The Ducks are the No. 6 team in the country in rushing and No. 7 in scoring while the Buckeyes rank among the top seven nationally in five defensive categories, including being fifth in rushing, total and scoring defense.
OSU offensive coordinator Jim Bollman sees things a little differently. He believes the game's outcome will likely boil down to how well his team's offense can perform against a somewhat maligned Oregon defense.
"(Oregon has) a very quick, high-pressure outfit," Bollman said. "They are not going to let you sit around. They are really going to come after you. Needless to say they are experienced at this time and they are really good athletes. They really work well together in their scheme."
A look at the raw numbers would seem to indicate Bollman is a little guilty of making the Ducks sound better than they are. They were a middle-of-the-pack unit in the Pac-10, a conference much more known for offense than defense. Oregon could do no better than sixth in the league in scoring defense and ranked 52nd nationally, giving up an average of 23.6 points per game.
Additionally, the Ducks surrendered 329.4 yards per game this season, including 350 or more to half of their six opponents. Three teams topped the 400-yard mark against the UO defense, including Purdue which rolled up 451 during a 38-36 loss to the Ducks on Sept. 12.
Down the stretch, the Ducks went 3-1 to clinch their Rose Bowl bid, but they did it by outscoring the opposition. The defense allowed an average of 36.5 points and 386.5 yards in those four games.
Still, Oregon is not without its defensive standouts. Particular among them are active defensive tackles Brandon Bair (6-7, 268) and Blake Ferras (6-6, 290), who combined for 76 tackles, including 12 tackles for loss and four sacks. Those are modest numbers for a tackle tandem, and only Bair was recognized for his work, earning all-conference honorable mention from Pac-10 coaches.
Bollman, however, said the defensive tackle duo stands out on game film.
"The guys who probably don't get a lot of attention are their defensive tackles," the OSU offensive coordinator said. "Those guys are pretty good. They play with great leverage and great technique, and they take full advantage of the gifts they have been blessed with. They have those long arms and they use them. Some of it may just be that old-fashioned word of chemistry."
While Oregon gave up huge chunks of yardage in several games this season, most of it came through the air. When it comes to the run – something Ohio State admittedly will try to establish in Friday's game – the Ducks are been pretty stout this season. They surrendered an average of 126.7 yards per game on the ground, and held four opponents to fewer than 100.
Bair and Ferras are part of a rotation devised by defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti who liked to play as many players as possible, moving them in and out of the game at an almost frenetic pace.
"Coach has been great at getting the best out of us, and rotating us in and out," Bair said. "He asks us to play as hard as we can for three plays and then substitutes the other line in. It's great having two full lines to rotate. We hardly skip a beat with either because we're both committed to working our hardest."
Because of Aliotti's unique rotation, no defensive lineman finished among the top seven tackles on Oregon's defense. But the top eight linemen still combined for 188 total stops, including 36½ for loss and 19 sacks.
"On paper, you're not wowed by them," OSU wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said, "but when you watch them on film, they are in the right place at the right time and make the big plays."
Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor dropped a mini-bombshell Monday afternoon when he told reporters he had been battling a knee injury for much of the second half of the season.
"I had a partial (ligament) tear in the back of my leg and I keep fighting it," Pryor said.
When asked if he thought about sitting out to let the injury heal, the sophomore QB shook his head and replied, "We had games to win."
One could make the case that Pryor performed better following the injury, which likely occurred sometime during the Buckeyes' 38-7 win over Minnesota on Oct. 24.
He became much more judicious with his decision-making, and in so doing became more effective as a runner. In his final five games, he ran for 340 yards and scored three touchdowns but averaged 6.1 yards per carry. Take out yardage lost by sacks over that stretch and Pryor averaged an eye-popping 7.3 yards every time he tucked the ball and ran.
Oregon's defense understands just how lethal a weapon Pryor has become.
"He is a great athlete," said UO linebacker Spencer Paysinger. "He is 6-6, 235 and one of the fastest guys on their team. He touches the ball on every play. He is an explosive player, a good passer and by having the ball in his hands he is a threat. He is shifty and loves to run. The biggest challenge will be trying to tackle him. He is one of the better athletes that we have faced this year."
Still, the Ducks don't think Pryor will try to beat them by throwing the ball.
"His legs are his weapon right now, in my opinion," Bair said. "He is a quarterback so obviously he can throw the ball, but what we have to be nervous about is his running game. They are going to try and run the ball a lot, and our goal as a defense is to stop the run. Then they've got to go to the air, and … it's going to be tough for them to beat us in the air."
From the way Pryor sounded on Monday, the more prudent play may be to try and throw the ball against the Ducks and save more wear and tear on his body. He admitted the team's first couple of practices in California were sluggish, and said his legs were tired early during the trip.
"I'm hurting everywhere, but it doesn't matter," the OSU quarterback said. "I don't have time to worry about injuries – no one on our team does, either."
ALL HANDS ON DECK
Of that trio, Sanzenbacher would appear to have the inside track. He returned two punts for 17 yards (an 8.5-yard average) this season.
Posey returned one kick for 5 yards while Hall has not returned a punt as a Buckeye. He did, however, return three kicks for touchdowns during his high school career at Jeannette, Pa.
PREVIEW OF WHAT'S TO COME?
If the folks at NationalChamps.net are correct, this year's Rose Bowl will feature a pair of top contenders in next season's national championship race.
The website's "Early Bird Preview" for the 2010 college football season features Oregon at No. 3 and Ohio State at No. 5.
The site's preliminary preseason top 10 for next season features Alabama at No. 1 followed by Boise State and Oregon while Florida and Ohio State round out the top five. TCU is sixth followed by Texas, Georgia Tech, Iowa and Miami (Fla.).
The Buckeyes have two of those top 10 teams on their 2010 schedule. They host the Hurricanes on Sept. 11 and travel to Iowa City on Nov. 20.