Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Oregon Ducks: If They Played Saturday
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Fellow Oregon fans, I have to say this one inflammatory thing, but finish reading the article before you decide to post: if the Oregon Ducks played the Alabama Crimson Tide this Saturday, the Ducks would lose, whether they played in Autzen or a true neutral field like the Fiesta Bowl.
I feet compelled to point this out to my team's followers after hearing multiple comments along the lines of "the Ducks are rolling, they're the only ones who can face Bama!" and "Oregon is the most balanced team in the county besides Alabama."
While I think the Ducks are well set up to make a run at a berth in the National Championship Game, as of right now, I do not think they are more prepared for an epic showdown with the champs than any other top team in the nation. There are three reasons for this line of thought.
Firstly, the strength of schedule is pretty much a wash between the pool of true contenders that include Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, West Virginia and Kansas State. Each of these teams' signature wins are over opponents of pretty much equal caliber.
Michigan was clearly overrated, Arizona was better than advertised but still porous on defense and Oklahoma is too inconsistent on both sides of the ball. You can mix and match any top contender team's best win as much as you like, but the point is, all of these defeated teams are roughly equivalent.
"But the manner of the win is important!" Ducks fans cry out. Sure, the shutout was impressive, but the blanking had a good deal to do with Arizona shooting itself in the foot more than twice in the red zone. It is as impressive as the Tide's dismantling of Michigan and FSU's second-half blitz on Clemson. So far, there isn't enough data to say, "the Ducks should be, can be, must only be, the one to face the Tide."
If Oregon played Alabama this Saturday would they win?
Secondly, coach Chip Kelly is still experimenting with player roles and plays, whereas the Tide's roles and plays are clearly defined. This gives a strong edge to Alabama in the fantasy showdown this Saturday. There will be fewer fumbles and fewer miscues, simply because the Tide players know their roles and how to go about them.
Don't get me wrong, Kelly is a genius, and part of his genius is in taking risks and constantly tinkering with plays and player packages. It's what makes the Ducks lethal in the second half. However, we've seen more than one miscue in hand-offs between Mariota or Bennett with Lyerla or Thomas. Who is running, who is passing, and so on.
Thirdly, though I acknowledged the small sample-size of games above, there have been consistency issues with Oregon and all other would-be contenders, whereas Alabama has pretty much picked up where it left off last season.
Marcus Mariota is shaping up to be a stellar QB, but he was very much a freshman on his first away game in CenturyLink Stadium. And the secondary, while very opportunistic and getting better, is still very raw, with Washington State carving up the Ducks in the first half with the vertical pass. Injuries also haven't helped, with the Ducks losing senior safety Boyett and senior guard York. Losing WR White was a blow to Alabama, but one much easier smoothed over than Oregon's losses.
Right now, Oregon is not any more prepared than any other top team to beat Alabama. But with all the interesting parallels between the teams, most people recognize that it would be a competitive and fun game. And by the end of the season, when Oregon has had time to mature and work out the kinks... well, then Alabama better watch out.
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