Countdown to the National Championship: How Oregon and Ohio State’s special teams stack up
In the days leading up to the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship, the Emerald will take a unit-by-unit look at Oregon and Ohio State, determining which team has the edge going into the showdown on Jan. 12 in Dallas. Today, we’ll look at each team’s special teams.
With the emergence of freshman Charles Nelson, the Oregon special teams have an added element that they’ve been looking for since De’Anthony Thomas left for the NFL. With Nelson and Jonathan Loyd returning, the Ducks always keep their opponents on their toes, never knowing when their next big return may transpire. In addition to being one of the top 10 most efficient special teams units in the country according to Football Outsiders, standouts like Nelson have managed to record two touchdowns on punt returns, exemplifying a legitimate threat on every return. Despite losing Devon Allen to an undisclosed injury against Florida State in the Rose Bowl, the Ducks will likely be able to hold their own against the Buckeyes. Also, place kicker Aiden Schneider will be entering the National Championship game 9-of-10 on attempts as a walk-on freshman.
While the Buckeyes may not have players like Nelson that are keyed on every return, they do have Jalin Marshall, who recorded a touchdown on 21 punt returns. In regards to their efficiency, the Buckeyes rank 23rd on the same list mentioned above involving the Ducks. Their place kicker Sean Nuernberger is 13-for-20 on attempts this season. Having said that, they do pose a threat in Dontre Wilson, who averages 24 yards on his returns, which is higher than any Oregon player.
Advantage – Oregon
One of the most important assessments of how good a special teams unit depends on the playmaking abilities of their returners. For the Ducks, they will have two that have those capabilities in Nelson and Loyd, with Byron Marshall capping off the rotation heading into the title game. And with the consistency of punter Ian Wheeler and place kicker Schneider, the Ducks should be in good hands. If this breakdown holds any barring into how this year’s National Championship will play out, the Ducks can rest assure knowing they have a well-rounded special teams unit. In a high stake game like this, it may come down to who’s kicker makes less mistakes and which returners can give their team the best field position on average. Under this context, the Ducks have to like their chances.
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