IT'S REMATCH TIME. All that stands between Oregon and an appearance in the College Football Playoff are Rich Rod, his pesky 3-3-5 defense, and Anu Solomon. While Tako already laid out precisely how the Pac-12 Championship game will play out, I figured I'd open the floor up to my fellow ATQers and field some questions you guys had about this important rematch.
Where are we now with injuries - how is it different from last time we played AZ?
It's always tough knowing exactly where Oregon stands injury wise due to the Duck's nature of not disclosing injury information. Obviously, the biggest difference between the first matchup with Arizona and this second one is on the offensive line. In the first game, the Oregon offensive line looked like this:
- LT - Tyrell Crosby
- LG - Hamani Stevens
- C - Hroniss Grasu
- RG - Jake Pisarcik
- RT - Matt Pierson
The Ducks were missing Tyler Johnstone, Andre Yruretagoyena, and Jake Fisher, all starters. For the rematch it seems like this what the offensive line will look like:
- LT - Jake Fisher
- LG - Jake Pisarcik
- C - Hamani Stevens (possibly Grasu, which would slide Stevens back to LG)
- RG - Cameron Hunt
- RT - Matt Pierson / Andre Yruretagoyena
The Ducks will still be missing Johnstone, but as whole is much healthier this time around then the first time these two teams met in Eugene. There's a lot more to say about the line, but we'll get to that later. First, let's look at some other personnel differences between the two games against Arizona.
The biggest difference going against Oregon in this second game is the absence of Pharaoh Brown and Keanon Lowe. Brown only had one reception in that game, but he adds a level of versatility to the Oregon offense that Evan Baylis does not. Baylis has played very well since Brown's injury, but he just isn't quite the same player that Brown is. Keanon Lowe may also miss this game, but Oregon is deep at receiver and shouldn't miss Lowe too much. Thomas Tyner is also going to miss this game.
Defensively, Oregon looks pretty similar to the team that played Arizona in October, except for a few changes to the linebackers. Joe Walker has passed Derrick Malone on the depth chart, but both will see snaps in the championship. Tyson Coleman has played more downs as the season has gone on, and that should continue as well. Now back to the line...
How do we avoid the sacks? We got sacked 5 times - how many were on general line failure, on Mariota, and how many were on players that aren't going to be playing on Friday?
Time for a painful, sack-by-sack look at that game and deal out some blame. Ugh, this is not going to be fun. Are you ready?*
Arizona does a good job of taking away Mariota's first option, Byron Marshall, and forcing him to go to his second and third options. However Mariota senses the pressure before he can find his other options and tries to take off. The Arizona defender happens to be in the right spot at the right time.
Blame - 25% general line, 25% Mariota, 50% great Arizona defense
This is mainly a sack of circumstance. Oregon is facing a 3rd and 14, so the Ducks have to run a play that takes a while to develop and Arizona knows that. The Wildcats only rush three, but get to Mariota because their end abuses Tyrell Crosby. Mariota still needs to know that he can't hold the ball for five seconds in the pocket with a depleted offensive line.
Blame - 85% Crosby, 15% Mariota
As the game progressed and Mariota kept getting smacked, you could see him get a little gun shy in the pocket. He steps up way early than he has to here, but again, I believe this is more a product of how the line played throughout rather than a knock on Mariota. Also, Hamani Stevens doesn't do a whole lot here, failing to double the tackle with Grasu then completely whiffing on the defender who gets the sack.
Blame - Stevens 70%, Line Making Mariota Gun Shy 30%
On this third down Arizona brings a blitz, and Oregon runs a play without any check down options. Not great.
Blame - Arizona blitz 33%, Bad Play Call 33%, Jake Pisarcik 33%
Blame - Scooby Dooby Doo 40%, Marcus Mariota 30%, Matt Pierson 30%
Well that was depressing. Here's to not having to watch anything like that tonight.
The 3-3-5: is it the scheme that stops us, or is it simply the personnel?
By now I'm sure everyone is sick of hearing about the 3-3-5 and how it might be Oregon's achilles heel. But screw it, you asked so we're going to look at it again.
The way Arizona uses the 3-3-5 against Oregon is unique. Despite the obvious logic that if Arizona is running a 3-3-5 they must have six men in the box and 5 men in coverage, However, Arizona actually uses that extra defender they have as a safety who begins the play in the box, but once he reads pass drops back into coverage.
This allows Arizona to have the number advantage in the box to stop the run, but also have enough men in coverage to scrape by. By having another safety on the field, it also bumps up the team speed of the defense and helps them defend the length of the field against the speedy Ducks.
The reason Arizona was so wildly successful in shutting down the Duck's offense has a few variables. The first is how well the Wildcats took away Mariota's first option on a passing play. They did a great job at taking away his first look, and by the time Mariota realized he had to move on, the Arizona pass rush was in his face. This is because of how banged up the Oregon offense line was, and how well Scooby Wright III and his fellow pass rushers played. Mariota very rarely had more than two-ish seconds to pass before there was a man in his face.
So what can the Ducks do differently this time?
The biggest difference besides offensive line health is the development of Royce Freeman and the power run game. If Oregon can consistently pick up 4-5 yards running between the tackles, Arizona will have to adjust and keep more defenders in to stop the interior run. This limits the flexibility of the 3-3-5 and in should open up outside running lanes for Freeman and Marshall, and give Mariota more options in the passing game - if the line can keep him upright.