The No. 2 Oregon Ducks (7-0, 4-0) return to Autzen Stadium this week to face the Colorado Buffaloes (1-6, 1-3) with Homecoming festivities around the campus.
The Colorado offense is one of the worst in the nation averaging just 330.7 total yards per game with 109.7 on the ground and 221.0 through the air. The Buffaloes are not adept at scoring either averaging just 18.7 points per game. Colorado enters the game having lost three consecutive games by a combined 143-37 tally following a 50-6 loss last weekend to USC.
Oregon comes into the contest fresh off of another dominating win. After holding the Sun Devils to under 140 yards en route to a 43-7 halftime lead, the Ducks cruised to a 43-21 final .
Today Duck Sports Authority continues our weekly look at the in-depth match ups on both sides of the ball turning our attention now to the defense.
Colorado: The Buffaloes use a hybrid 4-3 defense with a nose tackle and defensive tackles inside. Getting the nod against the Ducks at nose tackle will be Josh Tupou (6-3, 3255) a true freshman from Long Beach, California. Tupou will be making his eight appearance of the season at nose tackle for Colorado Saturday afternoon. Coming into the game Hood has recorded 25 total tackles. Hood has been active with 4 tackles for loss. Behind Tupou will be Nate Bonsu (6-1, 280) a fourth year junior. Coming into Saturday's contest Tuitea has 21 total tackles in seven appearances.
Samson Kafovalu (6-3, 250) gets the start at the other defensive tackle position. Another true freshman, Kafovalu has not played much through the first half of the season recording just 5 total tackles in five appearances for the Buffaloes. Listed behind Kafovalu on the depth chart is Nate Bonsu.
Oregon: Oregon brings a wealth of experience at defensive tackle. Wade Keliikipi (6-3, 295) will get the start at one defensive tackle position. Keliikipi has been a stalwart of the Oregon defensive line who will be starting his 18th consecutive game for the Ducks. After several consecutive solid performances, Keliikipi has raised his season total to 16 tackles with 3 tackles for loss of his own and 2 sacks. Starting at the other defensive tackle position will be Ricky Heimuli (6-4, 305) showing promise with 22 total tackles in his 14 reserve appearances last season for the Ducks, Heimuli has also recorded 9 tackles in 2012 including one sack on the season.
The return of Isaac Remington (6-4, 301) from suspension, who led defensive tackles with 12 total tackles and 4 tackles for loss and one sack will bolster the depth at defensive tackle.
Behind Heimuli true freshman Arik Armstead (6-8, 280) has made his mark early in 2012. He made the most of his early arrival and has earned rave reviews early on from coaches and team mates alike. Armstead has 15 total tackles and 0.5 sacks through seven games.
The Ducks have better depth at the defensive tackle position, as is frequently the case. The Ducks depth allows the defensive tackle unit to outperform the Colorado unit in production. As a group, the Buffalo defensive tackles have accounted for 51 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and one sack. Oregon's group has accounted for 52 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
Colorado: At one defensive end position the Buffaloes will start Will Pericak (6-4, 285) a fifth year senior who has started 44 games in his career and is by far the most experienced and talented defensive player on the Colorado defense. Through the first seven games Pericak has notched 40 total tackles with 4 tackles for loss and one sack. Behind Pericak is Kirk Poston (6-2, 250) a second year sophomore. For the season Poston has 13 total tackles with 4 tackles for loss and 3 sacks in six appearances.
On the weakside will be Chidera Uzo-Diribe (6-3, 250). The fourth year junior, who appeared in all 13 games last season, including six starts for Colorado, has been outstanding this season with 26 total tackles with 8 tackles for loss and 6 sacks through the first seven games of the season. Behind Uzo-Diribe will be Juda Parker (6-2, 250) a sophomore for the Buffaloes. In his seven appearances this season, Parker has recorded 9 total tackles and one tackle for loss.
