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Ohio State Offense vs Oregon Defense
The Buckeye's rank #2 vs Currently Ranked Opponents (CRO) in YPP on offense with an eye popping average of 8.27. That resume was built vs defenses ranked #20 Alabama, #47 Wisconsin, and #70 MSU. Oregon ranks #29 in this defensive metric allowing 5.67 YPP vs CRO. Oregon's defensive resume was built against the ranked teams #10 UCLA, #11 FSU, #18 MSU, #54 Arizona (twice), and #63 Utah.
In regards to scoring offense Ohio State ranks #1 at 50.0 pts per game vs CRO defenses #11 Alabama, #49 Wisconsin, and #60 MSU. Oregon ranks #8 defensively in this category at 24.7 ppg and built that resume playing offensive CRO #10 UCLA, #14 MSU, #17 FSU, #36 Arizona (twice), and #52 Utah.
It's worth noting that both teams played other teams that are statistically impressive. Ohio State has played against two other quality defenses in Penn State (which measures as the #2 defense either team has played) and Virginia Tech. Oregon has played against quality offenses California (which is the highest scoring offense vs CRO either team has played) and Washington State is also noteworthy offensively.
Oregon Offense vs Ohio State Defense
The Ducks rank #9 vs CRO in YPP on offense gaining 6.85. They have built that against ranked defenses of #7 UCLA, #32 Arizona (twice), #50 Utah, #66 FSU and #70 MSU. Ohio State ranks #11 defensively yielding 5.24 YPP vs CRO. The Buckeye's achieved that defensive number against #18 MSU, #19 Wisconsin, and #21 Alabama.
Oregon ranks #4 scoring 45.5 vs CRO defenses #15 UCLA, #21 Arizona (twice), #32 Utah, #49 FSU, and #60 MSU. Ohio State ranks #6 allowing 24.0 ppg vs CRO offenses #14 MSU, #15 Alabama, and #22 Wisconsin.
Note: Oregon also played against Stanford which measures out as the top overall defense vs CRO either team has played. Ohio State did not play any other noteworthy offenses however its worth noting they have the best defensive performance between the two teams in their shutout over Wisconsin.
Red Zone vs CRO
Ohio State ranks #23 converting 92.86 Red Zone attempts into points and #18 scoring TD's 71.43% of the time. Oregon defensively ranks #68 allowing opponents to Score 90.91% of the time and #36 in TD% allowing 59.09% of their opponents Red Zone trips to result in a TD.
Oregon ranks #33 scoring points on 87.88% of their Red Zone trips and #34 scoring TD's 63.64% of the time. Ohio State ranks #60 allowing opponents to score 88.89% of the time and #98 in TD% allowing 88.89% of their opponents Red Zone trips to result in a TD.
California is the most efficient Red Zone scoring team vs CRO in the country by a good margin followed by Wisconsin at #2.
Turnover Margin vs CRO
Oregon ranks #2 with a margin of 12 or +2.00 per game and Ohio State ranks #6 with a margin of +1.00.
Comparison: As you can tell by the metrics it fairly difficult to find a clear advantage to either team. Ohio State has played what most people considered the most "complete" team in the country in the SEC Champion Alabama Crimson Tide and the Buckeyes controlled them for the most part if you minus out a few early miscues. Meanwhile Oregon faced what was supposed to be their toughest test of the season but ended up turning a five point competitive first half into a second half flogging of the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles. More similarities would be the teams dominance against a good Michigan State team and also the beatings they put down in their respective conference championship games against quality opponents. If that isn't enough for you, consider both teams have been hit hard by the injury bug (though at different positions), suffered early season losses, run a version of the spread option, have +220lbs running backs, stingy defenses, and track athletes at skill positions. The really scary part is there are even more similarities which is why we think this is going to be a very competitive game.
How Ohio State Wins: While these teams are very similar and in many ways a mirror image of each other we believe they have enough contrast to give one team an advantage over the other. Where we see an advantage for Ohio State is with their ability to run the football. Ezekiel Elliot is the best back that Oregon will have faced this season and Ohio State's offensive front reminds me of Stanford a bit. We believe that Ohio State's ability to control the clock and sustain drives will be one of the biggest keys in the game. There is a proven blueprint on how to beat Oregon and that has been to run power, control clock, sustain drives, and hold them under 30 points on offense. Simply stated teams that have done this in the past against the Ducks have won and Ohio State has the athletes to make that happen. We fully expect that Ohio State will give Oregon a steady dose of Ezekiel Elliot mixed with some designed runs from Cardale Jones and change of pace with Marshall and Wilson. If they are successful running the ball it will open up the vertical passing game in which Jones to Smith could be a lethal combo. Offense alone will not beat Oregon however if Ohio State's physical defensive front can make Oregon one dimensional by stopping the run and still get pressure on Mariota then that will be a huge advantage for the Buckeyes. Another stat to look at is how many three and outs can Ohio State cause Oregon to have. If Ohio State can control the clock on offense and Oregon is limited to 10 possessions or less it would be hard to see a situation that Ohio State doesn't come out on top.
How Oregon Wins: While we think Ohio State's biggest key is to control the game with offense we think for Oregon a national championship win starts with defense. Simply stated but much harder to do, Oregon must be able to contain Ezekiel Elliot. Elliot is so good that we believe if Oregon can hold him under 4 yards per carry that would be a success along with holding the Buckeyes under 200 yards on the ground. These would be well below their season average. We think Oregon will need limit the Buckeye running game and challenge Cardale Jones to throw into tight windows outside the hash marks while taking away the over the top throw. Jones has shown he will throw some 50/50 balls and we think if you only allow him to dink-and-dunk he will get impatient as the game goes on and make throws into coverage. The Ducks will need to challenge each pass and get those long arms up in the short throwing lanes. Offensively, establishing the run is key for Oregon to open up the passing game against a Buckeye defense that ranks #8 vs CRO in pass defense rating. Oregon needs to give a steady dose of Freeman and Tyner with cameos from Nelson and Mariota. If Oregon can establish the run and get the Ohio State linebackers hesitating then I would expect Mariota to have a big day which is a great sign for Duck fans. It's hard to see any situation Oregon doesn't win if the offense gets rolling and the defense is able to hold Ohio State's run game in check.
What we think will happen: We think that this could be a very competitive game well into the fourth quarter. Expect Ohio State to come out fired up and loose and Oregon to come out swinging. We think Ohio State could lead early but Oregon will come back in the second quarter to even things up. We predicted Cardale Jones would have an off game against Alabama and he proved us wrong by being nothing less than excellent as he was in both of his starts. Expect for him to make great plays but we think Oregon will actually control the line of scrimmage against Ohio State's offensive line making it difficult for Jones to get comfortable but he will remain productive throughout the game. With that control of the line of scrimmage we think Oregon holds Elliot in check most of the day (125 yards) keeping Ohio State in the mid twenty to low thirty point range for scoring. We think Oregon's offense will struggle against the Ohio State defense for a while but Mariota ends up being too much with his feet and eventually opens up the Ohio State secondary while tempo gets the Buckeyes in the end. We think Oregon has played one of the toughest schedules in the country and has the best player in the country. We also think there is a higher than normal chance that Cardale Jones gets frustrated in this game. While we like a lot of things about the Buckeyes this game will be decided at the line of scrimmage but another large factor will be a big turnover or special teams play in favor of Oregon at a crucial moment. We think Oregon wins their first national championship 38-27 and they add a victory dance on the podium at Jerry's House to one of the places they went.