Saturday, November 17, 2012
Stanford comes into the game nationally ranked #1 against the run, #1 in TFL (tackles for loss), #17 in Total Defense, and a less publicized stat #9 in Yards Per Play allowed at a stingy 4.48.
Conversely Oregon comes into the game nationally ranked #3 in Rushing Offense, Passing Efficiency, and Total Offense. Oregon also ranks #1 in Yards Per Rush Attempt at 6.07.
It's obvious to see that the first order of the matchup is a lot about strength vs strength. Oregon will try and spread Stanford out and get their players one on one in space. This has worked well for Oregon the past two years beating Stanford by a combined 44 points. Stanford will try to contain Oregon and keep them boxed inside so they can get a numbers advantage and gang tackle. This approach has worked well for Stanford most of the time the past two years. The difference in this match up the last two years has been the explosion plays for Oregon. We'll see if Stanford can stop the explosion plays and the Ducks Offense this year.
The Cardinal are very tough in the front seven and have been dominant against the run game in their eight wins this year. They held USC which averages 462.9 yards per game to just 280 total yards and only 26 yards rushing. They held Notre Dame 50 yards below their rushing average and Arizona 90 yards below their rushing average.
As good as the Cardinal have been against the run they have really struggled against the pass this year. At first glance they appear much better against the pass than they are, ranked #25 in PED (Pass Efficiency Defense). However if you look closer they are allowing opponents to complete 61.5% of the passes thrown against them which would rank them #80 out of 120. Also Stanford has a relatively low interception percentage and allows 6.15 yards per pass attempt. Further proof of their struggles against the pass are the game against WSU where they gave up 401 yards passing and barely beat the struggling Cougs by 7.
If there is one thing Stanford must do to beat Oregon is stop the run. If Oregon runs the ball effectively it could be huge trouble for the Cardinal. Stanford is 1-2 when allowing over 100 yards rushing, Arizona (126 yards in OT Win), Washington (136 in Loss), and Notre Dame (150 in OT Loss).
The most similar team to Oregon offensively that Stanford has faced is Arizona which the Cardinal beat in Overtime 54-48. The Wildcats gained 617 yards in that game passing for 491 of those.
It's no secret that Oregon has one of the best rushing attacks in college football. It's similar statistically (rushing) to the dominant Nebraska teams of the mid 90's that would just wear its opponents down as the game went on and in the second half would eventually pull away no matter who it was. What makes this team more dangerous is the emergence of their passing game with Marcus Mariota. Mariota leads the nation in Passing Efficiency and has thrown 28 TD's and 5 Int's. All five interceptions came early in the season as he has not thrown a pick in the last 4 games. Mariota's threat in the passing game gives Oregon the most balanced attack in all of college football. He also runs a 4.4 40 yard dash and has shown he can take it the distance and run away from defenders in the secondary.
With all there is to be impressed with Mariota the thing that sticks out the most to me is his situational statistics and where he excels. He is best in the 1st and 4th quarters, 3rd down and 1-3 yards to go, and of course when the game is within 7 points either way. With as good as he is in those situations he is at his best when in the Red Zone with an unreal QB Rating of 249.02 with 18 TD's and 0 INT's.
Stanford's runs a pro style offense and likes to pound the ball with Stephen Taylor and then when you load the box to stop the run they get you off balance with the play action pass. The Cardinal offense ranks #84 in total offense, #57 in rushing offense, and #71 in passing efficiency. Stanford features one of the best running backs in the country in Stephen Taylor and two huge playmaking tight ends in Ertz and Toilolo. Stanford has had some trouble at QB since losing Andrew Luck last year and it has shown in the overall production of the offense this year. They have had some costly turnovers and at times have struggled to move the ball against over matched opponents. RS Freshman Kevin Hogan who is replacing Josh Nunes will make his first road start at Autzen this weekend and we will learn a lot about him this evening. He appears to have all the physical tools to be an excellent QB in the Pac 12 so it will be interesting to see how he performs.
