Drew Thurman (11:10 pm)

The matchup everyone is anticipating in the Rose Bowl is Oregon's offense versus the Buckeye defense. The Ohio State defense has shut opponents down all season long, and comes into the game the 5th ranked defense in the country. The Ducks on the other side are averaging 424.7 yards and 37.7 points per game. While the Buckeye defense shouldn't be disrespected by anyone for what they have done this season (and they have been on many Oregon websites), fans do have to be honest in saying this team has not faced an offense like that of the Ducks.

Rather than spend tons of time talking about what either team has previously accomplished this season though, I want to take a look at what the defense needs to do to slow down the Oregon offense. It starts by understanding exactly what they do.

Chip Kelly and the Ducks, like all users of the spread offense, like to use the whole field to their advantage. That way they stretch the defenders out, and put pressure on each individual. What makes Oregon tougher to defend is their execution of the read option. This is a run first option, like that of Florida, which will throw tons of different looks at the defense. 
Ultimately though the read option is only as effective as the quarterback who is running it. His decision making process will make or break the play. Ken Goe breaks this process down to its most basic form.

"The quarterback takes the snap in shotgun formation. He puts the football in the belly of the tailback, who crosses in front of him in the same direction the line is blocking. While doing this, the quarterback watches the defensive end on the back side of the play. The offense leaves him unblocked."

"The defensive end's natural inclination is to move with the flow of the play in the same direction as the offensive line. If he does, the quarterback pulls the ball and runs toward the open, backside of the defense."

"If the defensive end zeroes in on the quarterback, the quarterback hands off and the tailback carries as if on a zone running play. Either way the defensive end has taken himself out of the play."

That is just the start though! Oregon will add all sorts of wrinkles to make things even more complex for defenders. Sometimes they isolate the defensive tackle instead, sometimes they will mix in a little triple option, and all of this happens without them even throwing the ball.

So what can the Buckeyes do?

Well, the first thing is be prepared and be disciplined. Stopping the spread, and even more importantly the read option, has to be a team effort not an individual one. Many talented defenses, including USC, have gone down by not sticking to their assignments. This is tough because the offense is fast paced and forces quick decision making, so each man must know his role and the formation.

That also means that sometimes guys will have to take on blocks rather than just rallying to ball. For instance, go back and watch the film of the Navy game as the Buckeyes tried to defend the triple option. Ricky Dobbs and company gashed the defense many times when they didn't play disciplined, team defense. Each player simply trying to collapse on the potential ball carrier will result in the same long runs that Oregon has had all season long.

Second though, the Buckeyes also need to be ready for a four quarter battle because Oregon will try to push the tempo all game long. Slowing them down at certain moments is possible, especially early on the game, but no one wins in the first half. The Buckeyes should have learned that lesson in the first game of the year when Navy came roaring back late. Oregon's style of offense can strike very quickly, and will press the defense as much in the fourth quarter as it will in the first. If the defense gets worn out or becomes complacent, count on the Ducks striking fast.

Ultimately both of these things, discipline and conditioning, will be huge for slowing down the Oregon attack. I don't want to sound overly simplistic because there are other things that need to happen (like playing well on the defensive line, slowing the tempo of the game to limit possessions, etc), but I think these two things will play the biggest role for the Buckeye defense.


12/22/2009 11:12

interesting how you didn't even mention Oregon throwing the ball. Masoli can bust for 300 through the air too. Don't be surprised if you see the Ducks come out throwing.

you're on roller skates already ;)

jOe Barthlow
12/22/2009 11:13

12/22/2009 11:14

Good article, as a Duck fan we hear this same type of writeup each week...so you are not alone in your assessment.

I expect a great game and a close one, I really don't know what to expect in this game from either side of the ball...I hear that your team is a sure tackling team and I think that's the key for this game because our offense is designed to exploit defenses and gain yards in chunks (ala "quick strike"). It will come down to how many tackles we can break and can you match our offensive production?


12/22/2009 11:18

Joe that wasn't the point of the article and I think their DBs are pretty solid...this will most likely be a big running game on both sides.

But as you say, I expect Masoli the run for about 80 and throw for about 250 with a couple TOs (but only losing one).

12/22/2009 11:27

The key to stopping the Ducks is to form tackle every time. Sloppy tackling will lead to being embarassed (See Lance Mitchell of Oregon State 12-3-09) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMyh5zxZwco.

I see more of this type of embarassment for the next OSU that Oregon beats (Oklahoma State in 2008, Oregon State in 2009)....this one in 2010.

Good luck slOhio State, you'll need it!

Joe R.
12/22/2009 11:44

Wow, only run for 80? I think the ducks can push at least 200 with James, Blount and Masoli. A big chunk of it coming in the second half.

12/22/2009 11:58

I agree with all the Oregon fans...our defense has to tackle. Missed tackles will result in huge plays. The boys better be ready to wrap guys up!

12/22/2009 12:14

Literally EVERY SINGLE TEAM who has faced Oregon this year (except Boise State haha!) has said the EXACT same thing.

Discipline blah blah blah speed blah blah blah...

Best part is: every team which has faced the ducks has played disciplined, fast football.
Problem is, 22 year-olds get aggressive and greedy. Then -maybe only 3 times on a drive- someone makes a mistake/takes one extra step/cant find the ball for a few seconds. Those three mistakes can go for 68 yards.
With the right play-calling and over the span of an entire game, this offense is as close to unstoppable as there can be in football.

12/22/2009 12:40

Ray...it will only be this unstoppable for awhile. Teams in the SEC have learned what is takes to stop Florida as Tennessee, Alabama, and LSU showed. You guys are slightly different with a greater use of ISO with the defensive tackle, but coordinators will scheme for you too.

