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Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Pac-10 is about run D vs. run O



Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


Some interesting numbers ...

Four Pac-10 teams rank among the nation's top 25 in total defense: No. 3 Arizona State, No. 6 USC, No. 15 UCLA and No. 25 Arizona.

All four have played at least one A-list BCS conference foe, so the numbers aren't inflated.

USC, Arizona State and UCLA also rank among the top 12 in scoring defense.

But that's not what's interesting. It just shows that Pac-10 defenses are as good as any in the nation this year.

Here, however, is where the Pac-10 may turn this year: run D vs. run O.

Five Pac-10 teams rank among the top 21 in run defense: No. 5 USC, No. 9 Arizona State, No. 9(tie) UCLA, No. 18 Oregon State and No. 21 Arizona.

Four Pac-10 teams rank among the nation's top 24 in run offense: No. 11 Stanford, No. 12 Arizona, No. 16(tie) USC and No. 24 California.

And based on what we saw in the Cal-Oregon game, here's a guess that the Ducks run offense and run defense won't be anything to take lightly going forward.

Going into the season, with five 1,000-yard rushers back (though Oregon's LeGarrette Blount is obviously no longer back), everyone knew it was the year of the running back. The questions were mostly on the offensive line.

The rushing offenses are meeting expectations. The run defenses are probably exceeding expectations, though there was clearly a lot of defensive talent back from 2008.

Consider this week's top matchups.
There's a lot of underclass quarterback and receiver talent in the Pac-10. The passing games likely will uptick next year.

But this year's conference race may end up being about who can gain four -- not three -- yards and a cloud of dust. And who can stop it.