Tradition vs. image.
That will be the theme in this weekend’s matchup between No. 3 Michigan and No. 22 Oregon. The Ducks have done everything from putting up billboards in New York City to adopting blinding yellow uniforms to attract attention and build an image as a young, exciting and brash group of guys. With the exception of last season, Oregon has backed up that image.
Enter the college football powerhouse. Michigan could be the most tradition-rich team in college football – a far cry from the high-flying Ducks. The energy level should be at an all-time high in Eugene when these two teams lock up this weekend.
Michigan passing offense vs. Oregon passing defense: John Navarre will probably leave Michigan as the most prolific passer in school history, but leading the team to a win this weekend in Oregon will probably do more good for his legacy than breaking a couple more records.
After a poor showing against Houston, the Wolverines’ passing game was on-point against Notre Dame. Navarre, who threw for 199 yards and one touchdown, spread the ball well amongst his targets, even finding Chris Perry in the endzone one time.
Braylon Edwards is still waiting for that superstar catch and that breakout game this season. In the meantime, the gameplan with Edwards seems to be focused on getting him the ball on out-routes and passes underneath, then allow him to work after the catch.
Oregon’s secondary is led by senior free safety Keith Lewis, who has two picks on the season.
But outside of Lewis, the Oregon secondary is young and inexperienced. Both Mississippi State and Nevada took advantage of the Ducks’ youth to mount near comebacks.
Michigan rushing offense vs. Oregon rushing defense: This one shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out. With the nation’s leading rusher in Chris Perry (183 yards per game) and one of the most powerful and experienced offensive lines in the nation, the Wolverines will win this matchup against most teams in the country.
“I don’t know if you can ever keep someone like him under wraps,” Oregon linebacker Kevin Mitchell said of Perry. “He’s got all the tools you want out of a back. He’s quick, he’s powerful, he’s fast, he’s got great vision and good feet. We’ve seen him stiff arm people and keep running like he didn’t even stiff arm them.”
Oregon has done well against the rush this season, allowing just 71.7 yards per game. But even with the likes of Mitchell leading the linebacker corps, it is unlikely Oregon will be able to shut down the nation’s leading rusher.
Oregon rushing offense vs. Michigan rushing defense: The Michigan front four has been nothing less than ferocious so far this season. After allowing Central Michigan to run wild – a performance that Michigan defensive end Larry Stevens said made him sick – the defensive line has dominated opponents. They have allowed the Wolverine linebackers maximum freedom to put pressure on the opposing quarterback and fill gaps. Overall, Michigan has allowed 113.7 rushing yards per game, but just 74 against Houston and 49 against Notre Dame.
Oregon uses a combination of three running backs in its offensive attack. Both Terrence Whitehead and Chris Vincent are averaging just over 60 yards per game, and Ryan Shaw is gaining just under 50 a game. But it’s clear that the rushing game is not Oregon’s main attack because the three have combined for just one touchdown so far this season. Michigan’s front four should have no problems shutting down these three amigos.
Oregon passing offense vs. Michigan passing defense: Everyone knows that Ducks fly together – and these Ducks are no exception. Kellen Clemens and Jason Fife share the role as quarterback and have led Oregon to the best passing attack in the Pac-10. The Ducks are averaging 284 yards per game in the air, and their quarterback tandem has combined for 11 touchdowns.
The Ducks also boast two of the nation’s best receivers in Samie Parker and Demetrius Williams. Parker, who is well known for his speed, had seven catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns against Nevada, while Williams had three touchdowns against Arizona.
“Everybody knows about Samie’s speed,” Clemens said. “He’s one of the fastest college football players in the country right now.”
“Demetrius has really stepped into that number two role and made big plays. A lot of people didn’t know about him, but are learning about him the hard way.”
Parker injured himself in the first quarter against Arizona and was forced to leave the game. He will not be 100-percent when these teams meet tomorrow afternoon.
Thus far, the Wolverines’ secondary has gone untested. It has allowed opponents an average of 101.7 yards in the air, but this is mainly because no team has even tried to stretch the field.
Special Teams: If you caught Steve Breaston’s performance against Notre Dame, this one should be another no-brainer.
The field-goal kicking and punting have also drastically improved from last season. Michigan has been winning the field position battle and will again this weekend.
Michigan 35, Oregon 21