It's been a bit quiet around here, mostly due to travel and all sorts of other business amongst the many authors of the site. And honestly, I find previewing and predicting bowls to be disastrous work. Take one look at my bowl bracket to ascertain that. I'm sitting firmly in the bottom 10th percentile nationally with my bowl picks.
So I'm not gonna predict what will happen. I honestly have no idea what's going to happen. Oregon could put up 50, or 10. And I wouldn't be surprised either way. I know that Oregon should be favored in this game, and in my mind holds some key matchup advantages. But the month off does weird things to a lot of teams.
So instead of giving you a prediction to this game, here are my keys to the game. If the Ducks can execute in these areas, they should win their first Rose Bowl since 1917.
Yes, this may seem simple, but it is one of the most important things that the Ducks can do. Oregon cannot allow tOSU to set the pace of this game early. They cannot allow them to get comfortable on offense. They must put the pressure on Terrelle Pryor and the tOSU offense to make plays. If the pressure is on Pryor, I feel very very good about the Ducks chances.
In my mind, this was actually the key to the Stanford game. Stanford was able to get into their rhythm early. They developed a balanced offense early and were not forced into many throwing situations in the game. If tOSU scores first, they will be much less likely be to forced into throwing situations. They will be in much fewer predictable situations, and just make life that much harder for the Ducks defense.
Force Terrelle Pryor into throwing situations
Defensively, this is number one. According to S&P+ (supplied by Football Outsiders) tOSU ranked 74th in the country, and are below average in passing downs. This means that they do not succeed in these plays often, and don't have many big plays in these situations.
Buckeye Football Analysis had a very good point. While they stated that Oregon was susceptible to being pushed around up front, "they will cause negative and short yardage plays in the run game through their various looks and blitzes." This is the key to forcing tOSU in long down situations. Oregon will give up some yards. They gave up decent chucks of yardage to USC, ASU, and other teams. Yet they would also have big stops on 1st and/or 2nd down, and the opposing team would be forced into an obvious passing down.
I believe a good comparison offensively is USC, who is actually better running the ball (according to S&P+), though worse passing. However, USC is also far superior in passing downs. And against the Trojans, the Ducks didn't get pushed around. The defensive line held their own, and allowed the rest of the defense to make these plays.
Tomorrow, I don't think that the Ducks will get pushed around consistently. They will give up a few decent plays here and there, but they will also get some plays stopped for no gain or a loss. tOSU will get yards. But if they have to go the whole field to get a score, I'm confident that they will be forced into passing downs. If The Ducks force the Buckeyes into these situations, they will have a very productive game defensively.
Do not go three and out
There is a lot of talk about how the OSU offense must run the ball and control the ball to keep the Duck offense off the field. I really hate this analysis. You know how you keep the ball away from the Oregon offense? Stop the Oregon offense. Ohio State will not win the game by winning the TOP battle. They will win the game if they win the total plays and first downs battle. OSU will gain nothing if they hold onto the ball on offense, unless that is mirrored on the opposite side by the OSU defense stopping the Oregon offense.
And if there's anything we've seen over the past two years, its that the Oregon offense can be susceptible to rhythm problems. Against both Arizona and Oregon State, they stumbled for at least a quarter offensively, and could not get anything going. Even against Stanford, the offense was out of sync for chunks of the game. And against tOSU, Oregon cannot afford to do this. I'm sure they will get stopped from time to time, but the Ducks cannot afford three and outs. They must move the ball down the field on every possession, and not give OSU a short field. If OSU shortens the game by trying to hold onto the ball, Oregon cannot give them any more opportunity to do this.
Now, there are obviously other keys to the game: turnovers, special teams, etc. But these are the aspects I'll be watching. If Oregon can execute in these three areas, I think they walk away with an easy victory (as long as the turnover battle is easy). If Oregon can do these things, they will force the type of game they want to play, exploit tOSU's weaknesses, while not allowing their own to be exploited.
It should be a fun one. GO DUCKS!