As for the Buckeyes, it is all about the front seven. Masoli is an average passer who can make mistakes. If the front seven can slow the spread down and force Masoli to win the game with his arm, OSU wins! Masoli is so effective in the passing game only because Oregon puts the D on its heels with so many looks.

12/22/2009 12:48

Joe R those numbers I quoted (80 yds) were for Masoli only...

This will be a tough game but its hard not to be confident the way we have been playing. OSU D is good I just don't know how good they are based on our different opposition...on Jan 1st we will see.


12/22/2009 13:59

Maoli can beat you with his arm too, #7. Look at the Arizona game, and the Cal game, Masoli has only thrown 5 INTs and been sacked 12 times this season. What I want to know is how is the OSU ball control offense going to help you if you find yourself down by 2 touchdowns in the 3rd quarter? Because that may be what this comes down to. Oregon plays great situational defense, and will look to force Pryor to air it out. I do agree that this game will come down to who has the gas at the end, advantage Oregon.

12/22/2009 15:41

Hey OSU, I hope you guys are as pumped as we are. Great write-up. Your front seven certainly could cause us problems if they get a push and disrupt what we are doing with all the mis-direction..etc. And tackling is the key. If you wrap up, you should do well, if not, it will cost you dearly. Our weakness is on 3rd down coversion success by our D. We stink and it is so hard to watch as a fan. If Pryor can convert, it could be trouble for us. All that being said, I am a believer in our program and our ability to move the ball - it really is poetry in motion when clicking. Hoping for a showcase game from my Dux! Hope it is a well played and fair game by both teams. See you guys in a few days.

12/22/2009 15:56

Disciplined defense means sticking to your assignments until you are sure the ball in not coming your way.

This plays into Oregon's hands as the defender, who is waiting at his assigned gap has taken himself out of the play.

The truth is that there is no good way to stop an offense like Oregon's. It comes down to winning individual battles and the defensive coordinator guessing correctly as to when and from where to blitz.

12/22/2009 16:20

I think all the discussion about Oregon's offense vs. Ohio State's defense is interesting, but any success OSU has against Oregon's offense will only decrease the margin of victory. I have total respect for OSU's defense. But Oregon's offense cannot be completely shut down. You will be lucky to keep them in the 30's. And forget about shutting down the run game. Four of Oregon's past five led the Pac-10 in rushing defense coming into their game with Oregon. None of them left the field leading the league. At least a couple of them averaged giving up less than a hundred yards rushing (like OSU). So, you shouldn't count on shutting down the run game completely. It just doesn't happen. I think the reason Oregon will win, however, is because OSU's offense is not very good. You will be surprised with how fast Oregon's defense is. They were six yards away from leading the Pac-10 in fewest yards per rush and fewest yards per pass allowed. Because Oregon plays at such a quick pace, their defense is on the field a lot more plays than any other defense, which skews their total yardage stats.

12/22/2009 16:35

Nice write-up! I'm really pleased Oregon is facing Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. I think most oregon fans were silently dreading a match-up with Iowa, so I'm glad it panned-out the way it did.

What scares me about the Buckeyes?

1. A mobile QB
2. That mammoth front seven

What gives me hope about Oregon? (Aside from the usual Masloli/James/Dickson/Maehl threat)

1. An underrated defense

2. The ability of the special teams on kick returns and defensive coverage

3. LaGarette Blount (Just when you savvy up to the dash and slash of LaMichael James, Blount comes in and runs you over. Totally different style of runner. Expect some traditional sets with him in the game.)

Good luck... and GO DUCKS!

Ian S.

12/22/2009 16:41

Beware the slight of hand! More often than not, Masoli or James is into or through the secondary before the opposing D realizes who has the ball.

I love my Ducks!

12/23/2009 04:58

OSU won the big 10 with defense, U of O won the pac 10 with offense. As good as their defense is, Oregon is running a type of offense that cannot be stopped; by anyone. We have a coaching staff that puts the right type of players in the right positions, and these players execute very well most of the time. If oregons defense plays well, the ducks will win. If they don't, I fear we may see another game like we saw in stanford.

12/23/2009 05:46

"3. LaGarette Blount (Just when you savvy up to the dash and slash of LaMichael James, Blount comes in and runs you over. Totally different style of runner. Expect some traditional sets with him in the game.)"

Yea, I hope you do use Blount. We've stopped bigger and better running backs than him. We deal with "traditional" sets much better than fancy-shmancy-spread-read-option bullsh*t sets that are popular these days. Any Bucks fan will tell you that LaMichael James is far more dangerous and explosive in that offense than Blount. So, yea, bring Blount all you want. Offensively, we're going to run the ball all day and Oregon is going to have to stop it. We'll eat up the clock, beat up your d-line and linebackers, and manage to score just enough to win (probably a field goal). The most likely strategy is to keep the ball out of the Oregon offense's hands. If we do that we will win (ugly). If not, then I would definitely give the advantage to Oregon.

12/27/2009 14:58

"As for the Buckeyes, it is all about the front seven. Masoli is an average passer who can make mistakes. If the front seven can slow the spread down and force Masoli to win the game with his arm, OSU wins! Masoli is so effective in the passing game only because Oregon puts the D on its heels with so many looks. "

This. Masoli does well passing when he's set up by the option run. He doesn't pass as well if the defense can shut down the run without selling out.

That's the matchup I'm most interested in. OSU has the best combination of size and speed in the front seven that UO has faced all year, but I think our offense can say the same - not sure anybody in the Big 10 is as big, as fast, or as deceptive as Oregon.

Looking forward to a good game.


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