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Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Oregon's defense gets noticed

By Ted Miller

Oregon is better on defense than offense.

That got your attention, eh?

Well, you can make the case by one measure: the All-Pac-12 team as voted on by the coaches. Only one Duck is named to the first-team offense. Three are named to the first-team defense. One Duck is on the second-team offense and one is on the second-team defense. So, that's 4-2 in favor of the defense.

Then, when you toss in three honorable mentions on defense -- players need at least two coaches' votes to make it -- and just one on offense, well, that makes a strong case for the star power of the defense. Seven of the 11 defenders were honored, and just three of the Ducks' 11 offensive players were. (Yes, this leaves off freshman co-offensive player of the year, De'Anthony Thomas, who made the first team as return specialist.)

And, while we're considering the All-Pac-12 team, I have no idea why linebacker Michael Clay, the Ducks' leading tackler, didn't earn honorable mention.

TBD
Pac-12 first-teamer Dion Jordan -- here taking down Stanford's Andrew Luck -- and Oregon's defense rank sixth in the nation in sacks per game.
Of course, the numbers don't hold this notion up. The Ducks again rank in the nation's top six in scoring, total and rushing offense. The defensive rankings are nowhere near as elite.

Oregon is 64th in the nation in total defense (384.7 yards per game), 47th against the run (135.6 ypg), 43rd in scoring defense (23 ppg) and 34th in pass efficiency defense. The highlight is sacks, where the Ducks rank sixth with 3.25 per game.

The Ducks' yards per play -- 4.94 -- however, ranks in the nation's top 25. That is meaningful and is the measure coordinator Nick Aliotti most often points to.

Coaches will tell you to never look ahead. So we won't. At first.

The present for Oregon -- another Super Bowl against a nameless, faceless opponent -- is UCLA. The Bruins rank 10th in the conference in scoring offense after getting shut out last weekend by USC. They rank 11th in passing. What they can do is run. They are third in the conference in rushing, with 193.3 yards per game.

So the Ducks' solid run defense has a fairly simple task against the Bruins. Stop the run and force Kevin Prince to throw the ball inside Autzen Stadium. See what happens.

Now we're going to look ahead -- big-time -- and suppose that Oregon takes care of business and Wisconsin beats Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game on Saturday and earns a spot opposite the Ducks in the Rose Bowl. (Considering that the Spartans beat Wisconsin in East Lansing, that's no sure thing, mind you).

The Badgers, based on statistics, are elite on both sides of the ball, ranking fourth in the nation in scoring offense and scoring defense. Not sure I buy the defensive numbers: The Badgers gave up 70 points combined to Ohio State and Michigan State, and neither has what would be considered an A-list offense.

But that Badgers offense is potent and balanced with quarterback Russell Wilson, running back Montee Ball and a HUGE offensive line.

Obviously, we are looking way ahead for both teams. But Wisconsin-Oregon would be an intriguing matchup of consequence. It would give the Ducks a nice opportunity to show the nation they are more than a flashy offense if they met Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

Oh, and it would be a nice opportunity for the no-name offense to prove it can pile up numbers against an elite defense with extra time to prepare.

Not that we'd overlook UCLA or anything.