Thursday, January 22, 2015

My Short Super Bowl Prediction

I am going to make my Super Bowl XLIX prediction short and to the point...

New England will give the Seahawks more of a game than Denver did last year, but Seattle is the better, more aggressive and athletic team...and they will win by at least two scores.

Seattle 27-NE 17.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Oregon Football Doesn't Lose Often, But When They Do...

Over the past 5-6 seasons, the University of Oregon football team has not lost many games...very few. But, in those few games they have dropped there are some common things that either went wrong or became evident about the team. It's actually pretty eerie.

Indeed, what killed the Ducks in the recent national title game are the same fatal combination of things that contributed to those very few defeats over the past few seasons. Three things: 1) untimely and unfortunate mistakes on offense (think  dropped passes and barely, barely missing a first down here and there, 2) a overwhelming propensity for multiple and untimely penalties (also usually accompanied by a lack of penalties on the other team), and 3) the most important...they could not stop the opposing team's big and athletic (and that's the magic combination) linemen on either side of the ball. Could. Not. Stop.

These three elements were all present in the losses Oregon suffered to Arizona this year, Arizona last year, Stanford the previous two years, LSU a few years ago and in the 2010 Rose Bowl against...Ohio State.

When it comes to dropped passes and penalties, well, that's on Oregon. They could and should not have those problems. But they did. And they matter. For example, what if Oregon's wide receiver catches that long bomb early in the game. It might be 14-0 Oregon early. What about a drop by a wide open Duck on a critical early third down? Terminal. These same thing happened against Stanford in 2013. And penalties. Wow. So many against the Ducks and so few against their opposition.

But, the king killer in Oregon's few defeats is their shortcomings against teams that have big, fast, athletic players across the board, particularly on the a huge QB with the propensity to run and throw the long ball well. Cam Newtwon of Auburn, Tyrell Pryor and Cardele Jones of Ohio State are the prime examples. I that situation, they simply cannot stop the opposition. No way. Cannot stop. What did the OSU running back have? 250 rushing yards? Please. That's ridiculously good. Oregon's D was mostly getting pushed off the line and then their LBs were outsized by what was coming at them.

And guess what? I think Oregon forced Ohio State to punt maybe three times all night long, and two of those were late-half situation where it really didn't matter. When they get worked like that, it's going to be a long night.

Ironically, credit the Oregon D for causing and getting four - four! - turnovers. That's really the only way they could stop OSU's offense. But then, tragically for the Ducks, that just offered up the other way UO could not stop OSU...the Oregon O line was overwhelmed by the OSU defensive line. Not every play, but mostly. This limited Oregon's scoring - particularly in the fourth quarter. Then throw in the timely errors and penalties and, well, they ain't gonna win.

Oregon fans have seen this toxic combination before and, personally, I realized it was going to lead to defeat after the Ducks got to within one point (21-20) in the third and then immediately conceded a long drive to the Buckeyes in which they scored again.

For virtually any team Oregon plays during the regular season, or even in most bowls, this is not the case. Nope. Oregon is just fine...and wins. But there is probably a top 1 percent or less of teams (OSU, LSU, Alabama come to mind this season) that just will always have those big, fast and strong linemen. And against those teams their record is not good.

And hey, in the end, losing to a superior team is a bit liberating for the fan. You can clearly, clearly see which team is better and losing to them is not as painful as dropping one to a squad - like say Arizona for Oregon or Virginia Tech for OSU - that you know you're better than.

So for all that I say, contgrats to OSU. You are clearly the best team in college football this season.

As for my Ducks. Well, they won the Pac-12 title, they beat their rivals (badly), won the Rose Bowl against the defending nation champion and finished #2 in the nation. So, to too bad a season overall!

Now, for me, it's on to rooting for the Seahawks and a second Super Bowl win!!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

College Football National Championship Game Prediction

#2 Oregon vs. #4 Ohio State
January 12 at 5 p.m. Pacific
AT&T Stadium
Arlington, TX

What's At Stake: 
Very simply and most importantly, the winner of the game is the 2014 college football champion. For Oregon, this would be their first national title in football - a huge deal! For Ohio State it would be their 8th, the most recent other one being in 2002. Also big, but 2002 was not that long ago.

