Breaking down the defenses in the Civil War

TWO DEFENSES, BOTH relying heavily on athletic linebackers and both expected to have an equally tough time trying to stop two offenses clicking on all cylinders. A mere half a point separates Oregon State and Oregon in points allowed per game (OSU 22.2 / UO 22.7) –- a stat figured to be mightily tested tomorrow night. Here is the breakdown the defenses in the Civil War clash for the Rose Bowl.

Shootout or not, the defense that can stay closest to their seasonal points allowed average should help their team grab a trip to Pasadena on January 1.

But to be certain, it's a tough assignment -- Oregon State has averaged 32.4 points per game this season while Oregon racks up 37.7 per contest. Here's a look at the defensive matchups and who, on paper, looks to hold an advantage headed into what is expected to be an offensive shootout.

 


Beavers

Ducks
DL COMMENTS DL
  He's slated to start and is said to have practiced at full speed yesterday but questions continue to circle on the readiness of Beaver tackle Brennan Olander and whether or not his knee injury will limit his production come Thursday.

Olander has come on of late, big time, and produced one of the best inside tandems in the conference with Stephen Paea.

While OSU sits ninth ahead of only Washington State in the sack department with just 15 QB drops, 11 of those 15 have come in the last four weeks. Since switching Matt LaGrone and Gabe Miller to the starting defensive end positions, the OSU defense has been tough against the run. They're now leading the conference and ranked 13th in the nation, giving up 98.45 ground hashes per game.

Oregon, meanwhile sits fifth in the conference allowing 130.6 yards per game on the ground. Their sack totals are far better than OSU's, the Ducks have harassed opposing quarterbacks planting them on the turf 30 times this season. D-tackle Brandon Blair has been solid inside and with his 6-7, 265-pound frame brings tremendous length and athleticism in the A gaps. D-end Will Tukuafu may be the better known name of the group but his 32 total tackles is second to Blair's 40.

Pick: Oregon -- OSU's line has come along well in the latter half, however questions about the health of Olander's knee remain, and Oregon has had tremendous success pressuring the quarterback over the course of the year.


Beavers

Ducks
LB's COMMENTS LB's
Casey Matthews against Keaton Kristick. Both are athletic, physical, ball-hawking playmakers. Kristick leads the Beavers with 80 tackles while Matthews has added 2.5 sacks to his 66 total tackles.

Duck ‘backer Kenny Rowe leads the group with seven sacks and is a force in the backfield with nine tackles for loss. The hybrid of the group is Eddie Pleasant who has added 4.5 sacks of his own and plays fast sideline to sideline football.

The Oregon group has totaled 215 tackles and 15 sacks. The Beaver foursome of Kristick, David Pa'aluhi, Dwight Roberson, and Keith Pankey are solid and have 221 tackles and 4.5 sacks on the season. While pressure has been evident as of late from the front four, the Beaver ‘backers have flowed to the football well, shown by the 23.5 tackles for loss.

Pick: Push -- The recent resurgence of Keith Pankey as a run stopper has been a bright spot this season and the groups are both athletic and flow to the football well. Both have a couple interceptions and are solid defending the pass.


Beavers

Ducks
S/CB's COMMENTS S/CB's
  Both Oregon and Oregon State took hits in the secondary with Oregon's Patrick Chung and Jairus Byrd and Oregon State's Al Afalava, Brandon Hughes, and Keenan Lewis all leaving for the NFL. With early season match ups against pass-happy Portland State, UNLV, and Cincinnati, the Beavers learned on the fly and have shaped into a formidable group.

Safeties Lance Mitchell and Cameron Collins have emerged as leaders and playmakers, combining for 119 tackles and three interceptions.

The emergence of Brandon Hardin at the corner position has made the Beavers three deep with he, James Dockery, and Tim Clark. The group has five interceptions on the season.

After a slew of injuries, Oregon has ably reloaded and played very good football in the secondary. Injuries to T.J. Ward and Walter Thurmond III paved the way for youngsters Cliff Harris and Javes Lewis to get their feet wet and in doing so have played solidly for the Ducks. The group ranks second in pass defense allowing just 193.4 yards per game through the air – compared to OSU's 242.1 allowed.

Just as the Beavers boast the league's best rush defense and will have to combat the league's best run offense, the Ducks boast the second best pass defense and will have to defend Sean Canfield and Co. who lead the conference in passing.

Pick: Ducks -- The Beavers allow too many yards through the air to earn the check mark. And while Oregon is a run first team, Masoli is dangerous and very effective throwing the ball except when on the run. Oregon has played well and has their starters back in the line-up.


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