After an absolutely wild CFP semifinals, the Championship Game is set, with a matchup that approximately zero people saw coming.
TCU will try to complete the ultimate Cinderella story, while the Bulldogs — the heavy favorites — look to become the first repeat title winners in over a decade.
But what does any of this have to do with Oregon?
If the Ducks hope to make it to the dance in the near future (and advance in it), they can take notes from this year’s participants. Here are the biggest takeaways from the CFP semifinals.
Explosive Plays Are King
Dan Lanning made it clear from the get-go that explosive plays are the biggest determinants of wins and losses in college football. He couldn’t have been more right. Both semifinal games were absolutely littered with chunk plays, and it led to two incredible shootouts.
Three of the four Playoff participants rank in the top-20 in yards allowed per game. When it comes to facing elite defenses, it’s significantly harder for an offense to consistently sustain long drives. At some point, on a lengthy drive, something bad is bound to happen, as evidenced by the combined six turnovers in the Fiesta Bowl.
The way to find success against top-tier defenses is by gaining yards in bunches, to move the ball down the field in as few plays as possible. TCU had a run of 69 yards and a pass of 76 yards to complement its very opportunistic defense. Michigan was able to keep pace despite a medley of errors offensive due to 54- and 39-yard rushes, and pass plays of 50, 44 and 32 yards.
TCU used explosive plays, along with forcing turnovers, to get ahead, and then Michigan used them to make it a game.
Arian Smith’s 76-yard touchdown sparked Georgia’s comeback over Ohio State in a game where the Bulldogs, who are known for their stingy defense, had to open things up offensively to keep up with a talented Buckeye offense.
Having the players, the scheme and the speed to be explosive is essential in today’s game. It is the difference between winning and losing, especially against elite competition.
Elite QBs Are Necessary
Great defenses can carry a team to a stellar record during the regular season, and they can even earn a team a trip to the CFP. But it is practically impossible to advance beyond that point without elite quarterback play.
The best example of this was in the Peach Bowl, where one of the best quarterbacks in all of college football over the past couple of seasons — CJ Stroud — faced the most talented defense in the country. Georgia’s defense was dominant this season, and it’s full of former blue-chip recruits at every level. But even the best defenses in college football can be picked apart by a top-flight quarterback, and that’s exactly what happened.
Stroud nearly led Ohio State to the Championship Game behind a brilliant performance, throwing for 348 yards, four touchdowns and posting a 93.8 QBR. His performance doesn’t mean that Georgia’s defense wasn’t as good as advertised, it just goes to show that outstanding quarterback play is the ultimate trump card.
Luckily, Georgia has an elite quarterback of its own. Stetson Bennett didn’t put up the numbers of some of the other Heisman-caliber passers did during the regular season, but that’s largely because he didn’t have to. When push came to shove, he absolutely delivered.
Bennett had the game of his life on Saturday, throwing for nearly 400 yards and accounting for four touchdowns of his own. In the CFP, quarterback play almost always determines the outcome of the game. Elite quarterback play is not a luxury; it is a necessity.
Oregon isn’t too far off from punching its own ticket to the CFP in the near future. Lanning clearly knows the importance of high-level quarterback play and creating explosive plays. If he continues to place an emphasis on these factors, it won’t be long before the Ducks will be playing in the Playoff rather than watching it from the couch.
Grove City, Ohio
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Joshua is an adopted Duck fanatic, originally hailing from southwestern Pennsylvania. His love for the University of Oregon began as a young child when he became mesmerized by the flashy uniforms and explosive offenses of the Chip Kelly era, and now, he follows the team religiously. His fondest memory of the team is seeing De’Anthony Thomas race past Wisconsin defenders back in the 2012 Rose Bowl. A true football enthusiast, Joshua loves studying the intricacies of the game, and he aspires to become a professional sports journalist. Joshua now resides in Morgantown, West Virginia where he works in customer service. When he’s not watching Oregon replays, Joshua loves reading, writing, and spending time with his family. Contact: email@example.com
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