I enter the Sun Bowl with an unimpressive record of 5-7 picking Duck games, including the infamous call in the Civil War (I had Oregon State, convincingly). But enough about me. Here are the facts:
Oregon has the 12th-ranked run defense, and only once have the Ducks been pummeled by the run (Washington's 261 yards came mostly in the second half, when Oregon players messed up and failed to tackle).
The Ducks have allowed only two teams to average more than 3.6 yards per carry Ñ Washington (6.4) and Mississippi State (4.6) in the opener. Fives times Ñ including against Michigan and OSU Ñ the Ducks have held opponents to 2.1 or less.
So, Minnesota's 5.6 yards per carry scares the Ducks only slightly. Teams simply don't run on Oregon.
And with UO's change from mostly zone and double coverages in pass defense the last five games, the big plays have mostly gone away, save for single plays by Stanford's Mark Bradford and Washington's Reggie Williams. Take away Williams' 63-yard TD, and the longest scoring pass against the Ducks in the last five games was 18 yards.
'We adjusted our personnel to attack,' coach Mike Bellotti says. 'In some cases, maybe it (adjusting) took longer than it should have.'
Minnesota can dink-and-dunk all it wants, but if the Gophers can't hit the big pass play, the Ducks should hold them in check.
It'll be a matter of whether Oregon scores enough points. The offense must produce the way it did in scoring 34 against Oregon State.
THE PICK: Ducks 38, Gophers 24