The Ducks prepare to ring in the New Year with roses in hand, and while it will be in a rematch of the 2012 Rose Bowl, this Oregon v. Wisconsin matchup has a far different narrative than eight years ago.
The final piece of my Rose Bowl Preview. Check out the rest below.
Part Three: Predictions + Special Teams (the one you’re reading)
Back in the greatest modern era of Oregon football to date (~2007-2014), the general storyline surrounding the Ducks were that they were fast and flashy.
Those teams were pioneers of the hurry-up offense that we see all over college football today, and they also ran the run-pass-option (RPO) way before it was cool.
“Yesterday’s fast is today’s slow,” read an old Nike print ad from 2011.
Chip Kelly recruited for speed, practiced fast, and he was hell-bent on exhausting his lesser-conditioned opponents by the middle of the third quarter.
The rest of the country and national television pundits may not have always caught Oregon’s late-night west coast games, but EVERYONE could tell you that the Ducks were fast.
And while the national narrative praised their speed, they were also quick to point out their main weakness: physicality.
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It wasn’t always true—or fair—to say that Oregon struggled against teams characterized by their overall size and power, but from a casual observer, the only teams that were really beating the Ducks during this era were teams that were much bigger in stature.
Sure, other programs managaed to get the best of Chip Kelly & Co. in different ways at different times, but teams like Stanford, LSU, Auburn, Ohio State (x2), all set a pretty convincing blueprint for exploiting Oregon:
- Attack their (typically undersized) offensive line.
- Power run the ball down thier defense’s throat with a bruising running back.
- Maintain possesion to keep the pace of play in your hands.
If you did those three things (and had some officiating on your side) you could realistically beat the Ducks in that era by purely overpowering them.
As for this new era in Eugene? Mario Cristobal would love to see you try to overpower his team. Utah tried, but that didn’t work out too well for them.
Wisconsin has always been a program defined by their power, but it didn’t end up mattering in 2012. The Rose Bowl that year was one of the few exceptions to the “oReGoN sTrUgGLeS WiTh bEEfY tEaMs,” narrative.
De’Anthony Thomas and the chrome-domed Ducks outran the Russell Wilson-lead Badgers back then, and it is still one of the fondest Oregon memories from that, or any other era.
This Wisconsin team is as strong as any team they’ve ever had, but Oregon is right there with them.
Just like the Pac-12 Title Game against Utah, Oregon will look to find success in the Rose Bowl behind the power running prowess of RB1 CJ Verdell and Cristobal’s staunch offensive line.
They’ll also be tasked with stopping yet another top running back in the country. They silenced Utah’s Zach Moss, but the Badgers’ Jonathon Taylor is admittedly a whole different kind of challenge. It sounds overly simple, but sure-tackling and disciplined defense is going to be the key to containing JT from busting open for “homerun”-type plays.
I’ve previewed the offense, and I’ve previewed the defense, but no Rose Bowl preview (or 2019-20 Oregon football review) would be complete without mentioning my favorite special teams player on this Ducks team.
That’s right, let’s talk about Camden Lewis.
The freshman has been much-maligned in his first season kicking for Oregon, but you would be hard-pressed to find a more improved or heroic member of this football team.
Without Camden Lewis the Hero, the Wazzu game would’ve been lost. Cristobal & Co. showed that they trusted him completely, and he was Cammy Clutch.
There’s no telling where the season might have turned if the Ducks lost way back then. They very well might not have been sitting here in Pasadena. But instead, it was Lewis that lead them to the promised land.
Lewis was also PERFECT in the biggest game of the season against Utah. At three for three for field goals, and four for four from PAT, CamCam performed on the biggest stage, yet again.
Lewis is still a young buck, and I know that the makes may not always look pretty, and sometimes the misses have looked kinda bad, but I truly believe that the Camden “The Leg” Lewis responds to positive reinforcement and altogether blind trust.
So, with my last word before kickoff in Pasadena, I encourage you to join me in loving and trusting Camden Lewis. If the Rose Bowl comes down to him, I don’t want to hear any groaning, just plain old positive vibes.
Because the kid loves the spotlight, and the spotlight loves him.