Oregon has taken some major set backs on defense recently with injuries. They have lost many key players and last week at one point played an all freshman defensive line against Cal. After some initial set backs the youthful line held up just fine in the second half. The defense currently ranks #28 in Yards Per Play Allowed, #18 in Pass Efficiency Defense, and #47 against the run however they give up 4.06 Yards Per Rushing Attempt which is #50.
It's hard to measure the Ducks defense as they've played approximately 67% of the season as a starting unit. One thing is for certain, that Oregon struggles when they don't get pressure on the QB. The best example of this is the USC game where the Trojans torched the Oregon secondary. There were some questionable calls in the secondary however, there's no excuse good enough to explain giving up 484 yards passing to anyone.
Oregon will need to stop the Stanford rushing attack between the tackles and force them to try and outrace Oregon to the edges which would be in high favor of the Ducks speedy linebackers. Stanford lacks elite speed at wide receiver but makes up for it with solid route runners and two huge tight ends. Zach Ertz is a good router runner for his size and will be Hogan's primary target. Ertz is particularly dangerous in the middle of the field because of his size. It will be important for the defensive line to get their hands up disrupting the passing lanes when they can't get to Hogan. Hogan has above average speed and is not scared to run the ball if everyone is covered. Last week against Oregon State he showed patience and his ability to check down from his primary receiver. He extended a few key plays with his feet including a touchdown pass to Stephen Taylor who appeared to be his 3rd receiving option. Being Hogan's first road start, it will interesting to see how he deals with the noise in the "House of Loud".
Oregon's defensive line is ailing from injury's and I think Shaw will try to pound the ball early in the game with some Jumbo Sets mainly at the right side of Oregon's defensive line. If the Cardinal can establish the run early they will then run play action which could give Oregon some trouble. Stanford also has the physical ability to disrupt the Oregon run game. The problem they have is limiting the big plays. The last two years they have had success on most plays but then allow an explosion play. If Stanford can eliminate the explosion plays it increases their odds of upsetting Oregon greatly.
As good as Stanford is on defense, I don't think they have enough depth and speed in the secondary to stop Oregon's explosion plays all game long. The fact that they struggle against the pass is enough evidence for me to think Mariota will have another huge day. Oregon will find a way to exploit the mismatches and get their playmakers in one on one situations. Mariota's running ability will play a key in the run game as he is by far the best dual threat QB that Stanford will have faced this season. Last year Stanford keyed in on the running backs in the read option and several times Darren Thomas had running lanes but did not execute for whatever reason. Expect that to change this year. The screen pass was also highly effective against the Cardinal last year and expect to see more of the same today.
The Cardinal have only played one true spread option no huddle attack and that was Arizona. Stanford really struggled to stop Arizona and Matt Scott so I see no reasonable evidence that they will be able to stop Oregon. Oregon has been solid defensively this season however they have struggled more against the pro style offenses than spread attacks. I do expect Stanford to move the ball and score some points but its hard to see them scoring more than 24.
The big X Factor in this game is Oregon's D-Line and how effective they are against the Stanford run.
I expect Mariota will have another huge day with 300+ yards, look for DAT to get back on track with some big plays of his own. Also expect the Oregon defense to show up with a solid performance. I would take Oregon and the 21 points.
Ducks Big 55-21
Thanks for reading,
Sunday, November 4, 2012
The Oregon Ducks were finally tested for 4 quarters against a quality opponent on the road. The Ducks travelled to the famed Coliseum, took USC's best punch and prevailed with another victory that was 17 points until the final second of the game. The game was never really in doubt and the Ducks never trailed but USC put up a valiant fight worthy of praise. The Trojans never quit fighting but in the end they were outmatched by an opponent that is equally as athletic and superiorly coached. I would not be surprised if we see a rematch next month and I look forward to it.
USC's offense did teach us that the Ducks defense still has plenty of room for improvement. This was USC's best offensive performance in 2012 and Oregon made plenty of mistakes to help the Trojans. Oregon had 79 yards of penalties, a few questionable pass interference calls, but most disturbingly gave up almost 500 yards in the air. It wasn't just the yards, but the fact that everyone knew going in that USC was going to pass the ball. Now I'll give credit to Kiffen for creating mismatches and using Lee in a fashion he has seldom in two years.