Also to consider - particularly if Oregon wins - is that this game will signal a break from the real or perceive "SEC dominance" in college football. Why? A couple reasons:

  • First, look how poorly the SEC did in bowl games this season. SEC teams went 7-5 in bowls, and teams from the touted SEC West conference went 0-5 when up against quality non-conference foes. While 7-5 is a winning bowl record for the conference, it's also not great and all the "big time" teams lost. Over-rated. 
  • Next, this will be the second year in a row that that the SEC will not have won the title. Yes, last year Auburn was in the game, but they did not win it. And why would the break be more pronounced if Oregon wins? Well, the Big 10 has a long tradition of OSU, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin (and to a lesser degree Iowa) being perennial big time, big stage teams that can win it all. The Pac-12? No. Outside of USC, it's been 23 years since any other league team won the national title (Washington) and even then it was a co-title with Miami. So, showing that a non-USC team from the west can win the title will really will show how things have migrated away from the SEC.

How they got here: The Ducks defeated defending national title holder Florida State in the Rose Bowl on New Years Day by the dominating score of 50-20, securing their place in the title game. Prior to that, they reached the "final four" of college football after reeling off a 12-1 record and a Pac-12 title with the only loss coming early in the season to a ranked Arizona squad and with a lot of injuries that had decimated the Ducks' offensive line.

Since the Rose Bowl: Starting WR Devon Allen injured his knee on the first play of the Rose Bowl and will not play against Ohio State. Also, Oregon announced the uniforms they will wear for the big game and, much to the disappointment of many Oregon fans, there is no green or yellow in them...they're all white with grey/silver accents.

Strengths: A fast, talented, deep and dangerous offense that runs at a rapid tempo to rack up yards and exhaust the opposing defense. And, this offense is operated by Heisman Trophy winning QB Marcus Mariota - equally deadly with his arm and legs. Also, the UO defense has really come on over the past few games to play more physical football and ramped up their already impressive ability to cause and get turnovers.

Weaknesses: It's hard to point out weaknesses in a team that has made it this far, but if I had to say it would be the linebackers. They played well against FSU (Rose Bowl) and Arizona (Pac-12 title game), but there is the potential for them to get pushed around by a big physical offensive line Hell bent on blowing holes open up the middle. Also, the Ducks just don't have a reliable kicker. It's a crap shoot any time UO lines up for a FG or extra point.

Opportunities: Use superior speed and size at RB and WR to hit the Buckeyes on the edges, over the middle and then long. On Defense, get pressure on the young OSU QB with a rush off the edge and force him to make mistakes. You think that's not possible? Ask Jamis Winston how things went in the Rose Bowl.

Players to Watch: #8 QB Mariota, #24 RB Tyner, #9 DE Armstead and any Oregon LB.

What Oregon Fans Say: This ain't the same team OSU played in the Rose Bowl a few years back. We've got more talent, more size, more speed and a much better QB. OSU will not be able to match us for a full 60 minutes. Get ready Buckeyes, it's coming.

Oregon Fans' Secret Fear: A repeat of the 2010 Rose Bowl against OSU in which a) the Buckeyes did indeed "out-physical" Oregon, b) the Ducks made big mistakes (fumbled a sure-fire, take-the-lead TD away for example), c) the Buckeyes QB had the game of his career...all adding up to a 9 point loss for the Ducks. All that, or the game comes down to a field goal.

How they got here: The Buckeyes upset #1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl by the score of 42-35 on New Years Day to secure their spot in the title game. They made it into the football playoff with a 12-1 record that was notable for the fact that they did a lot of it with their backup QB following their starter going down in pre-season with an injury...and now their third string QB at the helm following his predecessor also going down with an injury. Lets put it this way, the title game will be the Buckeye QB's third career college start.

Since the Rose Bowl: Nothing to report as far as I can tell. No big injuries.

Strengths: Big offensive and defensive lines, a 1,600 yard RB, great depth at WR and (obviously QB) and an opportunistic defense.

Weaknesses: Again, it's difficult to find a true weakness in a final-two team, but I'll go with they are perhaps not as fast and athletic as Oregon's squad and their QB - for all his impressive play in two games - is indeed making this third start and it's against the fastest and biggest turnover-making D he'll have seen.

