Behind Enemy Lines: Oregon

It is time to go back Behind Enemy Lines once again with a major top-15 battle at hand between your Ohio State Buckeyes and the Ducks of Oregon. We have had time with Tale of the Tape and other features to look at Ohio State’s opponent through Ohio State glasses but what about when it comes to someone that covers the Ducks on a daily basis?

Ohio State has had its way with Oregon going back to the 1950s, but every game is different and that is why we are reaching out to A.J. Jacobson of to get the latest on Ohio State’s next game.

What is your best guess as for why Oregon struggled so much against Fresno State in week one? Was it a case of looking ahead or is there something much larger to blame?

AJ Jacobson: I did not find it too surprising that the Ducks struggled in week one against Fresno State, although I did expect much better from them execution wise on offense. When you look across the nation at the various key match ups, there were many teams that faced a tougher game on week one than they expected. Oftentimes the defense is ahead of the offense early in the season, and that certainly was the case for Oregon last Saturday. 

Still, that performance did not instill any confidence in the Oregon fan base particularly with the knowledge that the Ducks are heading to Columbus, Ohio for their next game. Were the Ducks looking past the Fresno State Bulldogs? That is the easy answer, but it seemed rather that they did not execute well on offense while at the same time a hat tip to the Fresno State defensive line which will be a handful for many teams. 

How is the defense different with and without Kayvon Thibodeaux in the lineup? If you had to make a guess, will we see him play against Ohio State or not? If he is out or limited, who has to step up?

AJ Jacobson: Kayvon Thibodeaux was one of the premier edge rushers in the nation last season, and he is a better football player this year with a more polished run stopping game. No team in college football that could replace a Thibodeaux without a downgrade and the Ducks are no exception. Oregon has plenty of edge rushers, but KT stands out from any crowd. He is a guy who cannot be blocked one-on-one, and with him out the opponent offensive line has far more flexibility how to manage the pass rush. 

If Thibodeaux is not able to go then next man up would be redshirt freshman Jake Shipley, or the Duck coaches could move sophomore Adrian Jackson or freshman Bradyn Swinson over to the Joker linebacker spot.  

Our latest update on the status of KT was yesterday when Coach Cristobal told us he was day-to-day, getting better. But if I were a betting man, I would expect to see Thibodeaux on Saturday. 

On the offensive side of the ball, can Anthony Brown and the passing game make a large enough impact to beat the Buckeyes? What kind of numbers does Oregon need out of Brown to win this game?

AJ Jacobson: Looking at just the statistics alone, Anthony Brown played a pretty decent game against Fresno State. He was 15 for 24 for 172 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions thrown. But the problem is he was not asked to do too much. They tried a couple shots down the field, but mostly it was shorter, underneath stuff. Against Ohio State, they are going to need to connect on some of those higher risk longer passes in order to stretch that defense and run the ball like they hope to. 

Oregon will certainly try to establish the run as almost all teams do. But to make the running game most effective, they must be able to show that they can pass the ball not just with underneath stuff to mitigate heavy pressure on a quarterback, but also with the augmented line holding up for those extra seconds needed to get guys downfield. Brown was not particularly accurate on his long ball last Saturday and that needs to change to beat Ohio State. 

To beat Ohio State Brown is going to have to be accurate, particularly with the downfield shots, but also not turn the ball over. A tall order to fill. 

In your opinion, what things do the Ducks see from the Ohio State game tape against Minnesota that they can take advantage of? What do they see out of week one from Ohio State that should be cause for concern for Oregon?

AJ Jacobson: What Ohio State’s season opener against Minnesota showed was that with decent run blocking up front and a bruising tailback like Mohammed Ibrahim thundering his way though the gaps, it is possible to run the ball on the Buckeyes.  

This type of football is exactly what Mario Cristobal has been trying to implement at Oregon the last three years. He has been trying to build the team into one more like those he was used to coaching in the SEC or his playing days at Miami, very physical in all phases. 

Despite all the star power the Ducks have been recruiting in the trenches and at the skill positions, they still are not quite well they need to be to compete at the highest most physical levels of college football. Or at least they have not shown it yet even though they seem to have the personnel to do so.  

But the success of Ibrahim and the running game is something the Ducks will try to duplicate. 

Still Ohio State showed that they can come from behind to win, and they have talent and playmakers all over the place on both sides of the ball. This was not a surprise, but it certainly will present a challenge on Saturday. 

5. Oregon wins the game if it…

AJ Jacobson: For me this is kind of a broken record because I think the keys to the games are generally the same. To win you must hold on to the football and win the turnover battle. Then, you have to be able to run the football better than you let your opponent. The turnover and running game keys are even more crucial when you play a team like Ohio State. 

This game will be an extremely difficult one for the Ducks to win. In terms of turnovers, they will probably need to be in the +2 or better category. Controlling the Buckeye running game means they need to hold them to somewhere less than 3.5 yards per rush. 

But even that might not be enough for this game. To help their cause, they need to stretch the Ohio State defense vertically early in the game, and that means completing some longer, more dangerous passes.  

To win in Columbus, they will likely need to check all the above boxes. 

How does this game play out and what is your final score prediction?

AJ Jacobson: I anticipate a much better football game than most people do. Oregon has so much talent that they have brought in the last three recruiting cycles under Cristobal that it is only a matter of time until they shine. There is nobody in the Oregon locker room that doesn’t realize that this game at Ohio State is there chance to really make a name for themselves. And being two touchdown underdogs, there really is not a lot of pressure on them. Everybody expects them to lose, so why not play loose? That is something they did not do in their first game. 

I expect to see some fantastic dynamic individual plays from both teams. I think we will see both teams take some shots downfield and connect on them. I think there will be a lot of pressure on both quarterbacks, and their ability to make plays outside the pocket may dictate how the offense goes on Saturday. In other words, I expect to see a lot of good football. 

But at the end of the day the analyst in the recognizes that Ohio State is probably going to win this game. Given all that the final score will be Ohio State 42 – Oregon 32. 

  • J
    John Kaplan
  • September 10, 2021
Have always loved "Behind-Enemy-Lines" and this one was no exception. Thanks.