That being said Oregon took some bad angles in the secondary, the D Line struggled not only getting penetration, but also did a really poor job of tackling overall. There were some good moments but overall USC's offensive line easily outplayed Oregon upfront. USC's receivers played well and were assisted by a few drive extending (phantom) calls but that's how it goes when you are on the road. Avery Patterson made a fundamental mistake on a deep ball to Agholor going for the pick instead of laying the receiver on his back. The mistake on that play was a TD for USC and kept the momentum going. Brian Jackson misplayed a TD by Lee but it appeared IEO failed to jam properly or there was a miscommunication in the coverage. IEO fell after initial contact with Lee but either way Jackson still had a chance to impede Lee on that play but simply let him run by and ended up getting beat badly for a TD.
On the defensive front Oregon got beat up with injury's to multiple players including Dion Jordan, and failed to force Barkley into too many bad decisions. They were able to get to him a few times and forced a INT twice but one was called pass interference. The pressure was not consistent but at the end of the day they did get the job done. This was a tough and gritty performance but Oregon will need to play better up front to compete down the stretch with Stanford and Oregon State which also have physical offensive fronts.
The biggest concern that I have is this is only the second Pro Style offense Oregon has faced and they exposed some major holes in the defense. Oregon State and Stanford both run a similar Pro Style offense and could post some major difficulties to Oregon if things don't improve. The last point of concern is Oregon has yet to play an elite run defense. Stanford ranks #1 and Oregon State #5 against the run in the FBS which Oregon will play the last two weeks of the regular season.
Here are the biggest takeaways for me from the USC Game:
1) Oregon can play at a high level offensively for 4 quarters.
2) Mariota can play on the road, question now is can he do it after a big game against a lesser opponent.
3) Defense still has room for improvement.
4) Pro Style offenses may pose a bigger challenge to Oregon than spread offenses. This may be due to Oregon's emphasis on speedy defense.
5) Defense can make key plays and deal with attrition.
6) Marquise Lee is the best college receiver since Calvin Johnson.
7) Ifo Ekpre-Olomu can match up with Marquise Lee one on one. I would say besides a few questionable pass interference calls and giving up inside leverage near in the red zone, IEO played him as good as you can.
8) USC has elite talent, just not elite coaching.
9) Barner is a legitimate threat to win the Heisman.
10) DAT is elite but maybe the 3rd best offensive player on the team.
11) Everyone is going to give Oregon its best shot, especially when the Ducks are on the road.
12) Ducks have what it takes to be a contender.
I'm not sure if the Ducks would beat Bama yet, but I'm feeling more confident about it. Bama runs a pro style offense with big running backs behind a huge offensive line. They are dominant on defense especially the front seven. Their linebackers go between 240lbs - 265lbs and can run, but LSU showed the Bama defense can be vulnerable in the latter part of the game. It would be an epic battle and I'm beginning to think Oregon could wear them down over the course of the game but it won't happen unless Oregon wins out.
Thanks for reading,
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Sunday, October 14, 2012
Here are some stats that you can analyze when comparing the upcoming matchup this Thursday. Try and let the stats talk and then draw your conclusion...easier said than done.
Defense - Ranks 8th in YPG (272.67), 5th in Yards Per Play (3.92), and have only given up 11 TD's while defending 417 plays.
33rd in 3rd Down Defense allowing 34.34% conversions.
#2 in PED(Pass Efficiency Defense), #38 Run Defense 128.00 YPG and 3.23 YPA
56) Cal - Total Offense 416.57 YPG, 5.98 YPP (Yards Per Play), and 25 Touchdowns in 488 Plays.
ASU W 27-17 Cal 3-4
103) Colorado - 327.33 YPG, 4.64 YPP, and 17 TD's in 423 Plays
ASU W 51-17 Colorado 1-5
105) Missouri - 323.71 YPG, 4.73 YPP, and 20 TD's in 479 Plays
ASU L 20-24 Missouri 3-4
111) Illinois - 309.57 YPG, 4.64 YPP, and 17 TD's in 467 Plays
ASU W 45-14 Illinois 2-5
114) Utah - 302.67 YPG, 4.60 YPP, and 18 TD's in 395 Plays
ASU W 37-7 Utah 2-4
ASU Offense - Ranks 24th with 479.00 YPG, 6.43 YPP, and 32 TD's in 447 Plays.
