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Oregon offensive linemen have a big task waiting when they take on Utah in the Pac-12 championship game.

Shane Lemieux likes watching Utah’s defense on film.

“If I was a defensive coordinator, that’s the kind of hard-nosed, physical football team I’d want,” the Oregon senior guard said as the Ducks (10-2) prepare to face Utah (11-1) in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. “They plug up the ‘A’ gaps and the linebackers are hard-hitting dudes. It’s the old-school stuff I grew up watching. I respect that defense a lot.”

Lemieux’s line has been praised as the best in the Pac-12 while Utah is regarded as the best in the conference on the defensive line. A similar story line developed before the season opener when Auburn defeated the Ducks 27-21.

“Utah doesn’t try to trick you with anything, just like Auburn,” Lemieux said. “They come at you and they want to stop the run and rush the passer. It is good on good. They are physical and we are physical so it’s who is going to give in first, I feel.”

Oregon has had the Pac-12 offensive lineman of the week during six of the past eight weeks with Lemieux and tackles Calvin Throckmorton and Penei Sewell each earning the honor twice. Utah has had the conference’s top defensive lineman in five of the past seven weeks with Bradlee Anae, John Penisini, Leki Fotu, and Mike Tafua all earning the recognition at least once.

“That is as good of a front as we’ve faced,” Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said. “As solid of a defense as their is. Perennially, they have been that way. You are not going to cancel any one of these guys out. They are all going to be big, physical, coached well and they are going to give us everything we want and we are excited about that.”

Utah leads the nation in run defense by allowing 56.3 yards per game, nearly 15 fewer than any other school. The Utes are third in the NCAA in scoring defense at 11.3 points per game and total defense by giving up 241.6 yards per game, which is 90 less than any other team in the Pac-12.

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Anae has 12 1/2 sacks while senior tackles Penisini and Fotu, who both weight 335 pounds, have a combined 14 tackles for loss. Tafua, a sophomore, has 6 1/2 tackles for loss.

“Four NFL players, that’s how we see them,” Lemieux said. “They have 330-pound guys who rush the passer, so that is rare to see.”

Linebackers Devin Lloyd and Francis Bernard lead the Utes with 76 and 73 tackles, respectively, followed by safety Terrell Burgess with 63.

“Every level of this defense is good, it’s all over the film,” Arroyo said. “They go from sideline to sideline and top to bottom. They’ve proven that so this is going to be a great test.”

Utah has seven seniors in the starting lineup on defense with two juniors and two seniors.

“A top tier, elite program,” Lemieux said. “I think this is the biggest challenge we are going to face. On film, they really pop. They are physical and they rally to the ball, they are everything you want want a defense to be. We are excited to go up against them.”

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