The regular season is now over, and the Oregon Ducks are heading to their third straight BCS bowl game—and their second Rose Bowl—in three years.
While the offense gets a ton of credit for Oregon's success, the defense has found ways to come up big in some huge spots and are better than a lot of people give them credit for.
After another good year for the defense, here is a look at some of the defensive standouts and their regular-season grades for 2011.
Coming into the 2011 season, Cliff Harris had a ton of hype around him and was viewed as an All-American both on defense and special teams.
The problem for Harris is he could not get out of the way of his own success. By keeping himself off the field with non-football issues, Harris was not capable of making the impact most had hoped for.
Eventually the off-the-field issues became too much, and Harris was kicked off the Oregon football team.
Coming into the 2011 season, many believed an issue Oregon would have is lack of pressure from their defensive line.
Instead, the Oregon defensive line got stronger as the year went on.
One major part of that pressure was the speed off the corner provided by Dion Jordan. Jordan was a key part of this defense, and that was evident every time he was out with injury issues.
The Ducks will look for him to apply pressure in the Rose Bowl and keep Russell Wilson in check.
On the other side of the defensive line was Terrell Turner. Turner also stepped up and had a terrific year for the Oregon defense.
During the year, Turner had 5.5 sacks overall, but was instrumental in applying pressure to the opposing quarterback and also providing some help to the run-defense.
While Dion Jordan and Terrell Turner were able to provide some pressure to the opposing passing game, Ricky Heimuli was able to help clog up the running holes up front against the run game.
Heimuli was a big body that was hard for teams to move, and by doing so, he was able to disrupt running games enough to make some big stops.
In the offseason, the Ducks lost Casey Matthews to the NFL draft, and many wondered how they would replace his leadership and skill.
Michael Clay did a great job of stepping in this year and providing the Ducks with some playmaking ability at the linebacker level. Clay had three sacks, two interceptions and a touchdown, and always seemed to provide the Ducks with energy.
Despite taking a step back in production, John Boyett still had an outstanding season for Oregon and its defense.
Playing in the secondary, Boyett did a fantastic job stepping up and providing run support while at the same time being responsible for secondary help.
While he only had one interception, Boyett was a key to the Oregon defense and provided leadership throughout the year.
Much like John Boyett, Eddie Pleasant found ways to help the Oregon defense out in both the run-defense as well as the pass-defense.
Pleasant patrols the secondary well and continuously looks for the game-changing hit. While he may be overly aggressive at certain points, his energy trickles down to the rest of the defense.