The Ducks path to the College Football Playoff goes through Columbus, Ohio. How do the Ducks stack up against the Buckeyes?
Article by Nick Battey
Oregon and Ohio State meet in a highly anticipated non-conference matchup on Saturday, September 11th in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes are coming off a National Title appearance in 2020 and will be a tough test for what is still a young Oregon team. The Ducks, however, return nearly every impact player from the 2020 season that resulted in a Pac-12 Title and an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. Who has the edge in 2021 at each position group? We present you with an early preview.
Quarterback: After Tyler Shough transferred to Texas Tech from Oregon, that set up 6th year Senior Anthony Brown as the guy for the Ducks. Brown is a talented QB who had a successful career at Boston College before transferring the West Coast. During his college career, the talented signal caller has amassed 4,902 yards with 42 touchdowns and just 20 interceptions. The Oregon playmaker is also a threat with the ball in the open field with 554 offensive yards and 9 touchdowns. Behind Brown, the Ducks also feature highly touted QB's in Jay Butterfield, Ty Thompson and Robbie Ashford.
Ohio State needs to replace the electric Justin Fields at QB, but will have multiple quality options to choose from. CJ Stroud is currently the projected favorite to win the job and is a former 4 star recruit who hails from California. The Buckeyes seem to consistently have quality QB's who put up big numbers but it's never easy breaking in an inexperienced QB.
Running Back: Oregon returns their top running backs from 2020 in CJ Verdell and Travis Dye. If both can stay healthy, they are a formidable 1-2 punch in the backfield. Verdell has totaled 3,059 yards and 23 touchdowns during his illustrious career while his sidekick, Travis Dye, has been nearly equally as dangerous with 2,307 yards and 11 scores.
With Trey Sermon to the NFL, that means Master Teague III will be the lead returning back for the Buckeyes. Teague is often described as a genetic freak and has sub 4.4 speed at 226 pounds. In his limited opportunities to carry the rock he has accounted for 1,515 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Wide Receiver: This might be Oregon’s most talented WR room in the history of the program. Along with returning Seniors Johnny Johnson III and Jaylon Redd, the Ducks have Mycah Pittman and Devon Williams for another year. Waiting in the wings are Freshmen Troy Franklin, Kris Hudson and Dont’e Thornton who all shined in the spring game.
Ohio State always has a top receiving group and this one is no different. Led by Senior Chris Olave, the Buckeye receiving room will also feature Garrett Wilson and both have received 1st round hype for the 2022 Draft. This group will be a nightmare for the Oregon secondary to cover and could be a defining factor in the game.
Edge: Ohio State
Tight End: Last year Oregon’s TE depth was decimated with injuries and Covid issues. This year they are back with a deep group led by Spencer Webb and Patrick Herbert. DJ Johnson and Cam McCormick could also play a factor for the Ducks and will provide excellent depth.
Senior Jeremy Ruckert returns for one last season with the Buckeyes. He brings both talent and experience to the table and he will be a major matchup problem for Oregon at 6’5” and 254 pounds.
Offensive Line: Oregon returns their entire offensive line in 2021 with George Moore, TJ Bass, Alex Forsyth, Ryan Walk and Steven Jones from left to right. Watch out for Kingsley Suamataia and Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu to potentially be breakout stars in 2021.
Ohio State returns both tackles in Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere but will have a new Center and Right Guard replacing Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis. Overall, this should be another top notch offensive line for Ryan Day and will be formidable for Oregon’s talented front 7.
Defensive Line: Returning for the Ducks are Brandon Dorlus, Popo Aumavae and of course Kavon Thibodeaux, who will be used more like a linebacker ala Von Miller. It will be interesting to see how new DC Tim DeRuyter uses this unit and how it develops this year but Thibodeaux should carry this unit and create plenty of pressure on quarterbacks.
Zach Harrison leads a revamped DL for Ohio St along with Haskell Garrett, Taron Vincent, Tyreke Smith and Antwuan Jackson. This group has a lot of potential if they can put it all together against the experienced Oregon OL and each is seen as future NFL Draft pick.
Edge: Ohio State
Linebackers: Oregon’s LB core might be the most talented group in the whole country. Futute top 5 pick, Kayvon Thibodeaux, will likely play a hybrid LB/DE position and star Freshmen Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe should be ready to contribute in 2021. Veterans Mase Funa and Issac Slade-Matautia bring much needed experience each has a strong track record of success at the college level. This group has a chance to give Ohio State major problems with a new QB.
Ohio State will be undergoing massive changes to their Linebackers in 2021 as they lost a ton of talent there from last year's team. Seniors Dallas Gant and Teradja Mitchell will be vital to bring leadership to the defense.
Secondary: Oregon’s secondary had major turnover in 2020 which led to inconsistent play in the backend of the Oregon defense. Oregon will have more experience returning this year and the unit will be led by Mykael Wright who is seen as a potential first rounder in 2022. When you add Freshmen Dontae Manning and Jaylin Davies into the picture, this group has a chance to improve greatly, even vs the talented OSU receiving core.
The Buckeyes secondary is mostly back, with the exception of Shaun Wade, meaning they will be ready to battle with Oregon’s talented WR group. Marcus Williamson, Josh Proctor and Sevyn Banks are experienced guys ready to go.
Special Teams: The kicking game was a major issue for years for the Ducks but Oregon finally seems to have a reliable kicker in Henry Katleman. He was perfect on field goals in 2020 and made a 52 yarder in the spring game. As for the return game, Kris Hudson seems like a likely option to return punts and kicks along with Mykael Wright who returned two for touchdowns in 2019.
Jake Seibert is Ohio State’s new kicker in 2021. He did get some time in 2020 with Covid becoming a major issue and went 1-2 on field goals including a make in the national championship vs Alabama. Garrett Wilson will likely get time as the main return man for Ohio State.
Coaching: Mario Cristobal quickly resurrected an Oregon program that began to struggle under Helfrich and Taggart. The Oregon Head Coach learned under Nick Saban and has brought that same approach to Eugene with great results as the Ducks have won the Pac-12 in 2019 and 2020.
Ryan Day has quickly impressed since taking over for Urban Meyer but you have to wonder if he can sustain his success long term. Urban Meyer is one of the greatest coaches in college football history and left Day with extremely talented rosters.
WR: Ohio State
DL: Ohio State
Special Teams: Even
Conclusion: Oregon has enough pieces to make this a very close matchup between the two highly successful programs. A lot will depend on whether or not QB CJ Stroud can fill in nicely for Justin Fields without a major drop off. The Ducks are definitely the more experienced team after Ohio State has had 20 players selected in the past two drafts. Still, the Buckeyes recruit at an extremely high level and reload better than anyone except Alabama. Traveling across the country to Ohio Stadium is never easy but there still remains a possibility that the game could be moved to a neutral site.