Ok, so now that we know some of the stars that play for OSU (if you don't, please read here), let's look at how this offense works and what Oregon can try and do to slow them down.
My main feeling with Oregon's defense is that if they play their game, stay disciplined and make good reads, our defense should be fine. It would take a perfect game plan by Aliotti and the defense to shut out OSU, which I don't think will happen, but I do believe Oregon has the athletes to make enough plays to give OSU trouble and get off the field and give the offense a chance to win the game.
My initial read on OSU's offense is that it is built on plays, and counters to those plays. Much like a lot of pro style offenses, this one is going to try and get the defense moving or looking in one direction while the real threat escapes or gets open on the other side.
OSU is a well disciplined offense. Rarely do you see these guys miss blocks, run the wrong route, or have their timing off. I hate to heap tons of praise on OSU, but Riley does a tremendous job building levels of plays on top of what they already know in order to confuse or gain leverage on their opponent.
[How to read the pictures: The program I am using does not allow the FB to be exchanged for either a second TE or anther WR, nor does it allow the TE to be exchanged for another WR. Just realize that the FB in these pictures is most likely another TE (Brady Camp) or a third WR. OSU rarely uses a FB, but employs more of the single back formation. Their power formations usually consist of two TE on the line or a TE in the FB position, and they will definitely use 3 and sometimes 4 WR formations. Dotted lines indicate a play action (fake handoff) and the solid lines are routes run. Lines ending with an arrow indicate a running play hand off.]
The first play we will look at is their Shotgun Wide Receivers Tight play [From the Cal game].
In this play you can see that Canfield fakes the handoff to Quizz who heads out to the flat. The right slot receiver runs a corner post route and the left slot receiver stays in to block (interesting side note, but a lot of the times that a TE is kept in to block it is on the left side where their youngest and smallest offensive lineman are. Look for our blitzes to come off the left side (Rowe and Pleasant) to try and exploit this.) James Rodgers is lined up to the left and runs an in route and the outside receiver runs a go route.
OSU uses this formation in a number of different ways, but this play action can cause Oregon a lot of trouble. Not only will it get the weak side LBs moving towards Quizz freeing the TE, but it will also help slow down any rush off the strong side with the extra TE blocking. Ward should be used to come up from the safety position to add support to the weak side and spy on Quizz whenever they are in this formation. Paysinger will have the responsibility of the right side TE. Harris should be 1:1 with the right WR with support from Lewis over the top, and Jackson will have 1:1 all day on James Rodgers.
Next, here is a staple of the Riley offense; The Single Back Dive Play [From the Washington Game].
Now a lot of times in this formation Canfield will put a TE in motion into the FB position. The offensive line will have straight up blocking responsibilities. Quizz's job will be to read the hole and explode through it. Most of the times this play is used in short yardage or first down situations where their offense is trying to set up one of the counters.
First counter, The Single Back Counter Play [From the Cal Game].
Once again the left side TE will go in pre-snap motion. Only this time Quizz will fake like he is going for the dive looking to suck the MLBs up into the middle where the right guard is pulling to the left and the TE is blocking down on the outside LB or looking to get to a safety and spring Quizz. Oregon needs to be very careful of this play if they try to blitz Ward off the right side (see Stanford game) because OSU will be overloaded on the left and Quizz will only need to make one cut to get into the open field. Once again, this is a play that is used a lot in first and second down, but also once they have established the dive play, and are looking to capitalize on an over pursuing defense.
Second counter; Single Back Play-Action Pass [From Portland State Game].
This is the last counter we will look at in the single back formation. This time the right side TE goes in motion to once again add protection to the left side of the line. Again, Quizz will dive down the middle trying to draw the MLBs up to stop the run with the fake hand off, but will then move to a safety valve for Canfield should he need to dump off the pass. Only this time the left TE will run either an in route or a post pattern in the space between where the MLBs have just vacated and the safety has help over the top.
All of the single back dive plays are meant to key on the MLBs and get them to either be hesitant, or over pursue the wrong gap and get them out of position. I think that Oregon will use Ward as a spy on Quizz. Then they will rely on bringing in an extra safety in passing situations (3-3-5 formation), or 1:1 coverage with Jackson while Lewis and Harris play zone against the other side of the field. Either way, Matthews, Pleasant and Paysinger need to make good reads on what is going on in the backfield and where the play is going. I think their speed will help mask some of the mistakes they make if they make the wrong choice, but the safeties need to be on the ball to back them up should they break down.
Lastly, here is the play we all remember too well; The Fly Sweep [From the Civil War 2007].
Ok, I'm trying to regain consciousness after Eddie Pleasant just tackled me for writing The Fly Sweep [From the Civil War 200...arghaghaghaghah...Damnit Eddie!! knock it off, I'm trying to finish this thing. Ok, we all remember this play, I don't need to rehash it. The thing is it puts a lot of pressure on the right side of the defense. Once again, I think this is where TJ Ward will have a huge impact. Also, Lewis is going to have to see this play coming and come up and fill the gap and get at James Rodgers. Remember my first post, tackling is going to be huge, a missed tackle on the Fly Sweep and James will have no problem looking for the endzone. It is also important to stop it because is leads to this.
The Fly Sweep Play Action [From the Cal Game].
If Lewis or Ward get too aggressive trying to over play the fly sweep, Riley will have no problem calling the play action and throwing to either Adeniji with 1:1 coverage from Harris deep and no help over the top, or Halahuni running a post with no safety in the middle.
Final thoughts. Obviously, these are not all the plays that OSU runs. This is only trying to demonstrate some of how their offense works and what Oregon needs to do to contain it. Besides the play action fly sweep, all of their counter plays take a long time to develop. I think that with Oregon's speed, they should be able to get at Canfield enough times to force them into long yardage situations, disrupt the play enough to throw off the timing, or recover and make the stop without giving up the big play.
Ward is going to have the time of his life shooting the gap and hitting Quizz (remember this is Ward's last home game and last Civil War, think he's going to be a little jacked?). Casey Matthews is going to need to play smart ball in the middle of the field and take away the TE passes, while still providing run support up the middle. Harris, has a huge test on his hands. Adeniji is a big target, and Canfield is an accurate deep ball thrower. Rowe and Pleasant need to do that thing they do and get at Canfield against a freshman and undersized o-linemen. Lastly, Jackson, you got James Rodgers, try and keep him in front of you and make the tackle once he gets the ball.
I think Oregon matches up really well with OSU and how they run their offense. I will say it again, I do not expect a perfect game from the defense, just enough stops and big plays to let the offense get back on the field and beat up on OSU's outmatched defense. I really cannot wait. Win the Day! Go Ducks!