and that just might backfire too. If Oregon’s D-lineman start shedding blocks, they have the players to stop that run game and the have the players to provide pressure… just the sauce to trigger turnovers.

My keys to the game for Oregon:

1) Play the QB that is a legitimate deep ball threat (Maybe Brown has it and Oregon wants him to look like he can’t… not sure they can scheme that smart and Brown’s history shows otherwise).
2) Take risks on play-calling. Don’t be predictable or play “safe” ball.
3) D-Lineman need to shed their O-lineman with ferocity and take the player in their gap down.
4) Stuff the box until Ohio proves their QB is capable (just what they ARE going to do to Oregon).
5) Practice early morning games multiple times to acclimate players. Arriving a day early will not cut it. They need to be used to it.
6) Tell your players, if you believe the other team is better, they are. If you don’t truly believe you can outplay, outwit, and outgun them, then you already lost. Every player has to have that mindset. Its the force behind exceptional.
7) Never give up. Playing behind or playing ahead, put on more gas. Accelerate through this game.

This is very much a winnable game. In my opinion, those are the keys to win. Play them, and the chances or are good, don’t and (IMHO) its a loss.

NOTE: I’m just a guy observing from his home. I’m no expert, but that is my perspective.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Wowsa. Trevor…where have YOU been? I would have loved your feedback on a ton of articles prior to this one, and I say that because this is your first post, and it was a dandy.

Well thought out, well written, and you make some killer points. Please post often and WELCOME!


Jon Joseph

Good + most insightful take.

However, regarding the schedule, Ohio State plays in the 2nd toughest division in CFB. Penn State? How many teams in the Pac-12 would, in a non-COVID season defeat Penn State?

Michigan and Indiana would likely finish in the top third of the Pac-12 conference.

Tulsa is a G5 team that had a great season in 2020. A far tougher opponent than Ohio State could have scheduled out of the MAC.

And Ohio State plays 9 conference games and there is not an FCS school on the schedule.

Want to see a pathetic OOC schedule? Check the 3 stiffs Bama plays after opening against Miami.


I agree that Brown is not overly impressive. Really need someone to step up and command respect from the defense and force them to defend more turf. Little dump passes won’t get it done.


Can Oregon pull off the shocker at the Shoe? No.


Yes they can pull the upset. Will they do it? That’s why we watch.

It’s time to see the OL and DL guys punch the Bucs early and hard then keep it up. Do this years Ducks want to win a championship? If they do then they must play smashmouth from whistle to whistle

Jon Sousa

…every game.


Oh I’ll definitely be watching. I just don’t have enough faith in MC and Brown to win the big one. I’m waiting for them to prove me wrong.

Jon Joseph

If Brown was in the Ohio State QB room he would have zero chance of starting.


A lot of questions to address her but I think the first is will Ohio state loss a regular season game this season? Under Day, tOSU has not lost a regular season game. now this could be due to the heroics and talent of Fields or it could be something else.

For Oregon to win I think a number of things need to happen.

  1. Our oline needs to play a good 2-3 clips better than they did last year.
  2. qb needs to be above average.
  3. Safeties need to over perform.(they were a big weakness in 2020)
  4. We need some coordinator magic.

I’d expect a really bland game against Fresno state. I think we can win that game and shouldn’t have to give away much of our playbook, but oregon will need to be prepared to dump a good portion of the book against tOSU.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

I like your safeties comment, but I do think Jamal Hill really came on toward the end of the season. Most would not have seen it, but another angle of UCLA’s last pass to Phillips was tipped by Hill and he never got public credit.

Of course a monster game with two interceptions in the Pac-12 Championship raised our eyebrows on Hill.

But you are right….we lack the special free-safety of the past.

Jamal Hill_Pac12 Video.jpg
Jon Joseph

Thanks Joshua.

The 9AM Pacific kickoff does not help the Ducks cause. I hope that Mullens plans to have the team arrive at least a day earlier than normal to help adapt to the time change.

+10 for the Ducks is where the line should be. If Oregon can pull off the upset it will be the Ducks 1st W against the Bucks.

In addition to the players and the positions you mentioned, Ohio State’s 5* true frosh RB looked great in the spring game. And exactly as you noted, Ohio State has the nation’s 3rd deepest roster.

Spot on regarding the Ohio State WRs. Best in the nation if the new QB can get them the ball.

By Ohio State standards, last season’s pass D was not good. Bama took advantage of the Ohio State back end as did Indiana. With a healthy Penix at QB and bombing away, the Hoosiers almost came back for an improbable win in Columbus.

Oregon cannot win this game without playing gutsy offense. The Ducks D will not shut this O down. If Oregon gets a lead it cannot sit on it as happened in the most recent game vs Auburn. [Picking up on Hayward’s comment below, Minnesota under Coach Fleck defeated the Auburn team Oregon lost to because Fleck kept his foot on the gas for 4 quarters.]

