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Tako Tuesdays Remembers

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Despite what you may have heard, Oregon is a really good football team. And Tako can't wait to see them again.

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In big games like the one Oregon and Florida State face off in on Thursday afternoon, there is generally a favorite and an underdog. When the "underdog", according to Vegas and the CFP committee, is undefeated and the defending national champion, things get especially sticky. After a couple weeks of Internetting that featured some of the most rampant mudslinging since the 2008 Civil War, I have been bullied and pounded into submission, and can't shake the feeling that Oregon's gonna get crushed.

But then I remember.

I remember that Marcus Mariota is on my team, playing his first game as a bonafide Heisman trophy winner. The opportunity to watch two Heisman winners go head-to-head on the biggest stage is a privilege for all college football fans, and I've seen Jameis Winston make plays that few others on the planet can make. But given the choice between a great quarterback that has been good this season, and a great quarterback that has been great this season, I'm glad the latter will be in green and yellow.

I remember that Oregon has turned the ball over fewer times than any other team in the country this year, while Florida State has won in spite of giving the ball away more times than they take it. That speaks volumes to Florida State defense, and their ability to respond to adversity. But I'd still rather have a team that doesn't give it away, than a team that atones for it when they do.

I remember the Chip Kelly-era Oregon teams, and how they remind me of 2014 Florida State. Kelly's teams were notorious for spending the first half probing the other team for weaknesses and looking underwhelming, before going to warp in the third quarter and running away from teams. Here's a snapshot from Oregon's 2010 run to the championship game:

  • @ Tennessee - down 13-3 in the second quarter, won 48-13 (45 unanswered points!)
  • @ Arizona State - down 24-14 in the second quarter, won 42-31
  • Stanford - down 21-3 after a quarter, 31-24 at half, won 52-31
  • Arizona - down 19-14 at half, won 48-29
This strategy/tactic/trend/whatever you want to call it was magnificent to watch, and eventually, it came back to bite the Ducks on the ass against USC in 2011, when a 21-7 halftime hole became a 38-14 third quarter hole, and Oregon was unable to come back.

Having watched some Florida State this year, I've felt a similar vibe from the Seminoles, who have the ability to turn on the offensive jets and clamp down the D when needed, but have been selective in their urgency at times this season. It's an admirable quality, and Florida State isn't undefeated by accident. But Oregon has shown the ability to turn on the second-half jets (28 straight points vs. Michigan State), grind out wins with less than their best game, (Washington State), and straight-up destroy teams from the start (42-10 by the fourth quarter vs. UCLA, touchdowns on their first three drives vs. Stanford, a first-half shutout of Arizona). Florida State is extremely good at winning by a little. But I'm skeptical of the opinion that winning by a little is better than winning by a lot.

I remember how good the defense looked against Arizona. Anu Solomon played like a freshman in the biggest game of his life, and the Arizona offense - which FEI ranks higher than TCU or Mississippi State - looked out of sync and confused, and scored points on one busted play in the third quarter, and the final play of the game. One really bad play. That was it. If Oregon can come up with a defensive performance like that one against Florida State, it'll make the Seminoles earn every yard and every point they get, and will give the offense ample opportunity to do their thing and get a win.

I remember how much of a delight it is to watch Royce Freeman run the football like no other true freshman Oregon has ever seen. I also remember how dynamic a runner Thomas Tyner is when he's at full-strength, and the reports coming out of practice that he's looking better than he has all season makes me optimistic that the two-headed rushing attack we've been dreaming about might actually show up on Thursday. And against a Florida State run defense that has allowed 69 runs of 10+ yards, a healthy Oregon backfield has the potential for a very good game.

Lastly, I remember that seeing Oregon play in the Rose Bowl, with a trip to the national title game on the line, is what we all wanted at the start of the year. It's what we knew we could obtain after the Michigan State game. It's what we thought we'd lost after Washington State and Arizona. It's what we rediscovered after UCLA and Stanford, and what we basked in after beating Arizona in the Pac-12 championship game. I love this team, I think this team can win the national championship, and I can't wait to see what happens when Oregon takes the field on New Year's freakin' Day.