Rose Bowl Defensive Preview

The Rose Bowl will take place tomorrow, and there is no doubt that it’s going to be a great game. I will have my predictions and full preview out tomorrow, and it becomes time to take a look at the Wisconsin Badgers and Oregon Ducks defensively. We all know these are arguably the best two offensive teams in college football, but they also possess capable defenses. The Ducks defense is rightfully regarded as the better unit, but the Badgers don’t field a D filled with scrubs; guys like linebackers Mike Taylor and Chris Borland are star players in their own rights. With two dynamic offenses such as the ones that will be on display tomorrow, it becomes imperative to put in a great defensive effort to stop them; this game will come down to which defenses get the stops.

If we look at the basic rate statistics, the Oregon Ducks give up 4.9 yards per play, while the Badgers allow 4.8 yards per play. The Ducks have the better run defense and allow a minuscule 3.6 yards per attempt, but the Badgers have the better pass defense. They give up 6.2 yards per pass attempt, while the Ducks allow 6.2 yards per attempt. Wisconsin gives up an almost as impressive 3.9 yards per rush, and the numbers seem to favor Oregon. However, the Ducks give up more yards per play because they commit about 1.1 more penalties per game than the Badgers. That’s a 7.5 yards per game disadvantage right there.

People who compare both team’s total offense allowed totals are using a flawed form of analysis that doesn’t take into account two things in particular. In college football, different conferences play much different styles of football. The Big Ten is about establishing a ground attack and controlling the game, while the Pac-12 is more of a high-flying passing league. The statistics prove this truism, as the Ducks have to defend 77.3 plays per game; the Badgers must only stop 60.5 plays in a game. The Ducks face a 50-50 ratio of run and pass, while Wisconsin’s defense faces the run 58% of the time.

Turnovers obviously swing football games, and the Oregon Ducks are able to force 2.1 TOs per game. The Badgers force 1.8 per game, with linebacker Chris Borland having provided six turnovers this season (4 FF, 2 INT). Shelton Johnson and Antonio Fenelus each have four picks, and safety Aaron Henry has three picks on the season. The Ducks turnovers are more spread out between players, and star safety Eddie Pleasant has three picks. Cornerback Terrance Mitchell and linebacker Mike Clay lead the way with two picks and two fumbles forced each for four total turnovers.

Linebacker Mike Taylor has been a huge force for Wisconsin this season, and he is 8th in the nation with 137 total tackles and eight of those are tackles for loss. Fellow linebacker Chris Borland has recorded 131 tackles on the season with a whopping 18 of those for a loss. Safety Shelton Johnson and defensive end Louis Nzegwu each have six tackles for loss this season, and senior linebacker Kevin Claxton has added 6.5. Wisconsin, however, lacks an adequate pass rush and has only brought down the quarterback 23 times this season. Nzegwu leads the way with 4.5 sacks, and Beau Allen is the only other Badger with at least four sacks.

While the Ducks don’t have anybody with 100 tackles, they don’t need the tackles to show that this speedy defense can shut down the opposition. The great Dion Jordan has 13 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, while Josh Kaddu comes into this game with 9.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Terrell Turner has brought down the quarterback 5.5 times this season and has been responsible for nine tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Linebackers Michael Clay and Dewitt Stuckey make life even rougher for the opposition and have 6.5 and six TFLs respectively. And oh yeah, the Ducks can bring down the passer; they have 40 sacks this year.

Photo from AP Photo retrieved from

Passes defended is a great statistic to use to evaluate a secondary’s ability, and the Wisconsin Badgers have four players with at least five tips. Antonio Fenelus has a team high nine tips, while Johnson, Henry, and Borland all have seven tips. The Badgers have 53 tips as a team and get their hands on 16.1% of all the passes thrown at them.

Meanwhile, the Ducks have two players who are in double-digits in PDs. Terrance Mitchell and Eddie Pleasant pace the team with 12 and 11 respectively, while Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and John Boyett follow them with eight and seven tips each. Four other players add five tips each with Cliff Harris tipping six passes on the season, and the Ducks have defended 90 passes this season. They turn down 17.9% of the passes thrown at them and allow a completion percentage of just 58.4% (59.8% for the Badgers).

Oregon clearly has the better defense, and it will surely manifest itself tomorrow. I see this as the deciding factor for this game, and the Ducks defense is a really underrated unit at this point. They do have one of the best offenses in CFB, but their defense is also among the best.

You can follow me on Twitter @SorianoJoe and Autzen Zoo @Autzen_Zoo.

Tags: Aaron Henry Antonio Fenelus Beau Allen Chris Borland Cliff Harris Dewitt Stuckey Dion Jordan Ducks General Eddie Pleasant Ifo Ekpre-Olomu John Boyett Josh Kaddu Kevin Claxton Louis Nzegwu Michael Clay Mike Taylor Rose Bowl Shelton Johnson Terrance Mitchell Terrell Turner Wisconsin Badgers

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