Game Matchup: Ohio State Vs. Oregon

It's here! Ohio State vs. Oregon for the national championship. Here's our look at the numbers that matter, facts facts about the Ducks, our breakdown of the key matchups and a very special guest picker.

Ohio State vs. Oregon
College Football Playoff National Championship, North Texas

Matchup Preview | January 12, 2014
No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes
(13-1, Sugar Bowl champs)
No. 2 Oregon Ducks
(13-1, Rose Bowl champs)
Offensive Stats Comparison
45.0 (5)Points Per Game47.2 (2)
262.2 (9)Rushing Yards Per Game241.9 (19)
247.5 (51)Passing Yards Per Game311.0 (11)
509.7 (9)Total Yards Per Game552.9 (3)
167.97 (2)Passing Efficiency183.58 (1)
51.9% (3)Third Down %51.6% (4)
69.57% (20)Red Zone TD %67.11% (32)
41.78 (5)Net Punting36.66 (77)
84 (8)20+ Yard Plays101 (2)
6.54% (73)Sack Percentage6.70% (79)
13-20, 65.0% (89)Field Goals Made16-19, 84.2% (11)
Defensive Stats Comparison
22.1 (26)Points Allowed22.3 (27)
142.0 (34)Rushing Yards Allowed156.1 (49)
191.6 (16)Passing Yards Allowed265.9 (108)
333.6 (17)Total Yards Allowed421.9 (84)
104.79 (4)Pass Efficiency Defense123.59 (50)
35.5% (25)Third Down Defense41.6% (82)
73.17% (126)Red Zone TD Allowed59.26% (56)
+0.71 (17)Turnover Margin+1.43 (2)
8.60% (12)Sacks Percentage5.92% (68)

Five Fast Facts About Oregon
Normally I’d put five facts about Oregon here, but I wrote all about the Ducks earlier this week. So here’s instead five facts about the University of Oregon itself.

1. The team was originally known as “Webfoots” as Oregon was known as the Webfoot State, thanks in part to the Massachusetts fishermen who settled in the area, muddy shoes and all. The name was shortened to Ducks to fit newspaper headlines.

2. The Donald Duck mascot the school has used came thanks to a handshake agreement between school AD Leo Harris and Walt Disney, who gave the school the ability to use the mark in perpetuity as long as it was used in good taste.

3. The school was known as “Faber College” when its campus served as the filming location for the classic comedy “Animal House.”

4. The school was created in 1872, with the people in Eugene holding strawberry festivals, church socials and produce sales to help fund the university.

5. Per Wikipedia, the university is known for being the site of a pioneering participatory planning experiment known as the Oregon Experiment, which is also the subject of a book of the same name that evolved into the well known book “A Pattern Language” by Christopher Alexander. The two major principles of the project are that buildings should be designed, in part, by the people who will ultimately use them with the help of an "architect facilitator", and that construction should occur over many small projects as opposed to a few large ones.

Game Breakdown
It will be interesting to see how Ohio State deals with Oregon’s defensive line, which runs essentially a 3-4 with two big ends that shade inside on tackles, creating a “hidden Bear” look that allows the Ducks to clog the middle. Obviously OSU had trouble against such looks earlier this year – the scheme makes it hard to make the combo blocks that makes the run offense go – but the Buckeyes adjusted throughout the season to more edge runs and other plays that use that strategy against opponents. The Buckeyes have run on just about everyone – seriously, they gained more than 300 yards vs. Alabama of all teams – so we’re still gonna pick the in-the-zone Ezekiel Elliott to roll. EDGE: OHIO STATE

While Ohio State shut down Melvin Gordon we’re just not quite comfortable yet giving OSU an edge here. The Buckeyes had their noted run defense issues late in the season vs. teams like Minnesota, Indiana and even both Michigan schools, and one wonders how the Sugar Bowl would have turned out if Alabama had just given Derrick Henry the ball more often. Oregon has quarterback Marcus Mariota, who can run when he needs to, plus a nice compliment of backs. Leading rusher Royce Freeman isn’t quite the burner the team has had in the past so the speed angle might be overblown here. Still, Oregon is really good at spreading you out and making sure they can gain 5-10 yards per play based on what you’re giving them. EDGE: OREGON

Oregon’s numbers against the pass aren’t great, though this is one of the better ball-hawking teams out there so Cardale Jones has to be safe when he unloads over the middle. Safety Erick Dargan has seven picks, but Jones has been careful with the ball since becoming the starter and hasn’t forced balls into coverage, really. OSU has a full complement of receivers and the deep threats to make something happen here against an Oregon team that can be beaten deep. EDGE: OHIO STATE

Oregon has been known as a run spread for a while but having a quarterback like Mariota has allowed the team to throw for more than 300 yards per game this year. It would be strength against strength but Oregon is missing four major pass-catching threats including its top two deep threats in Devon Allen and Darren Carrington. This can hurt as it might make Oregon more of a side to side team in the title game, though Mariota is an expert at taking what is given and Oregon has Charles Nelson playing well of late. Still, this has been a strength for Ohio State, which had the second worst pass defense in school history last year and is now fourth in the nation in pass efficiency D. Mariota gets good marks, though, for controlling the ball and his ability to escape danger in the pocket. EDGE: EVEN

Ohio State should have an advantage here. Oregon doesn’t have a game breaker in the return game a la Kenjon Barner a few years ago (seriously, he killed OSU on kick returns) while the Ducks punting game is mediocre at best. OSU has struggled with field goals and Oregon is solid despite using two kickers, but the Buckeyes have excellent coverage units and one of the best punting weapons in the nation. EDGE: OHIO STATE

We’ve talked a ton about how good Ohio State is in this realm thanks in part to a legendary resiliency and resolve, but let’s not sell Oregon short here. No team just waltzes into the national title game, and Oregon has one of the better killer instincts of any team in the nation. Some have said Urban Meyer vs. Mark Helfrich is an advantage for Ohio State but let’s not forget Gene Chizik won a national title in his second year, too. EDGE: EVEN

We’re taking Ohio State. A lot of our pickers have been wrong throughout the year – sorry, guys – but we are convinced. After selling the Buckeyes a little short the past few weeks, we’re all in on Ohio State. Each one of our staff pickers chose OSU including a special guest picker below. We’ll let’s Chuck Klosterman carry us out (seriously!).

Klosterman says: “First of all, I need to frame the value of my prediction: The value is zero. Maybe less than zero, if we're somehow watching this game in the fourth dimension. Not only did I get both of the semi-final playoff games wrong, but I'm also in one of those "bowl confidence" pools with 18 other guys. And I'm currently in 19th place. Somehow, watching 1000 hours of college football every fall makes me incapable of judging the outcome of any game that has not yet happened. But here we go ... on paper, I think Oregon clearly has the better team. Of course, two weeks ago, I would have said the same thing about Alabama. So while I am logically compelled to select Oregon, my (increasingly spherical) gut prompts me to pick Ohio State. I am taking the Buckeyes in a shoot-out, 37-33. Which will have the added benefit of setting up the most fascinating three-man QB race in this history of college football (unless somebody transfers, a possibility that I'm guessing has already been "casually discussed" among readers of this particular publication).”

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