You guys! The Rose Bowl is this week!! It feels like forever since the B1G Championship game that was fun for a half and then, well, you know for the second half. It is time for some more football!
The No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers (10-3 overall, 7-2 B1G) are set to take on the No. 6 Oregon Ducks (11-2 overall, 8-1 PAC-12) in Pasadena for the Rose Bowl title and it is time for us to get down to some serious previewing.
Here is Part 2, which focuses on Oregon’s offense, of our three-part Q&A series with Addicted to Quack leading up to the Rose Bowl. Part 1 is right here and gives a broad overview of the Ducks and their fan base and Part 3 will look at the Ducks’ defense. There will be corresponding posts on ATQ from our writers here that you may want to check out as well.
Without further ado, here is Adam Chimeo of ATQ to give us a preview of the Ducks offense!
1) I’d like to assume all of us Badgers fans know who Justin Herbert is, but say we don’t. What makes Herbert special? How excited were you when he decided to forego the NFL Draft last year?
Just about every Duck fan was ecstatic with his decision, he is a hometown hero after all, and the reason why we were excited is because the NFL was a real possibility for Herbert as a junior. He has a real cannon and can make any throw you ask of him. Head coach Mario Cristobal rarely elects to use him as a runner, but his size (6’6, 237) makes him a tough man to bring down and once he hits his top speed he gains some good yardage very quickly.
Herbert has thrown 32 touchdowns and five interceptions this season. His biggest weakness is that he can get rattled in high pressure situations and will sometimes not see the easy option from the pocket, but in the PAC-12 Championship game he showed that he’s ready for the big moment.
2) What sort of offensive system is Herbert in charge of?
Cristobal has established a power-spread offense that wants to bully you in the trenches and take shots downfield when they have short yardage to gain and the whole playbook available. Sophomore left tackle Penei Sewell (pictured in the header) is the best player on the team and the offensive line as a unit had a combined 153 starts entering this season.
CJ Verdell has improved over the course of the year, and once the run game is established Herbert has the talent to make defenses pay over the top.
Much of the offense is run out of the pistol formation, though an almost equal amount is run with an offset running back. Recently, Herbert has chosen to keep the ball on his reads which paid dividends against Utah. Herbert’s mastery of the RPO has made this offense hum as of late and will be greatly missed next season.
3) Will anything change on offense with offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo taking the UNLV head coaching job?
Not likely, because Arroyo has agreed to OC for the Rose Bowl. As of now, we have no idea who will take over after he leaves.
4) Who else should Badgers fans be on the lookout for on the offensive side of the ball besides Herbert?
As mentioned above, CJ Verdell (No. 7 pictured below) has become a crucial part of this offense. He’s no Jonathan Taylor, but the young back has shown up big in a couple big games - specifically the PAC-12 Championship game in which he ran for 208 yards and three touchdowns against what was statistically the best run defense in the country. Wide receiver Johnny Johnson III has become a much more reliable target this season and grad-transfer Juwan Johnson has the size and speed to create mismatches in any secondary.
When Oregon needs to pick up short yardage they use Cyrus Habibi-Likio, a 222-pound running back that hits the gap like a speeding truck. CHL took advantage of a few winded PAC-12 teams, namely Washington in the second half. Also, be sure to keep an eye on left tackle Penei Sewell, his rare combination of speed and size made him a first-team All-American.
5) Are there any weaknesses on offense that the Badgers defense could exploit?
Oregon’s pass-catchers have been a weak point for most of the season due to injury (Juwan Johnson, Jaylon Redd, Cam McCormick, Jacob Breeland, Mycah Pittman and more have all been injured at some point in the season and have missed varying amounts of time), but even when the Duck receiving corps has its go-to starters in place a talented DB group can lock them down.
Tight end used to be a position of strength for the Ducks, but after the preseason injury of Cam McCormick and the mid-season injury of Jacob Breeland, who was having a breakthrough season as Herbert’s favorite target, the position has become much less of a threat in the passing game. The longer a team can cover Oregon’s receivers the better shot they’ll have at stalling the offense.
6) Any injury issues on offense?
Overall, the Ducks are healthy and ready to go. Besides the tight ends mentioned above, three receivers who tallied a collective one reception and a freshman quarterback who has yet to throw a pass, the Oregon offense is at full force. Even freshman Mycah Pittman is ready to rejoin the receiving corps after his impressive debut season was postponed and then cut short due to injuries.