COLUMBUS, Ohio — Notes and observations on the Oregon football team after watching the TV broadcast of the Ducks’ 59-20 win over Florida State in a  College Football Playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl.

Ohio State and Oregon will play in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 12 in Arlington, Texas.

• Ohio State vs. Oregon: 7 things to know about Ducks offense

• Ohio State vs. Oregon: 7 things to know about Ducks defense


Urban Meyer was shocked when he was told in New Orleans that Oregon beat Florida State 59-20. “Oregon won by 40?” Meyer asked before faking like he was leaving the postgame news conference early to go prepare for the Ducks.

Remember when I said Alabama had the best offense Ohio State has ever seen? Forget that. It was true leading up to the Sugar Bowl, but Oregon is bringing something completely different.

Having Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota helps, but here’s the biggest question: Can Ohio State handle the Ducks tempo?

The Buckeyes use tempo themselves, and even looked to run their offense a little faster against the Crimson Tide, but they’re not Oregon fast. The Ducks ran a play every 20 seconds against the Seminoles.

Florida State was sucking wind in the first half, and that led to touchdowns like this one where the Seminoles were still getting players off the field and didn’t have anybody set before the ball was snapped.


But it’s not just about tempo.

I’d liken Oregon’s offense to a boxer (I know, terrible cliche) but it seems like the only one that works. The Ducks keep taking little shots and little shots, then they swing big.

Against Florida State, the Ducks relied on inside runs by running backs Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner to wear down the Seminoles front. They worked the outside with receivers screens and passes in the flat to tight end Evan Baylis. It’s not unlike the way the Buckeyes moved the ball with J.T. Barrett at quarterback, just more finely-tuned.

Oregon sets you up to be vulnerable to deep shots.

The Ducks took a 32-20 lead on this touchdown to Darren Carrington. They ran the same play twice in row, first hitting Baylis in the flat.


Then using the same route to get the defense to commit and get Carrington open down field for a score.


Oregon put Florida State away for good on this play, faking a receiver screen to Keanon Lowe and hitting Carrington again for a deep touchdown.


And finally we come to Mariota, who could be the best overall offensive talent the Buckeyes will see this season. Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon and Alabama receiver Amari Cooper are great players, but Mariota is dangerous in a number of ways.

He’s excellent on the zone read, capable of pulling the ball out at the last second and picking up a big gain.



He’s a better runner than any quarterback Ohio State has seen this year, but he’s always looking to make plays down field. He’s the complete package and the Buckeyes will have their hands full as they complete the Heisman finalist trifecta.

Oh, and Oregon runs plays like this:


There will be yards out there for Cardale Jones and Ohio State against Oregon’s 3-4 defense. There were plenty there for Florida State, which racked 528 yards of total offense but were done in by five second-half turnovers.

That’s all by design. The Ducks will allow you to move down field, then clamp down in the red zone. Remember when Ohio State couldn’t score in the red zone early one against Alabama? That’s what Oregon will try to do. Florida State had goal-to-go on three possessions in the first half and didn’t score a touchdown.

The Buckeyes will need to find ways to score in close, and Jones will have to deal with a lot of zone coverage.

Soft zone coverage gave Jameis Winston and the Florida State offense a lot of openings on seam routes behind the linebackers. Jones was good with taking the middle of the field against Alabama, he’ll have to do the same against Oregon.


A handful of times against Florida State, the Ducks would drop nose tackle Alex Balducci into coverage and blitz with a linebacker from the slot.


That will be something new for Jones to look at, but it looks Ohio State will be able to move the ball. It’s finding a way to stop Oregon’s offense that will decide whether or not the Buckeyes leave Texas with a championship.

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