Opportunities for OSU: Establish a running game up the gut and off tackle given the aggressive nature of the Oregon DEs and the relatively smaller size of Duck LBs. If they can do that, look out. Conversely, if the Ohio State defensive front can get a push up the middle against Oregon's offensive line, they can disrupt Oregon's offense...think about what Auburn did to the Ducks in the 2011 Title Game.

Players to Watch: On offense, watch QB #12 Jones, RB #15 Elliot. On defense, watch the line play...are OSU players pushing the Oregon line backwards? Are they getting sacks?

What Ohio State Fans Say: We're bigger and stronger than Oregon and we will beat them just like we did in the 2010 Rose Bowl. Duck fans, get ready to be run over.

Buckeye Fans' Secret Fear: Oregon "does a Rose Bowl" on the Buckeyes, suddenly turning a close game into a blowout in the third or fourth quarter.

I think this game is going to go just about like every other game Oregon has played this season. It will be close in the first half with one team ahead by a small amount (10 or less) at the break. OSU will have success on both sides of the ball and Oregon's offense will sputter a bit in the beginning. And then, in the second half, Oregon will assert itself with adjustments. Their offense will score fast and the defense will create a turnover or two. In the end, I think it'll be lower scoring than the Rose or Sugar Bowls, but I do think the Ducks will win pulling away.

I say it'll be UO 37-OSU 24.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Oregon Football: Best Season Ever...Even Before the Title Game?

Wow! What a Rose least if you're an Oregon fan like me.

I did predict the Ducks would win and I predicted it'd be close for the first half and into the third quarter. And I did predict that the Seminoles would move the ball pretty well between the 20s.

But that's about where my powers of prediction stopped. I could not have seen Oregon's defense stopping FSU on a goal line stand, holding them to filed goal attempts a few times and forcing so may turnovers. And yes, they FORCED those turnovers rather than benefiting from Florida State players just making a mistake.

Throw in a great game played by Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, RBs Tyner and Freeman, WR Carrington and TE Baylis...and well, it turned into an epic butt whupping.

59-20 people. 59-20.

And with that, Oregon is the 2015 Rose Bowl champion. This is no small matter. Yes, they will now move onto the National Championship game against Ohio State. But, before getting into that, I don't think the Rose Bowl win should be overlooked. That by itself is a huge deal...and in particular it should be to Oregon fans. After all, we haven't been there too many times - six in total. And now they are 3-3 in the game all time. The Oregon Ducks, Rose Bowl Champion. I love it! And, it's the second Rose Bowl they've won in four seasons. In between they won the Fiesta Bowl and an Alamo Bowl, so the Ducks are 4-0 in bowls over the past four seasons.

I'll chime in with a prediction on the big game against the Buckeyes before the game. But before all that, lets do a re-cap of Oregon's season and contemplate that even if they lose the title game it could be their best season ever.

OK, lets start with the obvious. Oregon ran up a 12-1 record in the regular season. They've only ever had one undefeated regular season (2010), and only a few one-loss campaigns. So, yes, this year's record is great and up there with their best ever.

Next, who did Oregon beat in piling up those wins? Highly ranked Michigan State, ranked UCLA and Utah (both on the road), a top 10 ranked Arizona (Pac-12 title game), a ranked and difficult to beat Stanford squad who had UO's number over the past two seasons, hated rival Washington (for the 11th year in a row) and in-state rival Oregon State (for the seventh year in a row).

All great! In fact, I'd say that combination of satisfying victories in 2014 puts the season very high on the all-time great years for Oregon it Top 3 at worst.

Addressing the one loss they had, it was against Arizona back in October and they avenged that quite nicely in the Pac-12 title game by wiping the Wildcats out. Again, quite satisfying.

OK, what else?

Oh, Oregon's QB won the Heisman Trophy as the best player in college football this season. No University of Oregon player had ever won it before.

In summary, I'd say that the combination of their overall record, who they beat, by how many points, the post-season awards picked up by various players and the Rose Bowl win makes 2014 the Ducks best football season ever right now...even before the National Title Game.

What will happen next? Come on back to this blog in a few days and see what I think. I've been pretty dang accurate predicting Oregon and Pac-12 games this season, so I may just know what I'm talking about.