Preview: UCLA at Oregon
by CFP Staff with contributions courtesy of the PAC-10
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Thursday night football in Autzen Stadium will be electric when Oregon, ranked No. 2 in the BCS compilation standings and No. 3 in the Congrove Computer Rankings, hosts UCLA.
UCLA leads the all-time series 39-24 and is 12-4 vs. the Ducks at Autzen Stadium, but Oregon has won seven of the last nine meetings, including two straight at home.
The past three games between the teams at Autzen have been decided by 10 points or less. In 2007, the Bruins registered a 16-0 shutout in the first game after QB Dennis Dixon suffered a torn ACL against Arizona. Then, backup QB Brady Leaf was knocked out of the UCLA game. The Ducks had risen to No. 2 in the BCS Standings prior to the Arizona loss.
Oregon (6-0, 3-0 Pac-10) hopes to avoid the same fate that doomed its 2007 campaign and UCLA enters the contest as a 3-touchdown underdog, both by the Vegas oddsmakers and the Congrove Computer power ratings.
This season's Oregon team is led by QB Darron Thomas who ranks third in the Pac-10 with 14 touchdown passes this season and has added two rushing scores. But the primary player to watch is LaMichael James. The explosive diminutive running back (5' 9" and 185 pounds) is one of the frontrunners for the 2010 Heisman Trophy. The redshirt sophomore is ranked No. 1 nationally with 169.6 yards per game. Sophomore cornerback Cliff Harris is the top punt returner in both average (25.45) and touchdowns (3), and is tied for second in interceptions per game (0.67.
If UCLA isn't intimidated enough, the Ducks lead the nation in scoring offense (54.3) and total offense (567.0). Oregon also ranks among the top 5 in turnover margin (2nd, +1.5), sacks allowed (2nd, 0.33), and rushing offense (3rd, 314.8).
Oregon senior defensive tackle Brandon Bair is tied for third in tackles for loss per game (2.00).
UCLA (3-3, 1-2) is tied for next-to-last in the conference, but knocked Texas from the unbeaten ranks earlier this year by running over the Longhorns. UCLA also has dominating home wins over a pair of teams nicknamed "Cougars", Houston (31-13) and Washington State (42-28).
It won't be lost on Oregon fans that UCLA knocked Houston QB's Case Keenum and Cotton Turner out for the season in the Bruins' win.
UCLA is 2nd in the PAC-10 in rushing, but averages almost 100 yards less per game than the Ducks. The Bruins are a distant last in passing offense with a paltry 95.5 yards per game.
UCLA redshirt sophomore running back Johnathan Franklin, like Oregon's James, is also smallish at 5'10", 198 pounds. He is 2nd in the conference with 679 yards for an average of 113.2 per game, though he was held to just 54 yards vs. Cal after turning in three straight performances of 100-plus yards, including 216 on 30 carries against Washington State.
Stopping Oregon's ridiculous offense is the problem. While UCLA leads the conference in pass defense, it checks in as the 3rd easiest team to run on, allowing 182.33 yards per game. In total defense, UCLA ranks 6th and Oregon ranks 3rd. The Ducks rank 4th in rushing defense.
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN, ESPN-3D and ESPN3.com beginning at 9 p.m. eastern.