Oregon Ducks vs. UCLA Bruins Complete Game Preview
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The Ducks are coming off another easy win, 62-38 over Washington State, which improved their record to 7-0. The Bruins lost 24-10 to No. 6 Stanford on Saturday in a game that made them look average. UCLA needs to return to the form it showed in the first five games of the season.
In its past 11 games, Stanford has beaten UCLA three times and Oregon once, proving its ability to shut down offenses that rely on speed and athleticism. Oregon has a fast and aggressive defense, but UCLA's offensive style matches up better against a defense like the Ducks.
The Bruins have the athletes and the speed to keep up with the Ducks if things fall in their favor, but traveling to Eugene on the heels of their first loss of the season could be too much to overcome.
Even with a loss to Oregon, UCLA would be 3-2 in the Pac-12 and would still control its destiny because Arizona State, which is 3-1 in conference play, must travel to play UCLA the Rose Bowl on Nov. 23. If UCLA loses to Oregon and goes on to win the rest of its regular-season games, this could serve as a Pac-12 Championship Game preview.
Here's everything you need to know:
Who: No. 3 Oregon Ducks (7-0) vs. No. 12 UCLA Bruins (5-1)
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Place: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore.
Radio: Oregon Sports Network, UCLA IMG Sports Network
All quotes were obtained either firsthand or via phone, unless otherwise noted.
Oregon Ducks vs. UCLA Video Preview
B/R Lead Writers Michael Felder and Adam Kramer preview the biggest Pac-12 game of the week.
Oregon Ducks Keys to Victory
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Play with a Chip on Their Shoulder
The Ducks are coming off another dominating performance in which they racked up 722 yards of offense in their 62-38 win over Washington State. But the defense's performance didn't sit well with them, especially defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. You can hear what he had to say in this video from Eugene's KEZI 9.
The Ducks gave up 38 points and 557 yards through the air, which did damage to their egos and reputation. The Washington State game was an anomaly, so expect the Ducks to come out angry, as they want to prove that their defense is closer to what it was through the first six games of the season than it was last week.
Get after Brett Hundley
Stanford had UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley rattled all day by disrupting the pocket and maintaining a presence in the UCLA backfield. Hundley appeared uncomfortable in the pocket against the Cardinal and never found his rhythm.
If Oregon is able to get pressure on the redshirt sophomore, it could be a long day for the Bruins.
Control the Line of Scrimmage
The Bruins have their best offensive line in years and will try to establish the run early in the game. Oregon has the defensive line not only to shut down the UCLA ground game, but also to get after Hundley when he looks to pass.
Oregon's offensive line will be facing a deep and talented front seven against UCLA and will need to control the point of attack to establish the run game. The Bruins have a lot of talent in their front seven, but not enough to keep the Ducks from a big day on the ground.
UCLA Bruins Keys to Victory
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Protect Brett Hundley
Stanford sacked Hundley four times, intercepted him twice and had him rattled from the opening drive. Hundley looked more like a backup than he did a Heisman Trophy candidate in the face of Stanford's pressure.
The Ducks don't have the dominating front seven the Cardinal do, but they can be dominant in their own way. They are faster and more athletic than the Cardinal up front, but that could actually benefit the Bruins.
The Bruins have the athletes to match the Ducks across the board. If their offensive line can protect Hundley, UCLA should be able to make plays against the Oregon defense.
Get the Offense Rolling
The UCLA offense was held in check against Stanford last week and needs to bounce back. The Bruins will need to score a lot more than the 10 points they did against the Cardinal to beat the Ducks.
To keep the ball away from the Ducks and to take the Autzen Stadium crowd out of the game, the Bruins will need to try to establish the run early. Running back Jordan James has been out with an injury, but he could be back this weekend. Having James on the field would help the Bruins get the ground game rolling.
Oregon Ducks Players to Watch
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Mariota showed that he is human last week with two fumbles against Washington State. Incredibly, they were the first two turnovers of the season for the Heisman Trophy candidate. He threw for 327 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Florida State QB Jameis Winston might have closed the gap in the Heisman race, but it wasn't because of Mariota's performance. Mariota can make a big statement in the Heisman race because he will be leading the Ducks against a tough Bruins defense ready to prove itself against the Ducks.
The confrontation between Mariota and UCLA linebacker Antony Barr should be one of the best individual matchups of the year, as Barr tries to get to Mariota on pass plays and the read-option. Barr is one of the few defenders in the country who has the potential to slow down Mariota by himself.
If Barr gets the best of the battle, the Bruins could keep it close. If Mariota can elude Barr and the rest of the Bruins' front seven, the Ducks should have no problem improving to 8-0.
The Ducks haven't exactly missed their biggest playmaker since he went out with an ankle injury on the opening kickoff against Cal. RB Byron Marshall and wide receiver Bralon Addison excelled in Thomas' absence and will remain a big part of the Ducks' game plan.
That being said, having someone on the field who can change a game in the blink of an eye will give any opposing coach a headache. Thomas' return will be dependent on the health of his ankle. Getting playing time against UCLA would be a good way for him to test his durability before the Ducks take on the Cardinal in two weeks.
UCLA Bruins Players to Watch
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The 6'4", 245-pound linebacker is among the best athletes in the country and should end up being selected in the first few picks of the 2014 NFL draft. Barr will take the field with the goal of containing Mariota in the passing game and on the ground. Barr is one of the few defenders in the country who is athletic enough to shadow the Oregon star.
Hundley was behind only Mariota as the Pac-12's leading contender for the Heisman Trophy until Stanford shut him down last week. The Bruins go as their star quarterback goes, and after last week, Hundley will be looking to make a statement against Mariota and the Ducks.
If he presses too hard, the Ducks will be all over him with their attacking defense. Expect Hundley to bounce back, but don't expect him to outplay Mariota.
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UCLA is building its program the same way that Oregon did. The Bruins are one of a select few teams in the country that can come close to matching the Ducks' speed and athleticism.
The Bruins have a lot of talented young players getting significant playing time, but they have never played in an environment like they will on Saturday night. The teams didn't meet in 2012, so Hundley will also be tested like never before from the opening play of the game. He is coming off his first poor performance of the year, and Autzen Stadium is no place to find your rhythm.
The Ducks feel disrespected by the No. 3 ranking in the BCS, but they know that a win over the Bruins will likely move them up into the No. 2 position. With the home crowd, the BCS slight and a chance to impress the nation with a win over UCLA, Oregon will come out on fire and fend off the Bruins early in the game.
In the end, the Ducks will have too much firepower, depth and experience for the Bruins to keep it close.
Prediction: Oregon 45, UCLA 20