Oregon: Oregon has a first team All Pac-12 defensive end hybrid in Dion Jordan (6-7, 243) who terrorized Pac-12 quarterbacks and coaches last season. Jordan has looked explosive through the midway point of this season recording 29 total tackles, 7 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. Backing up Jordan will be Deforrest Buckner (6-7, 265) a true freshman from Hawaii. Buckner has seen his role increased as his play has been very good early in his career. Through seven games Buckner has recorded 14 tackles with 2 tackles for loss and one sack.
Moving back over to defensive end this week is versatile junior Taylor Hart (6-6, 292). Hart has played very well this season and has notched 23 total tackles with 5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks through the midway point of the season. Behind Hart will be Tony Washington (6-3, 244) a sophomore another versatile defensive lineman that has spent time inside at defensive tackle as well as defensive end. Washington saw action in 10 games as a freshman and recorded 18 total tackles last season. So far in 2012, Washington has 9 total tackles and one tackle for loss.
Colorado has an edge in production with Pericak having a monster year at the strong side for Colorado. Oregon has the size advantage to impose their will a little bit better and has shown a little bit more balance between the players and their ability to get to the quarterback. Given that Oregon's starters have been out of the game very early due to lopsided scores, their lower production is somewhat expected.
Colorado: John Major (6-2, 235) the elder statesman of this defense gets the start at the "sam" linebacker position. Major, who started all 13 games last season, has notched 45 total tackles with 3 tackles for loss and 1 sack. Behind Major is Woodson Greer (6-3, 225) a sophomore who appeared in just five games as a freshman. Greer has six appearances this season and has recorded 12 total tackles with one sack.
Starting at the "will" linebacker position is Derrick Webb (6-0, 230). A fourth year junior, Webb leads the Buffaloes with 58 total tackles. He has also recorded 4 tackles for loss and one sack. Behind Webb will be Paul Vigo (6-1, 200) a redshirt junior who had appeared mostly as a special teams role player prior to this season. Vigo, a converted defensive back has appeared in six games this season and has recorded 22 total tackles with three tackles for loss.
The "mike" linebacker position will be manned by Doug Rippy(6-3, 245) a fifth year senior originally from Columbus, Ohio. Rippy, who started the first seven games of 2011 before a knee injury ended his season, has appeared in four games and notched 11 tackles this year. Behind Rippy will be Brady Daigh (6-2, 250) a sophomore who appeared in 12 games as a true freshman last season. Daigh has appeared in six games this season and recorded 23 total tackles with 3 tackles for loss.
Oregon: Michael Clay (5-11, 225), the rock solid starter at the "Will" linebacker position, missed the second half of the Washington State game due to an undisclosed injury but bounced back with a very good performance against Arizona State after sitting out the Washington game. Though he was in full gear and practiced all week, he was held out of the Husky game for precautionary reasons. Clay has 39 total tackles along with 4.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. Behind Clay is Derrick Malone (6-2, 219) got his first start last week and responded well with 6 total tackles against Washington. For the season, Malone now has 25 total tackles and one tackle for loss.
Alongside Clay will be Boseko Lokombo (6-3, 233). After showing more consistency through the middle part of the season, Lokombo now has 17 tackles with 2 tackles for loss and one sack. He also made his first pick of the year against Arizona State. Despite playing as the backing to Lokombo, Tyson Coleman (6-1, 222) has notched 23 tackles, one tackle for loss and a half sack this season.
At the "Mike" linebacker position Kiko Alonso (6-4, 242) is likely to miss the game with a wrist injury. If he is unable to play Saturday, look for Malone to slide into this position. Behind him will be Rahim Cassell (6-0, 215) who has appeared in all seven games for the Ducks this season and has 12 total tackles.
The loss of Alonso for this game makes a huge difference in this match-up. Alonso is a difference maker on the defense and his physical presence will be missed by the Duck defense. Colorado already has a lead in production at this position with Alonso included; without him, the edge in production is clearly on the side of the Buffaloes.
Colorado has also shown as much depth at this position as Oregon.
Colorado: The Buffaloes start Kenneth Crawley (6-1, 170) at one cornerback position. The true freshman has 46 total tackles through seven appearances, but just 4 passes defended. Behind him will be Jeffrey Hall (5-11, 180) another true freshman. Hall has four appearances this season and 4 total tackles.
