In one of the most compelling match-ups of the bowl season, January 1st Oregon will face off with Florida State in the Rose Bowl. Pasadena will have some incredible storylines going into this game. Top of that list is last years Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston against this years presumed winner Marcus Mariota. While Mariota’s statistics have been dazzling in his career Winston has done nothing but win. The winner here gets to take a step forward to Dallas to meet the winner of the Sugar Bowl for the National Championship. Here’s how each team can win and advance.
Oregon’s tempo will be discussed by all of the pundits and that tempo is paramount to the Ducks having success. In the Pac 12 Championship that tempo was slowed and the Duck defense stood up to the Wildcats stopping them from getting any traction. Eventually the Ducks offense woke up and ran away literally and figuratively from the Wildcats. Mariota needs to be sharp early and the Ducks can’t fall into the trap of forcing a game plan. On offense Frost must call a game that allows Mariota to exploit whatever defense exists. What was obvious in the Pac 12 Championship game was there is Mariota was running more options as opposed to the straight draws that came throughout the season. Mariota will run a pure read in this game and if that read is for him to take off he will. That could be the deciding factor in this game. Mariota’s effectiveness with his legs, not his arm to soften up the front 7 of the Seminoles. Watching the ACC championship, FSU is an aggressive team that when pushed to tempo can get caught cheating. If they do that against Oregon, they’ll have massive problems.
For Florida State to win, their front seven have to be dynamic and far more disciplined than they were against Georgia Tech. They also have to see Winston have a repeat performance of the championship game. Typically teams get stops on Oregon early, so if you can score early you can start to force the Ducks into one dimensional play calling, which limit’s their reads and effectiveness. Look for them to avoid the Ducks secondary as much as possible by attacking the undersized front seven with their run game and exploiting mismatches in the slot and with their fantastic tight end, Nick O’Leary. O’Leary’s stat sheet won’t shock anybody but his mastery of route running and timing with Winston make the two a formidable combination.
At the end of the day I believe the difference in this game will be in two areas. Will Oregon’s talented power running back Royce Freeman, a true freshman, have any room to run in between the tackles and how well the perimeter players tackle for both teams. If Oregon struggles to stay ahead of the chains in the first half and FSU gets a lead, that could become a mountain in the second half.