College football bettors have had almost a month to size up this matchup and have heard from just about every talking head with two cents. But Covers gets the opinions that really matter, from the guys who know these two programs the best.
Florida State blogger Mike Ferguson of NoledOut.com and Oregon blogger Sean Larson of AddictedToQuack.com strap on the helmets and go head-to-head over which team will not only win the Rose Bowl but cover the 8-point spread on New Year’s Day.
WHY FLORIDA STATE COVERS
Mike Ferguson is the editor of NoledOut.com. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter @Noled_Out/@MikeWFerguson.
The Passing arsenal
Though sophomore quarterback Jameis Winston didn’t live up to the standard that won him a Heisman Trophy as a freshman, the Florida State passing attack still led the ACC. Winston has an array of weapons including the school’s all-time leader in Rashad Greene and Mackey Award winner Nick O’Leary.
The Seminoles will also be facing a defense that ranks just 103rd in the country against the pass and will be without its best player in Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who was lost for the season with a knee injury in practice leading up to Thursday’s Rose Bowl.
Time to prepare and heal
It will have been 26 days since Florida State’s last game by the time it takes the field against Oregon on Thursday afternoon. The Ducks do a number of things offensively and the extended time should help FSU be more prepared to stop it. The Seminoles are also as healthy as they’ve been since fall practice.
Freshmen Jacob Pugh and Lorenzo Featherston are both expected to be back in the lineup for a thin front seven as is defensive tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample. The long preparation time has served Florida State well in the past as the Noles are a perfect 4-0 under head coach Jimbo Fisher in bowl games.
The Seminoles are no stranger to the big stage. The majority of the roster already has a national championship under its belt and Florida State played in five nationally-televised primetime games this season.
Oregon is a great team, but coming from the Pacific Northwest, Oregon has not lived in the spotlight the way FSU has this season. Florida State also comes in with a chip on its shoulder being undefeated and an 8-point underdog. Florida State has been outscored by a deficit that large just once in its last 50 games.
WHY OREGON COVERS
Sean Larson writes for AddictedToQuack.com. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter @AddictedToQuack/@seanlarson262.
Marcus Mariota and his receivers
Just how talented is Marcus Mariota? Coming into this season, the most experienced wide receiver he had was Keanon Lowe, a junior who caught 18 passes the previous year. Despite losing Bralon Addison (61 catches for 890 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013) for the season with a torn ACL, Mariota worked with what he had and came out with the Heisman Trophy.
The Ducks don’t simply have one go-to guy, they have a whole arsenal of talented receivers including Devon Allen, who won the men’s 110m hurdles at the 2014 USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships. Twelve different Ducks (including Mariota) had a touchdown catch this year and five different receivers had at least five touchdown receptions. With Oregon, you never know who is going to step up and be the hero, and that’s what makes their offense so dangerous.
Florida State’s one-dimensional offense
Unlike the Ducks, who can beat you through the air or on the ground, the Seminoles are one- dimensional. Florida State’s rushing game ranked 104th in the nation this season, averaging 134.8 yards per game. Against Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship, Oregon shut down the run, allowing just 3.2 yards per carry.
The Ducks should see similar success at stopping Florida State’s run game, forcing Jameis Winston to go through the air. If Oregon’s defense is able to get through Florida State’s beefy offensive line, they could force Winston to throw a big interception that could swing the momentum in the game. The Ducks can focus more on Winston in their preparations.
Oregon’s “next man in” mentality
The big news surrounding Oregon recently is the loss of Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who went down with a torn ACL last week. Ekpre-Olomu is Oregon’s defensive leader – pretty much the equivalent of the Seahawks losing Richard Sherman. Oregon’s “next man in” will be redshirt freshman Chris Seisay.
If there’s one team that knows how to deal with injuries this year, it’s the Oregon Ducks. Throughout the course of the summer and the season, the Ducks have lost key players like Bralon Addison, Pharaoh Brown and Hroniss Grasu, just to name a few. Time and time again, the Ducks have survived. While many might see the loss of Ekpre-Olomu as a major tilt towards Florida State’s chances, I personally wouldn’t be surprised if an unlikely hero stepped up to make an interception that could help send the Ducks to their second national championship game in school history.
Join the debate in our comment section below. Who covers in the Rose Bowl: Florida State or Oregon?