Playoff Preview: Can Oregon run away from resilient Florida State?
Florida State almost seems to want you to get up big on them. Double digits? Psshaw. Two touchdowns? Three touchdowns? Don’t throw us in that briar patch.
But the defending national champs haven’t played a team in 2014 like Oregon, who go for two, onside kick, trick play and everything else opponents to death and then feast upon the flesh of their vanquished.
Which makes the 5 p.m. Jan. 1 playoff matchup between the second-ranked Ducks and third-ranked Seminoles that much more intriguing.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Oregon comes out guns-a-blazin’, that FSU comes out sluggish, given the MO’s of the respective teams, and the Ducks are up big in the second quarter.
Both will seem to have the game where they want it: Oregon with an opponent’s head on a chopping block, Florida State with an opponent up enough to start looking more at the clock than across the line of scrimmage.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves now. Time to break things down.
Oregon offense vs. FSU defense
Oregon can do it all. The Ducks score 46.2 points and rack up 546.2 yards of total offense per game, throwing for more than 300 yards per game and running for 237.3 yards per game and gaining 5.5 yards per rushing attempt. Quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 38 touchdowns and threw just two interceptions. Against live opposition and everything, yeah. Mariota is also the Ducks’ second-leading rusher, gaining 689 yards (5.7 yards per attempt) and scoring 14 touchdowns on the ground. Royce Freeman keys the running attack, gaining 1,299 yards (5.6 yards per attempt) and 16 TDs. Four receivers gained more than 500 yards on catches in 2014, led by Byron Marshall (61 receptions, 814 yards). Turnovers were almost a non-issue: just eight of them in 2014, leading to a paltry 13 points for opponents.
The FSU defense is not what it was in 2013, giving up 23.0 points and 378.3 yards per game. Rush defense was the biggest area of weakness in 2014, with the ‘Noles giving up 160.1 yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry. Not the worst numbers, to say the least, but nowhere near where Florida State was in its 2013 championship season. The Seminoles did force 24 turnovers leading to 83 FSU points.
FSU offense vs. Oregon defense
As with the defense, the Florida State offense took a step back in 2014 from where it was a year ago. Still, the ‘Noles score 34.8 points and gain 434.7 yards per game. The running game was anemic in 2014, gaining just 134.8 yards per game and 4.3 yards per attempt. That put extra pressure on Jameis Winston to move the ball through the air, and it showed with Winston’s numbers down from his 2013 Heisman season (65.4 percent completion rate, 24 touchdowns, 17 interceptions). FSU committed an alarming 25 turnovers leading to 93 opponent points.
The Oregon defense isn’t the Monsters of the Midway. The Ducks surrender 413.8 yards per game, but while they bend a lot, they don’t break as much, giving up 22.5 points per game. Because the offense is so prolific, and ruthlessly efficient, Oregon’s D is on the field a staggering 32:53 per game. The defense does a good job forcing turnovers, 25 in 2014, leading to 120 Oregon points.
Oregon placekicker Aaron Schneider is 8-for-9 on field-goal attempts this season, including 2-for-2 from 40+. Ducks punter Ian Wheeler averaged 39.1 yards per kick, with nine of his 39 kicks inside the 20. FSU placekicker Roberto Aguayo was 25-for-27 on field-goal attempts, 6-of-8 from 40-49 and 3-of-3 from 50+. ‘Noles punter Cason Beatty averaged 41.6 yards per kick, with 14 of his 44 punts inside the 20. Both teams have dynamic punt returners: Oregon’s Charles Nelson (15.5 yards per return) and Johnathan Loyd (12.2 yards per return), and Florida State’s Rashad Greene (10.7 yards per return).
How This One Plays Out
Oregon scores early and often, according to script for how both teams have played of late. Florida State gets things going, and it’s a game in the second half, but the head start that the Ducks get out to proves to be too much.
Final: Oregon 46, Florida State 34.
– Analysis by Chris Graham