Five Things to Know About Oregon Before Saturday’s Top-15 Matchup with Ohio State

By Griffin Strom on September 6, 2021 at 8:35 am
Oregon Ducks
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Ohio State passed its first test of the season on Thursday, getting past conference foe Minnesota by a two-touchdown margin on the road, but things don’t get easier for Ryan Day and company this week.

The Buckeyes take on the two-time reigning Pac-12 champion Oregon Ducks in their first appearance in front of a packed house at Ohio Stadium since Nov. 23, 2019, and even with Ohio State opening as a 13-point favorite, the Ducks may present more danger than the Gophers.




Mario Cristobal’s fifth Oregon team began the season ranked No. 11 in the AP Top 25 Poll, and remains unbeaten through its first week of play. While it’s possible that the Ducks experience a slight slide in the rankings after escaping their season opener against Fresno State by just one score on Saturday, they’ll still likely hold fast as a top-15 opponent for the Buckeyes this weekend.

As Ohio State begins its second game week of the young season, here are five things you should know about the Buckeyes’ next adversary prior to Saturday’s noon kickoff in Columbus.

A scare from Fresno State

Oregon’s season opener against the Mountain West’s Fresno State appeared a relatively trouble-free way to start the year for the Ducks, but as it turned out this past weekend, the Bulldogs gave the 20-point favorites everything they could handle.

Oregon got up 14-0 in the first quarter, but Fresno State came back to take a three-point lead in the fourth quarter, ultimately falling short by a score of 31-24 as the Ducks scored the final 10 points of the game. Fresno State won the time of possession battle, earned more first downs and even outgained Oregon 373-358 in total yardage.

Turnovers made a difference, as the Bulldogs committed three to Oregon’s one in the contest. Fresno State fumbled the ball on two out of three possessions in the first quarter, and with a 24-21 lead with 10:16 to play, Bulldog quarterback Jake Haener coughed up the ball at the end of a 13-yard run that would have moved the sticks on 2nd-and-10.

The Oregon offense looked far from dominant for most of the game, as it averaged just 3.8 yards per carry on the ground and managed just 172 yards passing – nearly half as much as Fresno State.

A win is a win nonetheless, even if Oregon’s first of the year came in rather ugly fashion.

Thibodeaux’s status unclear

Of much higher concern for the Ducks than their slim margin of victory on Saturday is the status of star defensive end and consensus top-five 2022 NFL draft prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux, who suffered an ankle injury in the first half.

Thibodeaux, who tallied a strip sack in the season opener before his injury, was seen in a walking boot thereafter, but Cristobal told reporters after the game that X-rays were negative and the injury is a sprain.

“He got rolled up on,” Cristobal said after the game. “Beyond that I know it’s a sprain, which we’re very optimistic that it’s nothing too serious. But as far as we know X-rays are negative. We’ll assess a little bit later.”

The former five-star recruit set the Oregon record for sacks by a true freshman with nine in 2019 to pair with 14 tackles for loss, and the 6-foot-5 pass rusher was named a third-team All-American by the AP in 2020. Thibodeaux was also the recipient of the Morris Trophy last season, an award given to the Pac-12’s best offensive or defensive lineman.

No further details surrounding Thibodeaux’s status for Saturday’s game are available for the moment, but if the future first-round pick can’t go, it would be a monumental loss for Oregon.

No wins against Buckeyes

College football fans will have no trouble remembering the last time these two programs locked horns, as their most recent meeting decided the first ever College Football Playoff ational Championship Game to cap off the 2014 season.

Ohio State got the better of Chip Kelly’s Ducks in that affair, as Urban Meyer, Ezekiel Elliott and Cardale Jones led the Buckeyes to a 42-20 win over Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota in Arlington, Texas. The Ducks haven’t had much success against Ohio State outside of that game either.

Oregon is 0-9 against Ohio State all-time, including postseason losses in the aforementioned national title game as well as the 2010 and 1958 Rose Bowls. The ‘58 game was the first between Ohio State and Oregon, with the Buckeyes taking it 10-7, and the two teams played six more times over the next 30 years.

The series took a two-decade hiatus after 1987’s regular season matchup in Columbus, but the Buckeyes continued to get the better of things when Terrelle Pryor led Ohio State to a 26-17 win in the 2010 Rose Bowl.

This Saturday will be the 10th all-time meeting between the two programs and the sixth time they have met at the Shoe.

Brown brings experience, run threat at QB

Ohio State and Oregon’s starting quarterbacks have a vastly different degree of collegiate experience, but both C.J. Stroud and Anthony Brown have logged the same number of starts at their respective schools.

The Buckeyes’ redshirt freshman had a shaky first career start against Minnesota, although Stroud still wound up with 294 yards and four touchdowns in a winning effort, but Brown wasn’t overwhelmingly impressive in Oregon’s season opener either.

On Saturday, Brown threw 15-for-24 for 172 yards and a score, but also proved to be a legitimate threat on the ground, carrying the ball 16 times for 54 yards, including an electrifying 30-yard touchdown on a fake pitch out of the option that effectively won the game for the Ducks in the final few minutes.

Having matched up with a pocket passer at quarterback in Tanner Morgan this past week, defending the quarterback run will be a new wrinkle for the new-look Buckeye defense to prepare for this week.

Brown, a three-star dual-threat quarterback prospect from the class of 2016, began his college career at Boston College, where he spent four years and started 28 games before transferring to Oregon ahead of the 2020 season.

Brown backed up Tyler Shough a year ago, but Shough’s subsequent transfer to Texas Tech allowed Brown to once again step into the role of starter under center entering 2021.

Sewell a defensive stud

Whether or not Thibodeaux suits up for the Ducks this weekend, Oregon will still have another proven five-star prospect on defense to potentially wreak havoc on the Buckeye offense.

Second-year linebacker Noah Sewell, the No. 13 overall recruit in the class of 2020, was a force of nature as a true freshman in 2020, and is widely expected to continue that productivity and then some for Oregon this season.

A preseason All-American per several outlets entering the year, Sewell – the brother of 2021 No. 7 overall draft pick Penei Sewell – is coming off a season in which he racked up 48 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks in just seven games to be named the Pac-12 coaches Freshman Defensive Player of the Year.

In the Fresno State game, Sewell recorded a sack, a forced fumble and five total tackles, confirming that the Buckeyes will have to account for his versatile abilities in a big way come Saturday.

Oregon ranked in the top half of the Pac-12 in nearly every defensive category last season, and if the Ducks find success in slowing down a Buckeye offense that put up 45 points and just shy of 500 yards against a conference foe in its season opener, Sewell is sure to be a big reason why.

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