At the other cornerback position will be Greg Henderspn (5-11, 185) a sophomore who started 12 games last. Henderson missed two games with injuries earlier in the season but has still managed 21 total tackles and 2 passes defended. Behind Henderson will be Josh Moten (6-0, 195) a redshirt sophomore. Moten has appeared in just three games this season and has played very sparingly with no recordable statistics.
At the free safety position will be Ray Polk (6-1, 205) another fifth year senior. Polk started 11 games last season missing two with concussion symptoms. Polk has missed five games this season due to injuries making his return last week against USC. In his two appearances Polk has recorded 10 total tackles and one pass defended. Behind Polk will be Marques Mosley who played well in Polk's absence recording 23 total tackles with one pass defended.
At the strong safety position, Parker Orms (5-11, 195). The junior who missed most of 2010 with an ACL injury and seven more games last season has started all seven for the Buffs this year and notched 42 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 6 passes defended. Behind Orms, Kevin Ayers (6-0, 208), a senior who came to Arizona State from Westr Los Angeles College has notched 9 tackles in six appearances.
Oregon: Oregon returns Terrance Mitchell (6-0, 189) a 12 game starter as a freshman last year. Mitchell, who had not seen many opportunities early this season finally got tested over the past few games and responded well. Through seven games Mitchell has 14 tackles and 5 passes defended. Behind Mitchell is sophomore Dior Mathis (5-9, 182) one of the fastest players on the team. Mathis has 9 tackles in a reserve role through seven games and with 3 passes defended and 2 interceptions one of which he nearly returned for a score earlier this season.
At the other corner will be Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (5-10, 190) who appeared in all 14 games and started 2 as a true freshman in 2011. Ekpre-Olomu has turned his sophomore season into a breakout year for the Ducks. After recording 2 interceptions against Arizona, one of which he returned for a touchdown, Ekpre-Olomu has continued to excel. For the season, Ekpre-Olomu has now recorded 29 total tackles, 2 interceptions, 12 passes defended and 4 forced fumbles. Behind Ekpre-Olomu will be Troy Hill (5-11, 180) a sophomore who played extensively last season including 6 starts as a freshman. Hill also recorded a "pick six" earlier this season returning an interception 29 yards for a touchdown. Through seven games this season, Hill has notched 20 tackles with one tackle for loss, 2 passes defended and one interception.
At safety, Oregon suffered the loss of John Boyett (5-10, 205) earlier this season. Replacing Boyett has been Avery Patterson (5-10, 185) a junior who saw extensive action last season recording 55 total tackles. Patterson had a breakout performance against Washington State returning an interception for a score in Seattle and then followed that up with another "pick six" against the Huskies. Patterson almost turned in a tri-fecta last week returning an interception to the one yard line against Arizona State. For the year Patterson has 31 total tackles, one tackle for loss, 5 passes defended and 3 interceptions.
Next to Patterson will be Brian Jackson (5-10, 205), a junior who was a special teams standout last season. Jackson has played well early in 2012 having recorded 32 total tackles, one sack, 5 passes defended and has recovered 2 fumbles. The primary reserve for both safety positions will be Erick Dargan (5-11, 205) a sophomore who is a big hitter. Though he is a reserve, Dargan currently is seventh on the team with 26 total tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 passes defended, one interception and one fumble recovery through the first seven games of the season.
Oregon has two all-conference caliber cornerbacks with Ekpre-Olomu and Mitchell. While the loss of Boyett hurt the Ducks depth, Patterson has played exceptional in his spot and the Duck safeties are very active in both pass defense and run support. Colorado is young in the defensive backfield and it shows on the scoreboard. The Buffaloes are giving up 316.6 yards per game through the air with 9.04 yards per attempt and 13.7 yards per completion. They have the worst pass efficiency defense in the conference and allow their opponents a 66.1 percent completion rate.
The Ducks have a very clear edge in the defensive backfield.