42nd in 3rd Down Conversions at 44.58%.
4th in Passing Efficiency with a rating of 173.95
42nd in Rushing Offense with 187.83 YPG and 4.32 YPA (Yards Per Attempt)
35) Utah - Allowed 350.67 YPG, 5.26 YPP, and 19 TD's in 400 Plays Defended.
42) Missouri - Allowed 356.14 YPG, 5.18 YPP, and 23 TD's in 481 Plays Defended.
52) Illinois - Allowed 376.43 YPG, 5.91 YPP, and 29 TD's in 446 Plays Defended.
79) Cal - Allowed 418.71 YPG, 5.22 YPP, and 23 TD's in 561 Plays Defended.
113) Colorado - Allowed 494.17 YPG, 6.63 YPP, and 32 TD's in 447 Plays Defended.
Defense- Ranks 43rd in YPG (359.83), 15th YPP (4.55), and have given up 14 TD's in defending 474 Plays.
10th in 3rd Down Defense allowing 29.17% conversions.
#10 PED, #37 Run Defense 126.83 YPG and 3.52 YPA
4) Arizona - 551.33 YPG, 6.09 YPP, and 29 TD's in 543 Plays
Oregon W 49-0 Arizona 3-3
28) Fresno St - 469.29 YPG, 6.11 YPP, and 33 TD's in 538 Plays
Oregon W 42-25 Fresno St 4-3
36) Arkansas St - 448.71 YPG, 6.05 YPP, and 28 TD's in 519 Plays
Oregon W 57-34 Arkansas St 4-3
93) WSU - 362.86 YPG, 5.15 YPP, and 17 TD's in 493 Plays
Oregon W 51-26 WSU 2-5
109) Washington - 317.50 YPG, 4.69 YPP and 17 TD's in 406 Plays
Oregon W 52-21 Washington 3-3
Oregon Offense - Ranks 8th with 541.67 YPG, 6.47 YPP, and 43 TD's in 502 Plays.
T15th in 3rd Down Conversions at 50%
26th in Passing Efficiency with a rating of 149.96
4th in Rushing Offense with 302.33 YPG and 5.83 YPA
29) Fresno St - 338.00 YPG, 4.87 YPP, and 21 TD's in 486 Plays Defended
40) Washington - 355.17 YPG, 5.48 YPP, and 20 TD's in 389 Plays Defended
51) Arkansas St - 376.29 YPG, 5.14 YPP, and 26 TD's in 512 Plays Defended
102) WSU - 462.57 YPG, 5.79 YPP, and 27 TD's in 559 Plays Defended
110) Arizona - 478.83 YPG, 5.82 YPP, and 26 TD's in 494 Plays Defended
There are a few arguments on both sides to be had in my opinion. If I'm arguing that ASU is better I will point out Pass Efficiency on both sides of the ball, that the schedule was against opponents from better conferences even though the loss to Missouri is there they play in the SEC. I might also point out that Oregon struggled in the first half against WSU on the road and second half against Fresno St at home. I would also point out that Oregon's rushing stats may be skewed as they have faced less than stellar run defenses with Fresno St (65) which allows 159.71 per game and 4.01 YPA. That run defense would be among the worst that ASU has played. I would also point out that we also run a lot of plays, are physical, and have a lot of speed too.
On the other hand if I'm arguing for Oregon I'd say that of all ASU's opponents only Cal (60) and Missouri (74) was in the Top 75 Pass Efficiency Defenses in the country and that all 5 FBS opponents Oregon played were in the Top 75 PED. I would also argue that out of the Offenses ASU has played, Utah was the highest ranked in Pass Efficiency Defense at 62. As far as schedule goes I would point out that Fresno State beat Colorado 69-14 in Boulder and has one of the best throwing QB's in the country. I would say that Utah isn't the same Utah since Wynn retired and the loss to Missouri now looks worse by the week. I would give you credit for the Cal win which looks better by the week. The last thing I might point to is the shutout of Arizona was a very good win even though they have lost 3 straight they were all to currently ranked opponents and Arizona was a few plays away from being a 5 win team. The last thing I would say is the Washington win will look better as the season goes on as they too have only lost to ranked teams...highly ranked teams.
