While both teams have talented running backs, this will be a game that'll be fun to watch when it comes to the wide receivers. Both teams rank in the top 15 in the nation in passing, so all eyes will be on the quarterbacks and their receivers tomorrow in Pasadena.
Things got off to a shaky start before the season even started when Bralon Addison was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Who was Oregon's "next man in?" The receiver with the most experience going into the 2014 season was Keanon Lowe, who made 18 catches for 233 yards and three touchdowns in 2013. Addison was ready to step into Josh Huff's shoes to be the No. 1 guy, but instead, the Ducks had to work with what they had. And that's exactly what they did.
Unlike Florida State, there isn't one standout guy among Oregon's wide receivers. In fact, Oregon's leading receiver was Byron Marshall, who was originally a running back. But after the Ducks found themselves with a surplus of running backs, Marshall was moved into the slot position (much like De'Anthony Thomas was used while he was at Oregon) and thrived. This season, Marshall caught 61 passes for 814 yards and five touchdowns.
Leading the team in touchdown receptions was Devon Allen, who was fresh off winning a national title in the 110 meter hurdles at the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships. Allen showed his incredible track speed at clutch times, including when he hauled in two touchdowns against Michigan State in September.
Also stepping up in a big way was sophomore Dwayne Stanford, who caught 37 passes for 557 yards and six touchdowns, including two touchdowns against Utah in one of Oregon's most critical games of the season.
While the Ducks don't have a go-to target like Florida State does, they can beat you many different ways through the air, and you never quite know who is going to step up to turn in a big day. But someone always seems to step up.
Leading Florida State's receiving corps is Rashad Greene. This year, Greene caught 93 passes for 1,306 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 14.0 yards per reception. Greene averaged 100.5 yards per game (13th in the nation) and finished among the top 10 in receiving yards in 2014. Greene kicked off the season in a huge way against Oklahoma State with 11 catches for 203 yards and a touchdown. He would go on to have seven more games with at least 100 receiving yards. If Greene can take advantage of the absence of Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and turns in a game like he did against Oklahoma State, the Ducks could be in trouble.
After Greene, Florida State has a mix of receivers ready to contribute. Senior tight end Nick O'Leary will be another target that Jameis Winston will be looking towards. This year, O'Leary, the Mackey Award winner (nation's top tight end) caught 47 passes for 614 yards and six touchdowns. O'Leary has shown to have good hands and few drops while also being a strong blocker. O'Leary has had some recent success finding the end zone, with half of his touchdowns on the season coming in the past two games. O'Leary can also make some big-time catches, with nearly 60% of his receptions this year leading to first downs.
Travis Rudolph and Jesus Wilson are also in the mix for Florida State. This year, Wilson had 37 catches for 455 yards and four touchdowns, while Rudolph had 32 catches for 459 yards and three touchdowns.
Oregon doesn't have the primary No. 1 target like Florida State does with Rashad Greene, but they have better depth and more ways to beat you. When your quarterback wins the Heisman and his top receiver was a running back who was moved to the slot, that's pretty impressive. Like I said in a previous article, one of Mariota's best talents is making the receivers around him better (or at least giving us that illusion) with his accuracy. Both teams have struggled at times with dropped passes, but Oregon's depth gives them the edge among the wide receivers.