As complicated a game as football may seem at times, it's not as complicated as many like to think it is.
You hear the term a lot when talking about football being played in the SEC. It's a line of scrimmage league. Well, deep down to its core, football is still a line of scrimmage game. Unfortunately, that's a big reason why Oregon failed again to get to the peak of college football. They lost the battle at the line of scrimmage against Ohio State, more specifically on defense.
The Buckeyes imposed their will on the Ducks by rushing for 4.9 yard per carry punctuated by Ezekiel Elliott averaging 6.8 yards per carry to go with 4 touchdowns. The Oregon defense was pretty much powerless to stop him.
This a recurring theme with Oregon too. Even though Oregon's offense was humming and they were able to capitalize off turnovers to blow out Florida State, the Seminoles dominated the line of scrimmage versus the Ducks front seven by rushing for 4.6 yards per carry. If you take out the garbage time carries by a couple of backs and the Jameis Winston lost sack yardage out of the equation, it looks even worse with Dalvin Cook averaging 6.9 ypc and Karlos Williams rushing for 6.7. If the Seminoles could hang onto the football, that's a completely different ball game.
Even going back to the 2011 national championship game against Auburn, it was the same story for the Ducks. The Tigers averaged 5.1 yards per carry and with running backs Michael Dyer at 6.5 and Ontario McCalleb at 7.8.
No matter how potentially explosive your offense is, you aren't going to win a lot of football games if you are getting dominated like that versus the run.
Some it is has to do with scheme (Grantland's Chris B. Brown (aka @smartfootball) had an interesting Twitter discussion about the failure of Oregon's scheme versus Ohio State earlier today), but another huge part is that Oregon does not have the dudes in their front seven to compete against teams that can run the football like those more talented teams.
Including the 2015 recruiting class that will officially sign in February, Oregon has only picked up ten blue chip (ranked as 4 or 5 star) players for their front seven according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Doing the math, that's not very good.
Take a look at this year's Oregon front seven. The two guys that could start on any defense in the nation were former 5 star Arik Armstead and former 4 star DeForest Buckner. In order to compete with a team like Ohio State, that can run it down your throat if you let them, they need a lot more guys like that on their roster.
They did a nice job of landing a player for 2015 who is already on campus in 5 star defensive lineman Canton Kaumatule. He's got the talent to be a big time contributor from day one. The problem is, he's the only blue chip front seven player they have committed to them this year.
Fans can point to a player like Kiko Alonso as someone who was less highly touted and that they developed into a big time player, but he's an exception, not the rule. The Ducks difference makers in their front seven most recently have been players like Armstead, Buckner, Dion Jordan, and Haloti Ngata. All of those guys were big time players coming out of high school. Again though, Oregon has just never had enough of them.
Oregon has no issue recruiting top talent at the skill positions as they are adding studs like Taj Griffin, Malik Lovette, and Travis Waller to an already loaded group of returning players like Thomas Tyner, Bralon Addison, and Royce Freeman. But if they want to get over the hump and take that next step as national champions, they are going to need to land more players like defensive lineman Rasheem Green and linebacker John Houston to play with a guy like Kaumatule.