A coach whose team played Oregon this year assesses the Ducks' strengths and weaknesses.
When we covered their receivers, Marcus Mariota would take off running. He made his mind up very quickly where he wanted to throw the football, and if he felt like those reads weren't there, he was going to pull the ball and take off. I think he has really good pocket presence. He will step to the right or to the left in the pocket to buy himself time. A lot of teams have athletic quarterbacks, but there's nobody like this kid. He extends players longer than anybody. And he's improved his passing. He's a great thrower on the run.
In that kind of offense, it doesn't have to be a big, smashmouth line. It can be a little more athletic. They're a very, very good line. They have a great running back, Royce Freeman. He's powerful as a runner -- they haven't had somebody like that for a while.
The biggest key is getting lines up [against the Ducks' up-tempo attack]. You could pressure Mariota, but you're taking a risk anytime you do that. I think that disrupts a little bit of what they do as long as you're gap-sound in doing it. The other thing is, if you're good enough to rush four guys and contain Mariota, which is really difficult to do, it can throw them off. But when you only have four guys rushing, he knows where his escape lanes are, and he'll take them. It's hard. You've got issues if you pressure, you've got issues if you rush four, you've got issues if you rush three.
They do a great job of getting the ball out on the perimeter with a lot of motion and shifts and formations. Your coverage guys have to help knock those kinds of runs down. Different people have to come off the edge to hit that jet sweep, whether it be a corner or a linebacker. If you're going to rely on your safeties, it puts pressure on them because if they read it wrong and it's a pass, it's a touchdown.
In the past, Oregon's offense has gone Mach 1 every series. This year they've changed up their tempo a bit, which lets your defenders get their legs underneath them and play harder. And it enables you to make adjustments on the sideline. You can't do a lot defensively. You have to identify a fe things you want to do, and do them well.