Colorado: As with the offense, there is not much positive to say about the Colorado defense. Their "best" performing unit is the run defense which is ninth in the conference allowing 172.4 yards per game on a conference worst 4.8 yards per carry. The pass defense is a misnomer as the Buffaloes have not been able to stop anyone in the passing department. Even against FCS opponent Sacramento State, Colorado allowed 316 passing yards in a 30-28 loss.
The Buffaloes have some good individual players, especially at linebacker, but they are outmanned as a team at every level. Causing further problems for the defense is the lack of depth across the line and the youth at critical spots like the defensive backfield.
Oregon: Oregon, meanwhile, has been playing exceptional defense early this season. You may not be able to tell by looking at final scores, but it has to be understood that a lot of the yards and points that finish the totals occur against players far down the depth chart.
After a defensive masterpiece shutting out a high flying Arizona offense and holding them to almost half of their average yards per game, the Ducks held Washington State to just 137 yards at the half and 214 total yards through three quarters . For the season, the Ducks are giving up just 20.1 points per game. Though they are allowing 366.7 total yards per game, many of those yards happen in the fourth quarter as teams sling the ball all over the field trying to overcome big deficits on the scoreboard. The run defense for the Ducks has been stout as the Ducks are giving up just 3.6 yards per carry and 136.1 yards per game.
The Ducks, having increased their quarterback pressure as the season moves on now have 22 sacks this season.
The Ducks are also second best in the conference allowing just 29.8 percent of third down conversions while they lead the conference in fourth down conversion rate allowing just 25 percent to be converted. The Ducks lead the Pac-12 in red zone defense allowing just 60 percent for scores and 32.1 percent touchdown rate in the red-zone and a 53.6 percent overall conversion rate.
The Ducks are deep on the defensive line and have exceptional depth at cornerback position. The safeties have been active for the Ducks early this season.
The defenses are not even close. Colorado has been unable to stop anyone all season, and that includes some pretty normal offensive teams. Oregon will be the deepest and most dynamic team that the Buffaloes see all season. Their defense will not be able to keep pace with the Duck offense.
The Oregon defense, though the final stats always seem to show the defense being average, a look at third and fourth down conversion rates along with red zone defensive prowess shows that the Oregon defense is one of the best in the conference. When games are still close, the Duck defense is dominant; when games get out of hand and the Ducks have insurmountable leads, the reserves come in and the numbers are no longer relevant.
Colorado will have a difficult time moving the ball against the Ducks. They are a "West Coast" pro-style offense and will use many of the basics of the offense to work their way down the field. They will try quick slants and quick hitters to the tight ends and fullback to get the defense out of the "box" and loosen up the running game. If they are successful they then look to mix up the play calling to get the middle of the field open with play-action passing.
The problem for Colorado will come when they are consistently in third and long situations and already trailing by several touchdowns.
While the Duck defense used their size advantage to shut down the running game against Arizona, they were able to use their height and the defensive line push to close passing lanes and create problems for Washington State. Against the Huskies, the Ducks were able to use their exceptional defensive coverage to completely stifle the passing attack of Washington. The Duck defense to completely dominated the line of scrimmage early against the Sun Devils like they have in previous weeks. Expect that trend to continue this weekend.
On offense, look for Oregon to take advantage of a pass defense that cannot stop anyone early. The Ducks will look to get their wide receivers involved early and after a couple of big plays down the middle will then turn to the running game. Colorado has some beef up the middle, but not a lot of speed. This is a game that De'Anthony Thomas should be able to get rolling again with some big plays on the edge.
De'Anthony Thomas has been quiet for the past few weeks as defenses have schemed to stop him, but that has allowed Kenjon Barner to continue to produce very good numbers out of the backfield.
The defenses that have excelled against the Ducks during the Chip Kelly era were those with physically dominant defensive linemen that were able to disrupt the rushing game. Colorado does not have the kind of defense to even temporarily disrupt the flow of the Duck offense; and they do not have an offense capable of scoring much against the dominant Oregon starting defense. The game will be decided early. The only question left will be when the reserves come in and how bad the final score will look
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