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Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Purdue should offer Oregon first test

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Purdue coach Joe Tiller apparently is playing the San Francisco 49ers -- Joe Montana variety -- this weekend, not the 16th-ranked Oregon Ducks.

Oregon's offense?

"Well, you try to see if Coach [Mike] Bellotti will agree to allow us to play -- I spent nine years in Canada, playing Canadian defense, which is 12 men, versus 11," he said. "That's probably where you start. Outside of that, I don't have any answers. They're a very explosive team with both the run game and the pass game. So they're just a handful."

And what about that Ducks defense?

"Fast, faster, and fastest is how I would describe their defense," he said before comparing the Ducks to the Washington defense for the Huskies 1991 national championship squad.

"I don't see a weakness in them defensively," he concluded.

Hmm.

The Ducks have been dominant in dispatching Washington and Utah State by a combined count of 110-34.

Even with a number of key injuries, the offense ranks No. 1 in the nation with 592 yards per game -- 332 yards on the ground -- and is fifth in scoring (55 ppg).

As for the defense, it shut the Huskies out in the second half and has yielded just 274 yards and 17 points per game.

So Tiller, who will retire at the end of the season, isn't just being silly.

Still, it's clear that the Ducks haven't been tested, a fact that Bellotti freely admits. The offense, in particular, has faced a pair of pillow-soft defenses, so it's probably premature to compare this year's offense to last year's nearly unstoppable unit led by QB Dennis Dixon.

"We'll certainly find out this weekend," Bellotti said. "We haven't been stopped too much in the first two games."

Most projected Purdue to finish in the bottom half of the Big Ten. The Boilermakers welcomed back just 12 starters from an 8-5 team, and lost RB Jaycen Taylor to a knee injury in the preseason. Moreover, LB Jason Werner is expected to be out Saturday due to back problems.

One thing Purdue does have is an accomplished, veteran QB in senor Curtis Painter. Painter, who the school is touting for the Heisman Trophy, has started 33 consecutive games, thrown 56 TD passes and ranks in the Big Ten career top 10 in passing yards (9,049).

Tiller talked during the preseason about Painter stepping up in big games, the one thing he mostly hasn't accomplished.

"Well, I would say [this game] fits that scenario perfectly," Tiller said.

Painter figures to test the Ducks athletic, veteran secondary, which -- surprisingly -- hasn't grabbed an interception this season after ranking second in the Pac-10 with 20 last year.

On the other side of the ball, Oregon, despite its eye-popping numbers, still has questions, such as its three-man rotation at QB, topped by Justin Roper, with Jeremiah Masoli and Chris Harper offering relief.

"All three have done some really good things," Bellotti said. "They complement each other."

Also, tailback Jeremiah Johnson is nursing a bum shoulder, though he's expected to play. If he can't go, LeGarrette Blount stepped in with 132 yards and two TDs against Utah State.

Oregon, of course, is hoping for a repeat of its last Big Ten road trip: A 39-7 win at Michigan last year.

"Now it's up to us to carry that Pac-10 banner," Bellotti said. "But that's secondary in my mind to us winning the game.