Superficial measures never go far enough. Fans expect perfection and an unbroken chain of three and outs, and analysts compare everything to SEC, where one quarterback in ten can throw and every other weekend the opponent is helpless and punchless, Troy State or Mississippi.
Statistics tell their own damn lies. Oregon's defense will always be underrated, as long as the measures are yards allowed and time of possession. The Ducks are 34-6 in their last 40 scoring 46 points a game. Offensively, that's shock and awe efficiency. Defensively, that's a lot of extra possessions and plays, and to combat that, Nick Aliotti and his staff do a tremendous job of developing their depth and preparing for the future, playing the number twos and number threes in rotation.
The Ducks probably lead the country in an unkept stat, "Meaningless Yards Allowed." Think back to last year. Against UCLA in the PAC-12 title game, the Bruins put together a 15-play, 94-yard touchdown drive that consumed 5:22 on the clock. Impressive, right? Not really. The drive gobbled up a huge chunk of the fourth quarter, and UCLA was trailing 49-24. The drive, put together against a heavily-rotated Duck defense, constituted more than a quarter of their output for the whole game, and all it did was guarantee they'd lose.
It happens a lot with the Webfoots defense. They lose battles to win wars, but it goes way beyond, "bend but don't break," an expression that Aliotti hates. Over the last four years Oregon has forced more turnovers than any school except Oklahoma State. They turn in performances like the championship game, where they double up an opponent and hold them to 243 yards when the game is close, then flex to protect a league. Against Cal earlier in the year they frustrated the Bears offense for three quarters. In the fourth Cal put together drives of 38, 64, and 39 yards. In the first two they turned the ball over on downs, the equivalent of an extra turnover. The last one, 8 plays and 3 first downs, ended when time ran out. The result? No points, but on the stat sheet the Ducks "mediocre" defense gave up 29 plays and 141 yards in the quarter. While winning 43-15.
Photo: This season look for the Duck defense to swarm like zombies in a science fiction movie, only lots, lots faster (dailybruin.com photo).