Dale Newton from Bloguin’s “The Duck Stops Here!”
1.) Impact of Jim Thorpe finalist and Oregon star cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu suffering a severe knee injury and being subsequently out for the Ducks’ semifinal matchup against Jameis Winston & FSU in the “Grand Daddy of Them All”.
The loss of Ekpre-Olomu is a game-changer, no doubt. He had started 40 straight games for the Ducks, a consensus All-American. Redshirt freshman Chris Seisay takes over at that corner spot. He’s 6-1, 187, has played in 11 games this year with 20 tackles and three pass breakups. Senior Troy Hill will be matched up opposite dangerous receiver Rashad Greene, who has something like 93 catches for over 1300 yards. Dior Mathis will come in at nickel back–he’s a senior with great speed (ran a 10.4 100 at Cass Tech High School in Detroit) but he’s undersized at 5-9, 179.
Another thing the Ducks might do part of the time is use safety Erick Dargan in coverage–he leads the team with six interceptions and is a very tenacious defender.
2.) Marcus Mariota’s Heisman campaign has consisted of 38 touchdown passes and 14 rushing touchdowns. Does it make him the favorite for the #1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and will he be a better NFL QB than the Seminoles’ Jameis Winston?
That’s the marquee matchup of the Rose Bowl, the one everyone’s anticipating. Impressive thing about Mariota is his accuracy and decision making–over 10,000 yards passing in his career, with 101 TD passes and 12 interceptions, just two this year.
I believe Mariota will be an all-time great as a pro quarterback. He’s 6-4, runs a 4.5 40 and can make all the throws, but what really sets him apart are his escapability, cool under pressure, and his mind. He processes the defense and sorts through options really quickly. This season, Mariota is completing 72% of his passes against the blitz.
3.) How can FSU go about attempting to stop Mariota, and what can Oregon do to try to curtail the production of 2013 Heisman winner, “Famous Jameis?”
They want to pressure him and force him to make mistakes. Mariota has had some fumbles, stripped in the pocket under a heavy rush. The Seminoles have just 17 sacks this year, but they think they can overpower the Ducks with a four-man rush, relying on the size and quickness of Mario Edwards, Eddie Goldman, Derrick Mitchell and Lorenzo Featherston. The first three are all over 300 pounds, and Edwards has NFL agility.
Winston, when he’s on, is a fabulous talent and a great leader. Oregon has to try to get some pressure, wrap him up when they get the chance (he’s 6-4, 230 and tough to bring down) and complete the play if he forces a couple of balls into coverage.
I think Winston will be highly motivated by all the Mariota talk and will bring his best game to the Granddaddy, and his best is very good indeed.
4.) Who do you got and why: Mariota and the Ducks or Winston and the Seminoles?
Both are very well-coached and resilient teams. I like Mariota and the Ducks, playing in a familiar venue in their own time zone with an enthusiastic crowd. I think they can use their team speed and deep receiver corps to find matchups to exploit, and running back Thomas Tyner is back and practicing hard to spell 1300-yard rusher Royce Freeman.
They need a fast start against the Seminoles, who are a tremendous second half team that’s struggled a little early in games, trailing in nine of their contests this year and winning seven of them by six points or less.