By Matthew Zimmer
Finally, the No. 25 Oregon Ducks and No. 10 Iowa State Cyclones are almost ready to kickoff.
As a non-Duck fan, I’m more excited about the CFP, but as a Pac-12 fan I’m pumped for this game.
Iowa State is a good team, not elite, but good. Oregon has the potential to put a lot of their issues behind them and look ahead with a good performance on Saturday.
Tyler Shough had good and bad moments in his first year as the Ducks starter, and that’s to be expected. He has a chance to really make a name for himself heading into next year.
Yes, the Big 12 is not really known for playing stout defense, but Iowa State was decent this year. The Cyclones finished third in points allowed at 21.8 per game. Oregon’s defense was sixth in the Pac-12 at 27.3 points allowed per game.
On the offensive side, the Ducks scored 33.7 points per game while Iowa State scored 32.8 per game. In other words, I think this game should be a shootout.
I went through a lot in my initial preview of Iowa State that I don’t want to repeat, so if you didn’t read that click here. Also I said I’d do full predictions in this preview, so here goes.
Kickoff – Saturday (Jan. 2, 2021) | 1 p.m. PT | ESPN
Game – PlayStation Fiesta Bowl | State Farm Stadium | Glendale, AZ
Odds – Iowa State (-4.5) | O/U – 58
With that information out of the way, here’s what I expect to see.
The Ducks running backs will play a bigger role in the passing game than the running game. Iowa State was the best in the Big 12 at stopping the run — giving up the fewest yards per game (104.6) in the conference. However, through the air, Iowa State’s defense was sixth (out of ten teams) giving up 238.4 pass yards per game.
Oregon will need Travis Dye and CJ Verdell, if he plays, to break tackles if they’re going to be successful running the ball at all. Iowa State only gives up 3.2 yards per rush.
The Ducks will need to stay away from penalties. I know that’s obvious, but if Oregon is going to win they can’t get behind schedule.
In other words, no mental penalties: False Start, Delay of Game and Illegal Formation on offense, and Offsides/Encroachment, 12 Men on the Field and Illegal Contact. If the Ducks can avoid the penalties that take yards on offense and give away yards on defense, then they’ll be in a much better place on Saturday.
I’m not even going to mention turnovers, because simply put Oregon will lose if they have more giveaways than takeaways.
Given how bad Oregon’s run defense is — giving up 249.7 rushing yards per game — and how good Breece Hall is — No. 2 in the nation for rushing yards — expect the Cyclones to rely on the running game.
Brock Purdy is a good passer, but he also is second on the team in rushing, so he could get in on the ground game as well. Watch out for Run-Pass Options or the old fashioned option runs simply because the Ducks struggle to stop the run.
Purdy will also take advantage of the play-action pass because of Oregon’s likely desire to try and stop the run. It will be fun to watch the chess match between Matt Campbell and Ducks DC Andy Avalos.
As for the Iowa State defense, they need to pressure Shough without sending the blitz. Now, that’s not to say Shough can handle a blitz with ease, but if the Cyclones can get to him with three or four pass rushers they’ll win this game.
Also, the defense needs to neutralize the Ducks running game and make Oregon one-dimensional, which I mentioned the Cyclones did very well against the Big 12.
FINAL SCORE – Oregon 38, Iowa State 35
Maybe I’m naive, but I think the Ducks will play their best game of the season in the Fiesta Bowl. Oregon shocked people when they beat USC, so why not take out the Cyclones too?
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