By: Joe Harris/Oregon Sports News
The Oregon Ducks have quite the challenge for them this weekend. They’ll take on the Ohio State Buckeyes, the third-ranked team in the country, in a rare headliner non-conference showdown for the Ducks. This will be a true test of what the season will hold for Oregon as Ohio State is a top-notch team that will undoubtedly be contending for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Oregon is coming off a tough week where they just barely hung on against a scrappy and underrated Fresno State team. The Ducks’ original ranking in the Top 25 was 11, but they now sit at number 12, getting bounced a spot by Penn State. There was a lot to take in about last week’s game, and we will break that down here.
The good news for Oregon is that Ohio State is also coming off a sloppy performance where they trailed at halftime to Minnesota, and their defense gave up far too many big plays. It took a while for first-year starter CJ Stroud to get into a good rhythm, and Oregon should be able to manipulate that. I am here to say that while the oddsmakers and the general public don’t have a lot of faith in Oregon this week, I believe that they are more than capable of taking down the Buckeyes.
The Ducks started hot against Fresno State, taking a very quick 14-0 lead, and then they took their foot off the pedal. That happened because they looked down on Fresno State, but that won’t happen against Ohio State. It was a huge plus that Oregon could get that out of their system because they know they can’t play another game like that. With Ohio State, Oregon might not have a real chance actually to take a second and breathe, and I think that’s actually going to work in their favor quite a bit.
“They possess a lot of different weapons on that team, and they make a lot of explosive plays in the run and the pass game. It starts up front too. They have a great offensive line and a great defensive line. That sack fumble certainly turned that game around for them as well. The ability to protect the quarterback and give him time to scan the field and get the ball down the field to guys who are really explosive, really fast, and have great ball skills. They’re a great offense, a great football team with elite talent.”
That is what Mario Cristobal had to say about Ohio State in his mid-week press conference, among other things. The big-time plays for Ohio State win them ball games; we saw that when Justin Fields lit up the Clemson secondary, and we saw that last week in the second half. Ohio State has a big-arm quarterback, and while Stroud started slow, he ended the day with 294 passing yards and four scores through the air.
Oregon allowed just over 4 yards per play last year on defense which ranked inside the top-35 in the country. That is an important stat because it proves that they can lock down an offense and limit them to a short gain. A huge plus for Oregon is that they are getting back Jamal Hill and DJ James, two guys who missed week one due to a suspension. With them back in the mix, they should have a way better chance at locking down the passing arsenal of Ohio State.
There are a lot of high hopes for this Ducks team, and rightfully so. This is one of their best recruiting classes in a long time, and these guys are ready to shine and prove that they belong. It is hard to convince me that these two teams are all that much different when it comes to talent. Oregon played an outstanding Fresno State team whose defense figured it out in the second half. But we should also remember that the Ducks weren’t at full strength. They were basically avoiding Troy Franklin, who is the team’s best wide receiver and a former 4-star who had offers to major programs like Alabama, Auburn, and Arizona State. Getting him back will be huge in this game. This is what Cristobal had to say about him.
“He got nicked up during the week of practice. He was slated to be the starter. He had a great camp and a great spring and got nicked up. So he was limited come game time. We feel that throughout the course of the game, he was back to full speed. He had a great practice yesterday. So we expect him to be back to normal. That is the reason why he was limited in terms of play count.”
Getting back Franklin and having a proven track record of a strong defense goes a long way for the Ducks. But what I am most excited about is their speed. Oregon has always had a flash about them, and this team is no different. Minnesota did everything to the Buckeyes that the Ducks can do, but they don’t have the speed. This team can keep up with and burn Ohio State when they need it most, which will be massively important.
The Biggest Question
Obviously, there is uncertainty about the Ducks’ best player and an eventual top NFL pick, Kayvon Thibodeaux. He sprained his ankle against Fresno State, and the Ducks might be without him this week. They need a guy like this in the lineup to be a disruptor and put the pressure on Stroud right from the get-go. Hopefully, the Ducks will have him ready to go, but it is definitely something to monitor.
Call me crazy, but I have the Ducks by a field goal. Ohio State was allowed to crawl back into their game last week, which won’t be the case in this game. If Oregon can keep up in the beginning, they can run away with it in the end. This is a legit matchup, and it’s going to be close, but I think the talent level shifts in the Duck’s favor, and that’s the most important part.
Oregon 34, Ohio State 32