For college football handicappers like yours truly that had doubts about Ohio State being in the Final Four, Urban Meyer’s crew erased them and added an exclamation point with their upset of Alabama.
|Oregon scores first -145 (best line bet365)
OhioSt scores first +145 (best line BOL)
|Team to score first wins game -180 (best line Bovada)
Team to score first loses game +160 (best line SIA)
|Longest TD scored o 62½ +105 (best line Heritage)
Longest TD scored u 62½ -115 (best line 5Dimes)
|Game total odd -125 (best line bet365)
Game total even +110 (best line 5Dimes)
Before the Crimson Tide showed gumption with their late rally, the Ohio State defensive front four was taking it to Bama, which proved bettors making College Football picks were certainly correct in lowering the Buckeyes from +10 to +7.5 at the various sportsbooks and then some.
As we look ahead to Jan. 12, what are the chances of Meyer’s defense of slowing down Oregon’s lightning fast offense which as Kirk Herbstreit noticed, took away Florida State’s will to compete?
Mariota Makes the Quack, Swiftly
Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota has seen it all as far as college football is concerned, with 40 starts in almost three seasons and is expected to be wearing a Tampa Bay Bucs uniform next fall.
Mariota runs an offense which has scored 47.2 points a game and is more balanced than most people’s checking accounts. Oregon’s offense has always been explosive since Nike started offering the school hundreds of uniform combinations. But this particular team is different thanks to their quarterback.
The Oregon Ducks average 7.4 yards per play and they have the ability to strike quickly or grind out a drive (at least by their standards), which was not always the case in the past.
Mariota has 40 touchdowns compared to three interceptions and seven DIFFERENT Oregon pass catchers had at least four touchdown receptions, which has to drive opposing defensive coordinators stir crazy.
The offensive line became a complete unit after the loss to Arizona with the return of senior tackle Jeff Fisher. This solidified the line and placed different players back in their preferred spots. Since Fisher’s return, Oregon is averaging 260 yards per game on the ground (up from 209) and it is not a coincidence to those studying the college football odds and generating sports picks, the Ducks are 9-0 SU and ATS since.
One major difference between Chip Kelly and current head coach Mark Helfrich is how they view the running back position. Kelly loved those 5’9 jitterbugs that could hide behind the offense line and explode out of holes for long runs. Helfrich wanted a bigger back, one maybe not quite as fast, but who was reliable on 3rd and 1 and who could keep drives alive and he recruited freshman Royce Freeman, who put up 1343 yards at 5.6 yards a carry.
Besides the talent, Oregon’s pace is designed to impose their will on opposing teams and see if opponents really want to spread out, running all over the field and faced lining up for the next snap every 10 to 15 seconds.
Ohio State Defense has to be Mentally and Physically Strong
This will not go down as one of the best Buckeyes defense, but if they defy the College Football odds of their team over being seven-point underdogs and win the national championship by containing Oregon, their place in history will be recognized.
The Ohio State front four was supposed to one of the best in the country coming into the season and they did not disappoint and how well they shoot the gaps against the Ducks offense to slow their running game will tell the tale if the Buckeyes stay in the game.
The most disruptive way to throw off Oregon’s offense is doing what Auburn, LSU and Arizona did in first meeting. Create penetration on early downs to force third and long and unleash the pass rush (though contained to keep Mariota in the pocket) to make the Heisman winner make multiple reads much faster than he’s used to.
In the run game, the linebackers have to maintain gap control if the defensive linemen crash through, to clean up with crisp tackling. We have seen it over and over again, a linebacker over-running a play in the hole has a Duck runner sprinting 60 yards.
Bottom Line in this Matchup
With the total at 75, Ohio State is going to give up points, but if the Buckeyes defense can be solid in the red zone and force two or more turnovers like they have on 10 occasions this season, they can keep their team in the game.