Sunday, January 9, 2011

Countdown to "The Natty" - How Does Oregon Win?

How does Oregon win?

Contrary to what you hear from the media, Oregon has a chance to win this game - a good chance.

Here's how...

Run the ball effectively. The Oregon offense is predicated on the run. It's what got them where they are this year. So, getting the run game going will be paramount. It may take some passing first to get things loosened up, but by the start of the second half, Oregon needs to be running the ball consistently well. Having LaMichael James back at 100%, along with Kenjon Barner and Josh Huff ready to roll too...not to mention QB Thomas...will give Oregon plenty of weapons to run with. And, the O line has proved itself all year long - even against "big" defensive fronts such as Auburn has.

Contain Newton. Nobody is going to stop Cam Newton. He will get his yards and he will score. But, instead of letting him "go off" like we saw vs. South Carolina and some other teams this year, if Oregon can contain his running I think they'll be in good shape. I say limit his running because Oregon has a fast defense that can catch him on the ground and it has good DBs who can cover the passing game. Oregon should take advantage of that and try and stop the Cam Newton the running back and dare Cam Newton the thrower to beat them. I know that's risky as Newton is a good thrower too, but he's not SPECTACULAR. And, I don't think the Oregon D can try and stop him in every aspect of his game. I am not naive. I know Newton will have big plays in this game, but again...if he can be "limited" it will be a win for Oregon because that will translate into several stops where they don't score and Oregon gets a chance at a punt return and back on offense.

Get turnovers/avoid turnovers. I don't think Oregon can go toe-to-toe with Cam Newton and expect to win unless the get 1-2 turnovers to give Oregon's offense the ball. Could be a tip-pickoff, a straight pick on a deeper ball or jumping on a fumble. But I think Oregon needs some turnovers more than Auburn does. Meanwhile, Oregon must finally have a game where they don't fumble or throw an interception. During the season, Oregon was so much better than the competition that they could overcome those mistakes. But this is not the case with Auburn. I actually am expecting at least one fumble against Auburn. But if that's it, then they'll be OK.

Special teams. I think the Ducks need two big plays in the kicking game. Could be a major kick return, a long field goal in the clutch or a fake kick of some sort. In any case, I think two is the number the Ducks need to shock Auburn and keep Newton off the field a bit longer. And of course, Oregon needs to bottle up Auburn kick returners.

Wear them out. This has three aspects: 1) run the hyper tempo offense in the first three quarters to wear down the Auburn D to set up a big fourth quarter, 2) rotate in a lot of fresh players (especially on defense) so they're fresh while Auburn is tired. This has worked in every game Oregon has played, and it'll need to work in this game.

That's the road to victory for the Ducks. Certainly if Oregon does all these things they will win...maybe by a lot. If they do some, they'll have a chance. If they fail on most...look out. In the end, it'll be a matter of doing their best in each these areas to win a close game.

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