Predicting How Oregon and Florida State Would Do Against the SEC Heavyweights
Could we possibly see two SEC teams battle it out for this year’s national championship again? The thought makes fans across the college football landscape cringe, even though we are only a month into the regular season.
Still, with four games finished on the schedule, four of the Top 6 teams in the AP Poll are from the conference that everybody either loves or hates. The two non-SEC teams that seem to have the best shot at competing for a national title are the Florida State Seminoles and Oregon Ducks.
But which team would you pick to battle an SEC heavyweight if you wanted to see a streak of six national championships come to an end? Would it be the defensive minded Seminoles, or the explosive offensive team in the Ducks?
Let's take a look at these two teams and see which squad stacks up the best compared to the SEC.
Who Are the SEC Heavyweights?
Who are the top teams in the SEC?
Well, before the season started, most considered Arkansas, LSU and Alabama to be the three teams that would compete for a conference title the hardest. Now, it appears that the Razorbacks are out of the running, teams like Georgia and South Carolina are making a strong push, as they are both in the Top 10 of the AP Poll.
Other teams, such as Florida and Mississippi State, are also making cases for a successful season, as they are also ranked teams that are improving each and every week.
So, although the Florida State Seminoles and Oregon Ducks won't have to play SEC teams during the regular season, (Florida State will play their rival in the Florida Gators at the end of the season) this is really about how they would fair against the top competition in the conference.
If one of these teams were to play a team such as LSU, Alabama, Georgia or South Carolina, in the national championship, how would they do?
Well, let’s take a look.
The offense of the Oregon Ducks is obviously its strength. This team is averaging over 570 yards of offense and has one of the more explosive players in the country in running back De'Anthony Thomas. The Ducks are converting over 49 percent of their third downs and have scored 20 touchdowns on 25 red zone trips in just four games.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota is doing a terrific job of completing 69 percent of his passes and is making great decisions with the football for a first-year starter.
Overall, there is probably no other offense that is as balanced or as explosive as the Ducks at the moment, which not only makes them an exciting team, but a very dangerous one as well.
Defensively, Oregon is ranked seventh in the Pac-12, allowing over 350 total yards of offense. They do a solid job of pressuring the quarterback and have held the opposition to a conversion rate of less than 21 percent on third downs. The Ducks also have a ball-hawking secondary that has intercepted seven passes in the first four games, while forcing 10 turnovers all together.
Oregon is a defense that is fast to the ball and has a lot of experience on the front seven, easily one of the better defenses in the Pac-12 Conference.
Florida State has surprisingly been a scoring machine this season, averaging 56 points per contest, while producing over 570 yards of total offense. I'm not sure we can expect this type of production to continue throughout the season, but it does show that this unit has potential moving forward.
Quarterback E.J. Manuel is completing 73 percent of his passes, making great decisions with the football and has already produced 23 plays of 15 yards or more. Senior running back Chris Thompson has been a spark to this unit, rushing for a combined 300 yards in the last two games and scoring five touchdowns.
The offensive line has improved from a year ago and because of this, it looks like this could be one of the more balanced Florida State teams we have seen in a long time.
While the offense may be better than we thought, the defense is what is going to get a majority of the credit with this team. The Seminoles are allowing only 184 total yards on defense, have produced 13 sacks, 30 tackles for loss and only six red zone trips through the first four games. This is an experienced defense that also has a bunch of talented youth, due to remarkable recruiting.
The SEC is the conference that receives a majority of the credit for fast and stifling defense, but the Seminoles are the best defense that you will see outside of the SEC. This is a scary unit that is terrific in stopping the run, pressuring the quarterback, but is also stout in pass coverage.
Formula for Beating the SEC
The SEC has recently been called old man football because of its style of play, but don't get the SEC and Big Ten confused. The SEC is much faster than the Big Ten could ever dream of being and is much more effective in the way they play the game. After all, it is the conference that has won the last six national championships.
So how do you take down such a juggernaut that seems to be unstoppable?
Well, the formula is really simple; you must play football similar to the way the SEC plays the game. You must have an effective running game, a physical defensive line that is capable of stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback, and you must avoid silly and costly turnovers. If you can do those three things, you will have a chance to knock off the SEC.
Of course, this may sound simple, but it is much easier said than done. Very few teams are as big as SEC teams are in the trenches, which make it hard to run the ball or generate pressure up front on the defensive side of the ball. Most teams don't face defenses as physical and fast as the units from the SEC, which makes running the offenses that are successful in other conferences, ineffective against SEC squads.
Call the style of play what you want, but until a team can match the physicality and grind it out SEC style, it will be difficult for anyone, but a team from this conference to win the national title.
After breaking down the teams and the formula to beat an SEC team, it is clear which team would have a shot if either were to square off against an SEC heavyweight this season. That team would certainly be the Florida State Seminoles.
Oregon is a fun team to watch, as the offense is fast, explosive, and makes for sexy television, but last season showed that these finesse teams won't last against this conference. When the Ducks and LSU met last season, Oregon averaged 3.4 yards on the ground, turned the ball over four times and only picked up 18 first downs.
The speed is great against slower Pac-12 teams, but when you have an SEC defense that is just as athletic, it doesn't really mean much. The defensive line of Oregon also lacks in size, which makes me wonder how they will be able to generate consistent pressure.
Can a defensive line that only has one player that is 300 pounds, be able to break through an Alabama offensive line that is much bigger, faster and stronger than the Ducks? In last year’s meeting against LSU, a Ducks defense that generated 45 sacks, only sacked the Tigers once in the entire meeting.
Just ask Michigan how well their offense was able to execute against a physical defense such as Alabama.
Florida State on the other hand, has a running game that is eighth in the country, and also plays terrific defense. We may have criticized the Seminoles in the past because of their lack of success, but the athleticism, physicality on both sides of the ball and experience is there to give the SEC a run for their money.
We saw this Ducks team struggle last year against an elite SEC team, Florida State would have the best shot to snap the national championship streak of the dominating conference in 2012.
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