I think fans from both sides can twist the stats and make them speak in favor of their team. With that in mind I looked to ESPN to get their early take.
Now, almost everyone would probably agree with ESPN Pac-12 Blogger Ted Miller that ASU will be by far the toughest test Oregon has faced all season. I agree with that to some extent, heck I told my good friend and Oregon Legend, Dino Philyaw two weeks ago that I felt ASU could beat Oregon and here's why:
The game is Thursday night, national spotlight and Oregon has had a history of bad luck in the Desert mainly Tuscan, but it's still a hostile environment and the Ducks really struggled in their only road game this season against lowly WSU on a neutral field. It's also much hotter there which evens the playing field as far as conditioning goes. It's only Mariota's second road start and Oregon will get ASU's best shot especially early in the game. For first year coach Todd Graham this is a chance for him to showcase what he has done to turn the program around so quickly and I have a sneaking suspicion that ASU was prepping at least mentally for the Ducks the week of the Colorado game. I realize no coach would ever admit that but I can promise you by the way they came out in the first half it sure looked like they were looking ahead. Also there is no pressure for ASU to win as they go in as a 12-point underdog. Further more ASU has Taylor Kelly one of the nations most efficient QB's and they have plenty of speed on both sides of the ball. Will Sutton is a undersized monster on defense, they do good things on special teams, and most of all they don't make too many mistakes. The last two years ASU has played Oregon very tough and have really given the Ducks all they could handle and this year I believe they come in with more confidence than ever before. The last thing that really concerns me is Oregon has turned the ball over a lot this year which is consistent with youth at key positions and if they do that vs ASU on the road it could be a long desert night.
That was the why and here is the why not:
As immature Oregon is on offense at times, they make up for it on defense. Oregon defense is highly talented with a lot of speed and a very high IQ. It's not just that they make stops, it's how they make them that is impressive. You have guys that understand where to be on most plays and this year I just haven't seen them out of position a whole bunch. There are a few times every game but that will happen. The defense has defended 474 plays vs ASU Offense which has run 447 plays. Also Oregon's offense has run 502 plays vs ASU's defense which has defended 417 plays. Oregon has also faced 4 different variations of the No Huddle Spread Attack this year. Most of the guys playing on defense have faced Cam Newton and Russel Wilson. That is the reason that I was not worried about Matt Scott a few weeks back, but Taylor Kelly is better than Matt Scott. It will be interesting to see if Oregon's defense can get to Kelly and put him in the dirt a few times early. If they can get consistent pressure without having to blitz each time they should have success. On offense I think Oregon will need to deal with ASU coming out juiced on defense and no doubt they will be trying to punch Oregon in the mouth early. For the Ducks it's going to be about establishing the run game and 3rd down efficiency.
As a slight contradiction to what I stated above and with the distraction of losing Isaac Remington indefinitely I think Oregon's defense may struggle a bit early in the desert. I think they will make plays down the stretch similar to what you saw in the Rose Bowl last year. I look for Mariota to have a much better game than the last time on the road. I think DAT will have a breakout performance because ASU will not put their entire focus on stopping him as the last 3 opponents have. I also think DAT will get more touches at RB inside the tackles. I don't think Oregon will run away from the Devils early but I do think as the game goes on Oregon will find it's way and wear the Devils down while posting a 10 point win.
Don't be surprised if: Oregon trails by two scores early. If Oregon loses the turnover battle by 1 or 2 but wins on special teams (DAT big return). If the defense makes big plays down the stretch. I'm completely wrong and Oregon dominates from start to finish (It's quite possible).
Scoring Range: Oregon 42-52 points depending on TO's & Special Teams and ASU 24-35 depending on TO's & Special Teams.
