A few days ago we detailed the two high-powered offenses that will square off at AT&T Stadium for the national championship of the new College Football Playoff. In the 21st century, the old adage that defense wins championships has been swept away by the rising tide of points and yards being amassed by high-powered attacks. But offense is only half of the equation for any football team, especially for a team playing for a title.
Both Oregon and Ohio State are better known for the way the spread the field when they have the ball, but the counter to that fact is that each school’s players on the other side of the ball benefit from practicing against such talented teammates throughout the season. The Buckeyes and the Ducks are among the best teams at preventing opponents from scoring; Urban Meyer’s squad is 26th nationally, allowing 22.1 points per game, while Mark Helfrich’s defense is right behind them at 27th, giving up just two-tenths of a point more per game. (In other words, two more points total over the course of the season, 312 to 310.)
The Buckeyes had two shutouts compared to zero for the Ducks — and while one of those unblemished performances by the Ohio State defense came against 2-9 Kent State, one of the worst offenses in the country, the other came against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. Over the last two months of the season through the New Year’s Day semifinals, though, Oregon actually allowed fewer points — 17.5 points per game in six games compared to 23.6 points per game allowed in seven games (one of which was the shutout against the Badgers) by the Buckeyes.
Which defense is better constructed to stop the other team’s offense? With the championship game less than a week away, let’s flip through and familiarize ourselves with the defensive lineups and break down who has the advantage at the various levels of the teams’ defenses. (And if you haven’t yet seen the offensive breakdown, you can find it here. Stay tuned for our look at special teams and coaching as we continue to preview the College Football Playoff national championship throughout the week leading up to the game.)