Alabama is the clear-cut No. 1 team in the nation, getting the bulk of the votes and points in both the Harris and the Coaches polls. The debate, in the final season of the BCS, is which team deserves the second spot. Oregon versus Florida State is the battle gearing up to be fought down the stretch this college football season.
Right now, Oregon deserves the No. 2 spot, but there is certainly room for debate as Florida State continues to impress. These two teams, along with Alabama, are all worthy of being mentioned as the college football world's best.
|Key Numbers for Oregon and Florida State|
|Points Per Game||55.6||52.6|
|Points Allowed Per Game||16.9||13|
|Yards Per Game||632.1||553.7|
|Yards Allowed Per Game||359.3||289.4|
Both teams boast quality defenses, explosive offenses and numbers that jump off the charts. The real differences are not on paper. Rather, these squads must be watched to decide which is more deserving of being in the second spot.
For both teams, it starts at the quarterback position. Marcus Mariota, the redshirt sophomore leading the Ducks, is an explosive dual-threat with a developing downfield passing game and legs that can get him to the end zone quickly. Jameis Winston, the Seminoles' redshirt freshman, is an advanced passer who can use his legs to get out of trouble when necessary.
The college football world knew that Mariota could run, evidenced by his 752 yards on the ground a season ago. This year, Mariota is averaging 9.13 yards per carry on the ground with nine touchdowns. His legs are a weapon that should strike fear into opponents' hearts.
However, the big difference with this season is Mariota's evolution as a passer. In his debut season, Mariota was largely a horizontal passer, taking few shots down the field, living on the screens, slants and short-to-intermediate routes. This year, Mariota is stretching the field vertically.
Pushing the ball vertically has led to Oregon growing into an exceptionally well-rounded football team. A team that has featured the likes of Kenjon Barner, LaMichael James, LeGarrette Blount and Jonathan Stewart as major factors on the ground now adds Josh Huff and Bralon Addison to the weapons list as wide receivers. Not just catching screens, not just as guys used to take shots down the field, rather, these two are bona fide threats at the receiver position.
Add legitimate receiving threats to the ground game featuring Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner, and the Ducks offense is potent, capable of taxing defenses on the ground, on the edge, vertically and horizontally.
While Oregon's offense has grown into a balanced attack, balance has been been the goal from the start with Jimbo Fisher's redesign of the Seminoles. Fisher has amassed a receiving corps that features "Steady Eddie" Kenny Shaw, playmaker Rashad Greene and an emerging beast in Kelvin Benjamin. The 'Noles have one of the nation's premier receiving groups and a quarterback that can get it the ball.
Winston has the ability to throw his receivers open, fit the ball into tight windows and snap off quick throws in the face of a blitz. As Your Best 11 has discussed before, the redshirt freshman is one of the more advanced young starters that the collegiate world has seen to date.
The Seminoles' passing offense is elite, ranking No. 11 in yards per game, but this team can also get it done on the ground, boasting a three-headed rushing attack.
Devonta Freeman gets the bulk of the carries. The junior is great in pass protection and an exceptional runner both inside and outside. James Wilder Jr. is the violent, between-the-tackles force. Newcomer Karlos Williams, a converted defensive back, has done most everything well when given the opportunity.
Florida State is more successful through the air, while Oregon is more of a terror on the ground. Yet, both teams can attack with the pass or the run and punish opponents for selling out to stop either facet of the game.
Both FSU and Oregon are in the top 10 in scoring defense, and although the Seminoles are the clear leaders in total defense, the Ducks' defensive unit makes up for it with producing turnovers. Oregon's led by longtime coordinator Nick Aliotti, while Florida State is growing into the scheme of a first-year, first-time coordinator in Jeremy Pruitt.
Pruitt and Aliotti both work to make the opposition's offense uncomfortable. For Oregon, that starts with Tony Washington, one of the nation's best rushers off the edge.
Washington epitomizes the chaos and confusion that Aliotti creates at the line of scrimmage. Not only can Washington get to the quarterback, but he's also comfortable in coverage, giving the defense plenty of versatility. Here, Oregon's lined up with two down linemen, two players standing as edge-rushers.
The Ducks line up with multiple looks, confusing defenses by standing up defensive linemen, moving around before the snap and forcing teams to simplify blocking assignments. On the snap, instead of rushing four, Oregon puts Washington into coverage on the back and brings just three rushers.
Three guys get the job done, as you can see from the video.
This approach works for the Ducks in the run and the pass game. Aliotti confuses the offensive line and quarterback, which allows his team to get penetration and disrupt plays behind the line of scrimmage. This team plays good coverage in the back end, but it is the versatility upfront that feeds a very good Oregon defense.
While Oregon uses confusion to create chaos, Florida State makes offenses uncomfortable with its size and physical play. The Seminoles control the line of scrimmage the old-fashioned way, by occupying blockers, getting good push and maintaining gap integrity. Here, playing the zone-read against Clemson, the Seminoles have a three-man front with Christian Jones, the hybrid linebacker, standing up on the edge.
It is basic football, but something many teams get wrong time and again. Florida State's front three occupy their respective gaps, Jones holds his edge as the contain player and linebacker Telvin Smith moves to fill, taking the running back give away from the quarterback.
In the case of Oregon vs. Florida State for the No. 2 spot, both teams bring a lot of sizzle and, most importantly, plenty of steak to the party. Although Florida State matches up better with Alabama on the sideline and from a position-by-position basis, the argument to be No. 2 is one in which both teams hold strong points.
Actually, if Alabama's thrown into the mix, all three could make a case to be the top team, as the blind resume test showed at Your Best 11. Oregon is the true No. 2, not because it is better than Florida State, but because there is no way to move such a quality team out of that spot to replace with a team of equal caliber.