On a neutral field I would favor Oregon BIG but since it's in Tempe on Thursday night "Buyer Beware" I would take the over and stay away from the line this week,
Ducks get a hard fought win 44-34.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
|Fitting to Darren Thomas' personality, his accomplishments do the talking.|
Darren Thomas' decision to declare eligible for the NFL Draft shocked me when I first heard it. My initial thought like most was that he was not making the right decision. That thought lasted all of about five minutes after putting some more thought into it.
First thing to consider is Thomas would really gain nothing from coming back and would be risking injury where he plays in a system that has scene its fair share of QB's go down. Second is there are some really good QB's coming out next year and though RGIII and Andrew Luck are going this year the depth of this class is not like in years past. Another thought to consider is Chip Kelly always talks about how intelligent he is at his position and how much of a competitor he is. Really sit back and think about late in games that mattered...he delivered in the Championship game last year when he needed too, same thing against SC even though we lost both. He delivered in the Rose Bowl this year, and at Stanford too. I really can't remember him losing a game for Oregon with bad decision making or errant throws. I realize against SC he made several mistakes and if he led DAT on a late 4th quarter pass it would have been 6 but forget that, he still got the team in position to go to OT. I really can't remember a QB that was as clutch as DT since Harrington and its hard to say DT wasn't more productive. Two consecutive 12 win seasons, 12-1 as a first year starter, Rose Bowl Champions, led his team to the first ever NC game, and holds the record for most TD passes in a single season and career. Oregon finished #3 and #4 in the country with Thomas as the starter. Under Harrington Oregon finished #7 AP Poll 2000, and #2 in 2001 however did not make the BCS Championship game (not to say Oregon didn't deserve to be in the game).
If there was a knock on him it's that he lacks spectacular mechanics and went through spells of inaccuracy but overall he is very solid. He's not the runner that Masoli and Dixon were nor is he the passer that Harrington was but he also isn't the slowest guy on the field either. He extended plenty of plays when he needed too, and was always looking downfield first. I would say he was a better passer than Masoli, has just as strong of arm as Joey, and could extend plays like Dixon. I'm not saying he's better individually but his resume in my opinion is better than all three. The last thing to consider when comparing him top past Oregon greats, is his bad games were not that bad. I remember Harrington having 11 turnovers in the two losses in the 2000 season to Wisconsin and Oregon State. I don't remember Thomas having a game close to that bad. You could probably argue who was better all day as I am fond of both and my guess is you would be splitting hairs. Point is, if you are judging today Darron Thomas belongs in the conversation for Best QB's to ever play at Oregon!
One of the last things to consider is athletes need to look at their financial future and propensity to make money in a trade that is cut throat with a very short shelf life. Even if he goes to the CFL he will still get paid to play football, which is the ultimate for these athletes. He may only have a 3-7 year window to make money professionally so he should do it while his body is young and resilient. As fans I think we can be idealistic and want to believe that winning championships is #1 priority to college athletes. While this is true in many cases, there is a point where you have to think about whats best for you personally.
Darron Thomas did what he needed for the University and even more than was expected. He took Oregon to its first ever National Championship game in his first year as a starter, ended the 95 year Rose Bowl Champion drought, and broke records doing it. He accomplished just as much, if not more than any QB in his time at Oregon. No matter how you slice it, DT is among the best QB's to ever play at Oregon. Duck fans should be thankful for what he accomplished and support him in his decision, because it is exactly that...his decision!
If you want to read more...Shockingly this is the first time i actually agree with John Canzano...Ted Miller also offers some good insight.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Oregon vs Wisconsin
Keys to the Game:
We've all heard the match up talked about as Oregon Speed vs Wisconsin Power. The contrasting styles, the traditional Big 10 vs Pac 12 match-up. Oregon wants to get its explosive play makers in space and Wisconsin wants to pound Monte Ball down your throat and then play action and beat you deep.
I think a lot has been made about how good the offenses in this game are however to me this game will come down to three important things. Who has the better defense, who turns the ball over more, and who outplays who on special teams.
