The second match of the opening round features two veteran teams in the playoff realm as the SEC two seed and Big Ten three seed face each other between Auburn and Oregon. We’ll have to take a deep dive into this showdown.
The Ducks are limping their way into the playoffs, following the upset by Nebraska last week. It stings, but can be really good motivation. Quarterback Devonta Cribbs, despite having a good season stats wise, has struggled with consistency. He’ll need to put on a big show with receiver Dijon Swann. If these two can take the game over, and tailback Jimmy Tickle can finish it off the Ducks are in great shape. That can’t happen without significant contributions from receivers Zeus McBeth, who has become a staple on this offense, and Wilbur King Jr. But more importantly, Cribbs has got to avoid untimely mistakes, or it will be a long night.
Defensive end Anthony Richardson looked lights out last week, but unfortunately the rest of the Oregon defense struggled. Safeties Shaka Black and Cai Brummer are going to have to generate turnovers and the linebackers Tristan Myers and Puna Mortensen have got to step up as well. They’re facing an offense that has turned to the running game more and is finding ways to involve their big playmakers with greater frequency. And this defense is susceptible to giving up big plays as illustrated last week.
Speaking of big plays, they tend to translate to big wins, and quarterback Griffin Jelkic had to make a couple last week, but none moreso than tailback Robert Davis. Davis churned out 113 yards on 33 carries to solidify their playoff berth, which is a big deal. Receivers Cross Ferry III and Bubba Davis made major plays on third downs and down the field as well. And let’s not forget the impressiveness of both receiver Derrek Jackson and tight end Michael McKenzie. This offense has really started to figure some things out and it showed last week.
As for the defense, they’re a star-studded cast. From the back end, to a pretty impressive front seven. Defensive end Conrad Wallace is as disruptive as linebackers Mark Calloway and Micah Myers, while safeties Ollie P. Peters and Digger Graves leave the opposition seeing stars, as does Calloway. The one concern is the amount of dropped turnovers. Corner LaRoi Sanders has seen several in his hands, some of which with six points attached, and he seems to struggle to get a good handle on it. Sanders needs to engage his own playoff magic and start hauling those in, because his defense is creating those opportunities.
All eyes turn to corner LaRoi Sanders. He’ll likely be matching up with Dijon Swann as much as he can, and the question becomes whether or not he can handle the large receiver. Sanders has been gifted several opportunities at turnovers this season, but his success rate on capitalizing on them have been low. It absolutely must change tonight, especially if Cribbs is bold enough to challenge the corner.
Both teams are veterans, and both teams moved on from the opening round last season. It’s an interesting matchup, but the questions surrounding the Oregon defense are too much for me to ignore. I trust Auburn’s defense to be able to slow the Ducks, and the Tigers’ offense should have no major issues moving the ball on the Ducks tonight, barring some mental errors. Despite that, this will undoubtedly be a close game, but I’m leaning on the talented Auburn to ground the Ducks.
final: oregon 28, auburn 31