What can Brown do for UO? He will have to play the game of his life. Brown has never started and won a game versus a top 25 opponent. Regardless of experience, Brown would not be the guy to emerge in the battle to see who replaces Justin Fields at QB.

The Ducks have to show up with an attitude. Like Oregon did vs SC last season and not do against Iowa St, among others.

Have to win the turnover battle by +2 at least. Have to have Mr. K make every FG attempt.

Let’s hope that Oregon, at least, takes this game deep into the 4th quarter.


I agree with this. We’re not going to stop Ohio State. The D at least needs to slow them down in the running game. If they run wild then it’s going to be a rough go.

We do need to be aggressive on offense. The key is not coughing up the football in the process. We’ve got so many weapons at receiver. I really hope Devon Williams gets a chance to be a go-to guy.

I don’t know how this game will play out, we ended the season on such a sour note last year. Keeping it close into the fourth quarter would be a success and bode well for the rest of the season.


Not only that but Cristobal needs to abandon the “pistol plunge”. It doesn’t even work against lower tier Pac-12 opponents let alone tOSU. If I start seeing him forcing Moorehead to use it during the game I’m turning off the tv!

Jon Joseph

Cristobal has to mature into much more of a CEO role. He has to hand over the O to Joe.

As others have noted, Oregon will not smash mouth its way to a W vs Ohio State.

Jon Sousa

“Hand the O to Joe!”

I can hear that chanted loudly at Autzen.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

I LOVE that! I am picturing the chant getting louder….


Jon + Charles, Outstanding!

Jon Joseph

The multiple TOs we witnessed from the Oregon O in 2020 cannot happen in Columbus.

Oregon must win the TO battle and score points off the TOs as the Ducks did versus FSU in the inaugural playoff game.


It will take Minnesota rattling the nuts enough to raise doubt on how good they are in their first game. The Golden Gophers have an excellent coach and a very good DE. If they can create a blueprint on how to get to the young qb tOSU’s kryptonite may get exposed.

Basically we will have to get after the young qb. I think Flowe will be the difference maker if that is to happen. Too much focus on Thibs will allow Flowe to make Stroud start to see shadows everywhere. Get after the qb and create turnovers. If we win the turnover battle, we win!

On offense it will be the young receivers who will have to step up and make catches. We’re dead if Cristobal tries to power run against this d-line.

Jon Joseph

Great take. The OH ST O line will likely be the best or 2nd best group the Ducks play against this season.

IMO, and as you noted, DeRuyter will need to use a blitz heavy D to create havoc for the young Buckeyes QB. He will have to run the risk of a new starter at QB not being able to take advantage of the openings on D the blitz will create. Also, if the true frosh starts at RB, take advantage of the youngster’s pass blocking.

Agree 100% that Flowe could be the X factor in this game.

Jon Sousa

Flowe, Sewell, and Funa…


Agree and Sewell giving the knockout sack. If Sewell is able to hit a quarterback full steam, it won’t end well for the qb.

Santa Rosa Duck

Vegas has tOSU favored by 10 points and that is probably about right. I do think our Ducks have a chance at a win here. This will be the first and real test of Anthony Brown. We have the horsepower to score and it might be mainly through the air. Our defensive line has to harass the new QB for tOSU. It is all possible and Mario will have to let his Offensive and Defensive Coordinators be in charge 99% of the time. GO DUCKS!

67 days to kickoff in Columbus, Ohio. But let’s not overlook Fresno State!

Jon Joseph

With Fields – 0% chance. Without Field’s there is hope.


Defensive speed, disruption and plus turnovers. The emergence of Oregon’s special teams is a must to win. Pin them deep, win field position, make PATS and FGs. Strike early and hard. The ball must bounce our way. Make our own breaks, don’t wait for them. Tackle. Tackle. Tackle.

We need really big games by the RB’s running, receiving and blocking. TE’s must take charge and win the edges.

Now for QB. I am a predictor and supporter of Brown. If he is not getting it done though, and not winning the battle, then try another QB or even two. This is the time tp attack and not play timid and safe. There’s no better matchup to find “the guy”.


Yes there was a season where we stuck with the transfer too long. The freshman who took his place was so good, he became the NFL rookie of the year.

I can’t wait to hear about practices and see how they look against Fresno. I have a feeling we have another special one on the bench, but which one will win out?


That’s where the CEO needs to let his vice presidents take care of what they were hired to do…


There is always a chance. This still boils down to play calling and whether MC will let his OC do his job or will he continue to override the plays? I love the pistol stack run up the middle…

Jon Joseph

Lloyd Christmas, is that you?