Offense: Both teams have explosive Offenses, explosive feature backs, solid quarterbacks, and average 44 and 46 pts per game. In NCAA total offense statistics Oregon ranks 4th and Wisconsin 14th however in the more accurate Yards Per Play stat Wisconsin would be 5th at 7.02 and Oregon 4th at 7.04. You are splitting hairs in comparing these teams offensively.
Comparing who they've played and how the stats were gained. Playing Top 30 Defenses you will see that Wisconsin played, Michigan State twice, Penn St, Illinois, and Ohio State. Oregon played, Stanford, California, and LSU. So I look at this and say it's pretty close in comparison. Illinois held Wisconsin to its season low at 28 and LSU held Oregon to 27 for its season low in points scored. In Wisconsin's two losses this year they were held to 31 and 29 points. In Oregon's two losses they were held to 35 and 27. A key factor in both Oregon losses this year were turnovers. In Wisconsin's loss to Michigan State they lost the turnover battle and time of possession. In the Ohio State loss they only rushed for 89 yards, and lost the Time of Possession battle as well.
So my conclusion for who has the offensive advantage is - Neutral
Defense: Wisconsin ranks 8th in NCAA Total Defense. Oregon ranks 63rd so it would seem Wisconsin has a large edge here, but lets go deeper. If you look at Yards per play allowed Wisconsin averages 4.85 and Oregon 4.93. Again this is a very small difference. Oregon defended 1005 plays this season and Wisconsin 786. If you compare the Top 30 Offenses that each team played you will see that Oregon played Nevada, Stanford, Arizona, Arizona State, and USC. Wisconsin played Northern Illinois. One thing I'm not sure of is if the lack of good offenses are a product of good defenses in the Big 10 or if they just don't have that many explosive offensive players. Wisconsin seems to be the one team in the conference that has both.
Advantage- Oregon The Ducks have been tested against many top offenses and yield almost the same yards per play. They have defended great offenses and given up only 40 points to LSU who only gained 276 yards of Offense. USC gashed the Ducks for 38 points with their high powered offense and NFL Receivers. I'm not sure Wisconsin has that type of talent out wide even though they do have Monte Ball. The Badgers have the best Running back - Quarterback duo Oregon will play all year. It will be interesting to see how they come out and defend.
Turnovers: Advantage Wisconsin- 8 All season The Badgers handle the ball really well and Monte Ball has NEVER FUMBLED! Ball security is huge in this game and if Oregon loses this battle like against LSU it could be lights out for the Ducks.
Special Teams: Advantage Oregon- Wisconsin is 81st in Defending Kickoff returns. Oregon has speed on special teams that Wisconsin will have to contain. Oregon is 1st in Net Punting and Wisconsin 71st. In a game where there are few advantages this could be the biggest difference.
What to Expect: I expect The Badgers will look to do what they do best and that's run the ball. I think they will attempt to get Oregon on their heels on Defense and probably take a shot early, maybe even on the first play. I expect Wisconsin to look to stop the run of Oregon and keep the Ducks in front of them. They have emphasized tackling and tempo in their preparation so don't expect them to be surprised or intimidated by Oregon's tempo.
I think Oregon will look to soften up Wisconsin by throwing the ball early. I expect we will see an extremely balanced offensive game plan as it plays out. On Defense, I think Oregon will play man up on the corners, and leave 7 and 8 in the box to contain Monte Ball and Russel Wilson. Wisconsin is athletic and big enough on the edges to go deep on the Ducks. If Oregon doesn't play coverage well, it could be a long day for Oregon fans!
The ultimate difference in this game will be Oregon's Defense and Special Teams. The one thing that could change the outcome significantly is Oregon losing the turnover battle by 2 or more. I don't expect that to be the case. I think Oregon will make some big plays on Special Teams that will change the game. Oregon will need to take care of the ball on offense because Wisconsin quite simply doesn't make too many mistakes. I think The Ducks Defense will do a solid job however it will be how Oregon limits Wisconsin's explosion plays that will make the final difference. Expect Oregon's offense to get on track this game, and help propel Oregon to a 45-30 Victory.
Thanks for reading and enjoy a great 2012!