Roll On: Previewing The Oregon Defense

Scott Olmos-US PRESSWIRE

Well, let's get this over with.

Welcome to CGB's superfluous preview of the Oregon defense. True, whatever happens between Cal's offense and Oregon's defense will presumably be important in some fashion. But ultimately the only thing anybody will care about will happen when the Ducks have the ball. It's like God Bless American during the 7th inning stretch - just an annoying delay of what you really came to see.

Personnel

Defensive Line: Jr. DE Taylor Hart; Sr. DT Isaac Remington; Jr. DE Wade Keliikipi; Sr. DE Dion Jordan

As in your standard 4-3, Jordan and Hart are the pass-rush specialists and have a combined 11 sacks, while Remington and Keliikipi occupy blockers and disrupt running plays.

They can create pressure without sending blitzers . . . which typically goes without saying against Cal this year, but still.

Linebackers: Sr. MLB Kiko Alonso; Sr. WLB Michael Clay, Jr. SLB Boseko Lokombo

Alonso is the most recognizable name on the Oregon defense, but Clay nearly matches him in terms of productivity. Those two are nearly always on the field, and after them Oregon rotates in a few guys including Derrick Mallone and Tyson Coleman, who both actually have more tackles than the starter Lokombo. Don't expect a ton of drop off either way.

Secondary: So. CB Terrance Mitchell; Jr. S Avery Patterson; Jr. SS Brian Jackson; So. CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

These guys are totally vulnerable to first round draft picks at wide receiver. Do we have any of those guys available? Oh, that's right. Crap.

Ekpre-Olomu is the big play guy - 3 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles, a ton of pass break-ups . . . he does it all, basically. But with the pressure Oregon's defense can create (and with the pressure Oregon's offense creates by scoring so damn much and forcing opponents to pass) pretty much everybody on Oregon's defense gets opportunities to pick the ball off.

This Season

  • 530 yards allowed (6.54 yards/play) in a 57-34 win over Arkansas State
  • 365 yards allowed (4.50 yards/play) in a 42-25 win over Fresno State
  • 177 yards allowed (2.68 yards/play) in a 63-14 win over Tennessee Tech
  • 332 yards allowed (3.95 yards/play) in a 49-0 win over Arizona
  • 402 yards allowed (4.73 yards/play) in a 51-26 win over Washington State
  • 353 yards allowed (4.58 yards/play) in a 52-21 win over Washington
  • 408 yards allowed (4.86 yards/play) in a 43-21 win over Arizona St.
  • 245 yards allowed (4.08 yards/play) in a 70-14 win over Colorado
  • 615 yards allowed (7.69 yards/play) in a 62-51 win over USC
My oh my, one of these games is not like the other.

As is always the case with Oregon under Chip Kelly, you have to remember that total yardage can be impacted because Oregon's offense gets the ball back to the other team so quickly, and yards/play can be impacted because more than a few times Oregon has played half a game's worth of garbage time. Must be boring.

Unfortunately, there's probably not much of anything that can be learned from the only offense to have truly troubled Oregon. Other than the useful tidbit about recruiting and developing first round draft talent at multiple major positions on offense. With these types of insights why am I still writing here?!

Against the Run

Now that enough games have been played, we'll be adding in some advanced stats to the equation. If you want to read up on S&P+ (and other advanced metrics), head on over to footballoutsiders.

3.83 yards allowed/attempt, 46th in the nation
Rush defense S&P+ ranking: 19th in the nation

Relatively speaking, this is Oregon's weak point, though if it were an actual weak point it would barely be relevant because who's going to pound the rock when you're losing by 28 in the 3rd quarter? It's also worth noting that although Oregon's yards allowed per run numbers are merely average, they fare much better in S&P+. Why? Probably because their opponents have had successful running plays during garbage time, plays that S&P+ filter out because they're not representative of true effort when a game is actual in doubt.

Sorry to cut off any sliver of optimism at the pass.

Against the Pass

5.8 yards allowed/attempt, 15th in the nation
Pass defense S&P+ ranking: 7th in the nation

Oregon has a good secondary, they have linebackers that are excellent in coverage, and they have a line that can create pressure without blitzing. And there's your formula for excellent passing defense.

Stats of Dubious Value

Turnovers

126 turnovers forced (10 fumbles, 16 interceptions), 3rd in the nation. Abandon all hope ye who enter.

BRIDGFORD YOU THROW THE BALL TO GUYS IN BLUE NOT . . . wait what asinine color will Oregon be wearing on Saturday?

3rd Down

Opponent conversion percentage of 31.43%, 16th in the nation

Red Zone
Opponent scoring percentage of 57.89%, 2nd
in the nation; Opponent touchdown percentage of 42.11%, 7th in the nation.

Like I said last week - Cal's red zone struggles are so pronounced that it doesn't really matter who the opponent is. The Bears have the 4th worst red zone success rate in FBS football. One of the teams behind Cal is in the transition phase from the FCS. Sigh. Oregon's red zone touchdown percentage on offense is nearly double Cal's. Double sigh.

Conclusions

You've likely came to this conclusion already: This game isn't about winning or losing. It's about seeing what Cal has in Allan Bridgford. Which is pretty unfair. Here kid, it's your junior year. We'll give you 1 quarter against Nevada without telling any of your teammates, then you'll get a drive against UW when they know we have to score a touchdown quickly. Now you get to face the #2 team in the country and you're going to have to produce 60 points to keep up. No problem, right?

So whatever happens on Saturday, it's almost certainly going to be unfair to make any kind of major proclamations . . . unless Bridgford plays shockingly well, which would put him in the company of Matt Barkley as the only QBs to play well against Oregon's defense this year.

The simple reality is that we're throwing a quarterback with 48 career pass attempts into the fire behind a struggling offensive line with a battered receiving core against a defense every bit as good as the Stanford defense that thoroughly shut down Cal earlier this year. Expectations should be low.

But hey - it's a rebuilding year and we'll see what we have from a guy who could be a major contributor next year. That's worth something. Just make sure to not get too down on him if he performs the same way everybody else has performed against Oregon this year.

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