First Impressions of the Rose Bowl Matchup
By Brandon Castel
After watching every minute of Oregon’s 37-33 win over Oregon State Thursday night, I am convinced the biggest difference in this game was location. The Autzen Zoo is one of the toughest places in the country to play, and it got to the Beavers in the second half as they managed just 10 points after putting up 23 in the first half.
If this game is played in Corvallis, or if Oregon State’s left tackle didn’t do his best turnstyle impersonation in the second half, the end result could have been an OSU-OSU matchup in the Rose Bowl.
As it stands, however, Buckeyes will face Oregon in Pasadena, and by all accounts, the better team won in Eugene. Despite trailing 23-21 at the half, the seventh-ranked Ducks prevailed in the Civil War thanks to their vaunted rushing attack, which put up 288 yards on the ground against their in-state rivals.
Oregon’s victory also makes for a much more intriguing Rose Bowl matchup, although the Rodgers brothers sure are fun to watch. Here are my first impressions of the matchup between the Bucks and Ducks after what I saw Thursday night.
*Jeremiah Masoli will cause problems for the OSU defense. After watching the game Thursday, I’m quite certain the Oregon State defense couldn’t field more than two or three starters on the Ohio State defense – although 54 Stephen Paea is a player – but that doesn’t mean Masoli won’t make any plays against the Buckeyes. While the OSU defense has been incredibly stingy all season, Masoli is exactly the type of quarterback that gives them problems. He is mobile and throws well on the run. His escapability allows him to keep plays alive, but most importantly he is content taking what the defense gives him.
*Buckeyes should have 3-4 turnovers easy on defense. With the way Masoli systematically guides the Ducks down the field, there’s no question Oregon will be able to move the ball on Ohio State’s bend but don’t break defense. The difference between what we saw Thursday and what we will see on New Year’s Day, however, is the Buckeyes ability to get pressure on the quarterback, something the Beavers failed to do with any regularity. The Ducks had allowed only 12 sacks all season, and yet the Oregon offense seems ready and willing to cough up the football. They had two turnovers against Oregon State, as well as one or two other balls that would have gone the other way had they not bounced favorably for the Ducks.
*There could be more than 500 combined yards on the ground. You have to be impressed with the way Oregon runs the football, even if it is against Pac-10 defenses. Their 288 rushing yards against Oregon State were only 57 more than their season average of 231, which is the eighth best total in the country. Say what you want about LeGarrette Blount, but it was his tough running the second half that helped put the Beavers away for good. Whether or not the 240-pound back should be playing after his sucker punch against Boise State is irrelevant, because he’s going to be out there and he provides another aspect a rushing attack that was already pretty good with LaMichael James (166 yards, 3 TDs against OSU).
The Buckeyes also have a pretty good rushing attack, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the 2010 Rose Bowl will feature the top rushing team from the Pac-10 against the top rushing team from the Big Ten. Ohio State had three of the top 10 rushers in the conference this season and the two teams could combine for well over 500 yards on the ground.
*The Buckeyes should be able to put up points on the Ducks. This might sound like a strange impression after the Ducks held Oregon State to just 10 points in the second half, but there were so many times in this game where you felt like the Beavers should be up by 14 points. Maybe it’s just me, but when I look at Chip Kelly’s defense it reeks of mediocrity. They were a middle-of-the-road defense all year in the Pac-10 (5th in scoring defense and rushing defense) and they allowed at least 33 points in three of their last four games to close out the regular season. This is also the same team that allowed 36 to Purdue earlier this season at home, and if the Buckeyes can pass the ball at all, they should be able to put up points in the Rose Bowl.
*Ohio State offensive tackles cannot be as bad as Oregon State’s. The Ohio State offensive tackles have taken some serious heat over the past few seasons, but the second-half performance by 77 Michael Philipp and 50 Mike Remmers should make Buckeye fans count their lucky stars. After a stalemate first half, Philipp single-handedly made Oregon defensive end Kenny Rowe look like Vernon Gholston in the 2007 Michigan game down the stretch. Without using anything more than a blow-by, Rowe was able to completely disrupt quarterback Sean Canfield and the entire OSU offense. Take nothing away from Rowe, he’s a decent-looking player, but it’s not like the Buckeyes are preparing for Brian Orakpo take two.
*Brian Rolle and Jermale Hines should have big games. Watching Oregon’s read-option and wide pitch plays against Oregon State, you couldn’t help but wonder how effective they would have been with guys like Rolle and Hines running sideline to sideline. There was a time not too long ago (2007 vs. Illinois to be exact) that Ohio State was ill-equip to handle an offense like Chip Kelly’s, one that attacks both the middle and edges of the field. In that game in particular, the Buckeyes looked slow, inflexible and inadaptable to what Juice Williams and the Fighting Illini were doing to them. A big part of that was inexperience against what would quickly become the hottest fad in college football, but another big part was personnel. The decision to play Rolle in the middle appeared quite bold before the season, but it couldn’t have worked out better for the bowl game.
*Jon Thoma will need a big-game performance. Watching Oregon State punter Johnny Hekker fire off punts of 15 and 32 yards against the Ducks Thursday should have served as an eerie reminder for Ohio State fans of what they have gotten out of their own punter this season. While Jon Thoma has been effective at pinning teams inside their own 20, it’s his knack for hitting a quacker (pun intended) at the most inopportune time that hurt the Buckeyes the most during the regular season. Fortunately for OSU, Oregon’s freshman Jackson Rice finished last in the Pac-10 in punt average, but if the Buckeyes are going to keep the Ducks out of the end zone they will need a big-time performance from Thoma.
Any way you slice it, it should be a good, entertaining game in Pasadena with just the right amount of hype.
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