BREAKDOWN: Brigham Young and OSU on defense

ON PAPER, IT'S a bowl game that seems like a toss-up. And what that could in turn mean is that defense will go a long way in determining whether or not OSU extends their five game bowl winning streak, or if BYU makes up for their lackluster performance in last year's Las Vegas Bowl, losing to Arizona 31-21. Here's the scoop on how the defensive units stack up.

The disciplined BYU defense held opponents under 20 five times this season. In their two losses to Florida State and TCU, the Cougars allowed a total of 92 points. Certainly, OSU coaches have long been studying film of those two games in hopes of picking up on defensive tendencies.

The Beaver black shirts enter the contest allowing just over 23 points per game. In four losses, opponents averaged 36 points. For both these teams, when the defense is playing well, the offense has thrived off it and wins have piled up.

Here's a look at how the defensive units match up and where offensive coordinators Danny Langsdorf (OSU) and Robert Anae (BYU) might look to find weaknesses.

Defensive Line: The 112 yards per game BYU allows on the ground ranks them 23rd in the nation and just two spots ahead of Oregon State and their 114.25 rushing yards allowed per contest. The combined nine sacks from defensive tackles Brett Denny and Jan Jorgensen provide a great push upfront and will be a test for center Alex Linnenkohl and guards Gregg Peat and Grant Johnson. Oregon State had troubles wrapping up in their season finale against Oregon, something as a unit they'll need to shore up against BYU. Matt LaGrone, Gabe Miller and Kevin Frahm at d-end, along with Stephen Paea and Brennan Olander on the inside, have accounted for eight of the teams 15 total sacks. That number puts OSU tied for 106th in the nation.

Advantage: BYU -- Steven Paea is a difference maker, but seemed at times this season to be a one man wrecking crew. BYU manages to get pressure on the quarterback as a whole, has totaled 24 sacks this season and are arguably just as effective in the middle.

Linebackers: Playing his final game as a Beaver, Keaton Kristick will go down as one of OSU's best ever at the linebacker spot. Kristick earned First Team-All Conference honors this season and leads the team with 87 tackles, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery. The other three Beaver 'backers earned honorable mention and have created as good a foursome there is in the conference. The Cougars are active and smart at 'backer. Although none earned All Conference honors, don't let that fool you. The Cougars' leader, senior Colbey Clawson, was honorable mention and posted 60 tackles, five sacks, and eight quarterback hurries. Blitz packages are disguised well and they often have had linebackers pursuing the quarterback untouched.

Advantage: OSU -- Almost as good of a foursome as OSU has ever had playing at the same time, all are fast, and all have a nose for the football.

Secondary: Sadly for the Beavs and senior corner Tim Clark (broken leg), he will be watching from the sidelines on crutches. Enter Brandon Hardin, the 6-2, 210-pound sophomore from Hawaii who hits like a ton of bricks but still has a lot to learn about being a full time corner. OSU has struggled at times in the secondary, but they slowly began to build some chemistry as the year went along, and safeties Lance Mitchell and Cameron Collins have been solid as first year starters. Giving up over 238 passing yards on average, and 20 scores this season through the air, OSU on paper would appear to be in for a heck of a time corralling the BYU wideouts and QB Max Hall. BYU doesn't loom to fare much better in the secondary, allowing 219 plus and 17 scores, respectively via the passing game. Junior safety Andrew Rich and Senior corner Scott Johnson are first and third on the team in tackles and are playmakers, combining for seven interceptions.

Advantage: BYU -- Their 13 interceptions to OSU's eight are one reason to lean towards the Cougars, and they also allow less yards per game and per reception. The kicker is that OSU is suddenly paper thin at corner entering the game with Clark out.


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