Nashville plays host to the first playoff game in four seasons as the Ducks of Oregon take on the Tigers of Clemson. Oregon (4-4, 2-3) comes into this game on a three-game losing streak and they represent the Big 10 #3 seed. Clemson (7-1, 4-1) enters this game after a loss to Texas a week ago ended their bid for a perfect regular season.
Clemson and Oregon have met twice before, with their last matchup coming in season four, a Clemson 27-24 win. Prior to that, it was an Oregon 28-21 win in season three. Which team wins the rubber match? Let’s take a look at the in-depth views.
A three-game losing streak managed to sneak in Oregon thanks to early-season wins over Notre Dame and Michigan. While two of the past three games have been close, Oregon’s loss to Washington last week brought up some questions regarding this offense. Led by junior quarterback, Devonta Cribbs, this offense ranks third in points-per-game as well as second in total offense. Cribbs has completed a respectable 74% of his passes to go with 19 passing touchdowns and six rushing touchdowns. Superstar halfback Jimmy Tickle enters tonight with just over 1,000 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. Wideouts Dijon Swann, Coty Betts, Williams Cope, and Davonte Lawson are Cribbs’s primary targets for this sixth-ranked passing offense.
While Oregon’s offense has been really good, their defense has not. Surprising? Yes. This is the same Oregon team that had ranked in the top-five in defensive categories a year ago and now find themselves near the bottom. Safety Shaka Black leads this defense out tonight with four-star corner Arik Austin. A litany of three-star seniors surround these two playmakers and will need to step up against a very good Tiger offense.
What a difference one week makes. Just last week Clemson was undefeated with talk of another title and rolling through the playoffs with a matchup against Ohio State. Well, Clemson played Texas and it was not pretty. The Tigers fell hard on their faces with a 49-28 loss that opened the door to many questions regarding this team. Javon Mack, the transfer from Michigan, leads an efficient Tiger squad. Currently ranked number one in the league in turnovers given, Mack has completed 68% of his passes for 1,673 passing yards and 615 rushing yards. He has also added nine touchdowns via the ground. Mike Chadwick comes into this game with 13 touchdowns on the ground and will be joined by Anthony Robertson III, Keith Blazer, Jay Moe and Yoda Meyer on the receiving end of Mack’s passes.
If Clemson is going to make their mark on defense tonight, they are going to have to figure some things out in the secondary. Barry Allen, Dionte Bing, Nick Thompson Ricky Sanchez, Andrew Fuller, and Jay Bach led the Tiger secondary out on the field tonight ranked last in passing defense. Which is the reverse of their top-ranked rushing defense led by Kobe King and Jack Tyler. Mike Miller is still able to impact the defense by sacking the quarterback, currently, he has nine on the season.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Third-down will be the play tonight as Clemson ranks 10th in the league on offense third-down conversions and Oregon ranks 12th in the league in defensive third-down stops.
Oregon QB Devonta Cribbs vs Clemson’s secondary
If Oregon watched any tape from last week’s Texas-Clemson game, they were given the key to beating Clemson’s defense. Cribbs is going to need to sling it around the field to Dijon Swann, Coty Betts and Williams Cope. The Ducks will also likely need to look at moving Davonte Lawson out wide, in order to free up the middle from one of Clemson’s top linebackers. Creativity is key here for the Ducks in order to also avoid the stellar pass rush from Miller and company.
For Clemson, they need to attack and play physical with these wideouts. By attacking at the line of scrimmage, it should give Mike Miller enough time to force himself into the backfield and make Devonta Cribbs uncomfortable.
“‘After how hard Oregon played us earlier in the season, Clemson needs to bring their A++ game in order to come out alive. Do not overlook this team just because of their losing streak. Oregon is for real.” – Ohio State AD, RussellMania
“Clemson is the defending champs for a reason, the game won’t be easy by any means but if we can stick to our gameplan and execute, there is NO reason we can’t take them down.” – Oregon AD, Frosty
“It’s a combination of one of the best offenses in the league going against one of the best defenses in the league. It should be an exciting match up” – Notre Dame HB Joe Pantoja
“This is what it’s all about. Win or go home. It doesn’t have to be pretty, just have to come out with the W. Oregon is a great football team and this will no doubt be a battle. I look for our big-time players to come up with some big-time plays and lead us to victory.” – Clemson AD, nlars.
“We can’t be anything more than what we already are, but the key to us winning is to not be anything less. We must show up, and we must answer the challenge that Clemson poses to us.” – Oregon CB, Swaggington Bear
“Offense versus defense in that game. Oregon can put up points, Clemson got run through last week. Which team can exert their will tonight? I think it’s gonna be very interesting.” – Auburn AD, pack1797
“Oregon’s defense has to step up now! We know their offense is talented but If they want a chance to win and move on, the Ducks have to stop Javon Mack and company” – Notre Dame AD, NightHawkTH32
Look, it’s not easy to predict any game, let alone this one. Oregon is the underdog and is the feel-good story. Their AD steps up last year has a good season and had a strong first couple of weeks this year. But Clemson went 7-0 for a reason before last week’s misstep. Their offense identity is built on the run and their defense has been stout all year. This game can be close if Oregon relies on the passing game but in the end, this Tiger offense can move the ball against a weak Oregon front. Clemson wins 54-21.