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Better Know an Opponent: Oregon

So as it turns out, Oregon is a bit better than Austin Peay and Western Kentucky. Contain your shock.

Man, Oregon even beats us in the mascot department. :-(
Man, Oregon even beats us in the mascot department. :-(
Steve Dykes

So here's the thing. You've seen this poster before, I hope. That's roughly how this game feels to me; while there's circumstantial evidence that Tennessee can beat Oregon, that evidence roughly looks like - how do I put this - third-party involvement.

Seriously, trying to find potential weak points on this Duck squad is just depressing.

  • Step 1: listen to the podcast; if you're pressed for time, just listen to the first half. There's some great info there. We'll be here when you get back.
  • Okay, so here's the thing: Mark Helfrich wanted to shoot for closer to an even run-pass balance. So far this season, that hasn't happened - they've had 85 runs to 55 passes. That ratio is pretty close to how a Chip Kelly offense operated, so while there's been lip service paid to the change, we haven't seen it yet. Fun bonus fact: they should be running more.
  • No, really; Oregon's averaging 10 yards per run and 8.7 yards per pass. So ...yeah. This gets into passing premium a bit, but the short story is this: your average yards per pass play should be greater than your average yards per run play (the risk of turnovers is higher with a pass play, among other things).
  • Based on that difference, Oregon needs to be running more to exploit that negative passing premium until opposing defenses adjust. (I suspect this will regress to a normal value by the end of the season, but right now? Numbers say run all the time.) For comparison's sake, here are Oregon's passing yards per attempt minus rushing yards per attempt: 1.73 (2012), 1.44 (2011), 2.07 (2010).
  • Schematically, the run game hasn't changed much; lots of zone read, packaged option runs, way too many RBs who are way too good, the usual. Even the ratio of carries between QB and RB seem to match (Marcus Mariota has about 19% of the significant carries last year vs. 13% this year, but only in two games).
  • Mariota's been effective the few times he's taken off with the balll - 9 carries, 26 YPC, 3 TDs, which is a statement on a) the competition and b) probably some small schematic change. And yes, that's 26 yards per carry, not 26 yards. This is why Tennessee's red zone defense may not matter (okay, one of many reasons why).
  • You know about De'Anthony Thomas (29 car, 252 yds, 5 TD); you may know about Byron Marshal (23 car, 155 yds, 1 TD). You probably don't know about Thomas Tyner - 4 car, 51 yds, 2 TD against Virginia in garbage time. If you'd like to, you can do some math to figure out the yards per carry of those guys, but spoiler alert: they're all really high. Like, scarily high.
  • Mariota's been a bit pedestrian through the air to date, at least compared to the run game; 8.8 ypa, 3 TD, but a 53% completion percentage on 49 passes when he connects, it's danger time. (Which, admittedly, makes sense.)
  • The TE - Colt Lyeria, who's pretty good to put it mildly - hasn't been heavily involved in the passing game yet. This surprises me, but it sounds like he's been doing more blocking per the ATQ guys. (Seriously, go listen to the podcast.) Josh Huff (8 rec, 173 yds) is the known target, but Bralon Addison has been effective (5 rec, 96 yds, 2 TD) along with Keanon Lowe (4 rec, 66 yds, 1 TD).
  • If you did some math on the above bullet point, you'd probably catch that the average yards per reception is insane - you'd see those values for one WR, but not all of them. However, those are in part a function of Mariota's relative inaccuracy this season, and I'm guessing catch rates aren't great for anyone in particular.
  • Let's pull the rug out now that you think Mariota won't be effective passing the ball: this inaccuracy is in part because the Ducks are throwing deep more often, and I'm guessing this means the coaching staff is okay with a slightly lower completion percentage in exchange for more yardage through the air when it connects.
  • In related news, Oregon's 2nd in the country in total offense (and yards per play) after playing most of the season in somewhere between 2nd and 3rd gear. This image is related to that statement.
  • Oregon's D is 13th in the country in yards-per-play allowed, by the way. (Tennessee is 47th.) This is probably a good time to note that yards-per-play metrics better control for tempo on both sides of the ball, especially for a team like Oregon who may leave their defense out if plays stall out a bit.
  • As you'd guess, there's lots of defensive rotation to combat the massive time-of-possession differences - 36 guys have recorded a tackle so far this season. More importantly, 19 guys have at least 5 tackles....
  • ...and 14 guys have a tackle behind the line. Tony Washington (3 TFL, 13 yds) leads the way, and 6 guys have sacks. Torrodney Prevot (2 sacks) is the only non-DL to record a sack so far, which tells me they're doing it with their standard rush for the most part. That's scary. Real scary.
  • Oh, and just for fun: they've defensed 12 passes, have 3 INT, and have blocked either a punt or a kick in each game.
  • There's a punter and a kicker in theory. Let's be honest; they probably won't do much. Oddly, their return game hasn't done a ton this season, but Bralon Addison, Keanon Lowe, and De'Anthony Thomas are the guys to note here. It's probably safe to assume each of those guys are explosive.

If you see a weak point in any of that, have at it.