The second-ranked Oregon Ducks (7-0) face their stiffest test yet in the 12th-ranked UCLA Bruins (5-1) on Saturday at 4 pm PST on ESPN. This the second game of a brutal back-to-back road trip for the Bruins, who are coming off a disappointing loss to the athletically superior nerds of Stanford in Palo Alto. This is the first time the teams have met since a disinterested Oregon team bested the Bruins in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game in 2011. But the Bruins have come a long way since being the Pac-12 South's best team not on probation.
The turnaround in Westwood has been a curious one. Throughout the history of the University of California at Los Angeles has long been viewed as a homunculus made in the image of the state's flagship university, the University of California at Berkley. The school colors are both blue and gold, albeit with different shades. The school fight songs "Sons of California" and "Sons of Westwood," albeit with a few subtle differences. And both school mascots are bears, albeit the happily married Joe Bruin gives off less of a creepy pedophile vibe than Oski. However, in a shocking turn of events, the rise of UCLA from mediocrity to a different kind of mediocrity began when the Bruins began to mimic the Oregon Ducks.
Both Oregon and UCLA run up-tempo offenses led by a star mobile quarterback. The Bruins have even begun donning stylish uniforms in recent years. The problem for UCLA is that they are a poor imitation. Oregon leads UCLA in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense, rushing offense, rushing defense, passing offense, pass efficiency offense, pass efficiency defense, kickoff return yardage, punt return yardage, passes intercepted, defensive sacks, sacks allowed, first downs, 4th down defense, penalties, turnover margin, red-zone defense and this may be hard to believe, field goal kicking. And the Ducks are healthier, too.
ESPN's College GameDay is traveling to Eugene for it's 8th visit to an Oregon game. It's a bit of a throwback, too. GameDay's first trip to the West Coast was for the Oregon-UCLA game in the Rose Bowl in 1998. It visited Eugene for the first time in 2000. Here's a blast from the past:
Here are the keys to the game:
Anthony Barr vs Marcus Mariota — Barr leads a group of linebackers from UCLA that will be the best unit the Oregon offense has faced to date. He's both athletic and smart. Will they be able to end Mariota's streak of gashing opponents on the ground? Can they get Mariota to play the derpball reminiscent of the second quarter against WSU? Tune in tomorrow to find out.
That offensive line, tho — Due to injuries sustained last weekend, UCLA is poised to start not one, not two, but three freshmen on its offensive line this week. The Bruins running game was already struggling with the injury to Jordon James (doubtful for tomorrow). Oregon is in the top 15 in the country for sacks forced and has the top rushing defense in the conference in terms of yards per carry surrendered. UCLA QB Brett Hundley may well spend the entire game running for his life in the backfield.
Can De'Anthony Thomas play? — I know what you're probably thinking: "wtf is de'anthony thomas lol." You might remember him as that guy who scored a few long touchdowns in September. Well, the explosive athlete has sat most of the month to recover from his ankle sprain on the opening play of the Cal game and is expected to play against the Bruins.
Around the league
Utah vs USC (1 pm PST, Pac-12 Network) — Ed Orgeron's crew of cripples (down to about 40 players on the active roster) host the Utes.
Arizona vs Colorado (5 pm PST, Pac-12 Network) — Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, the leading rusher in the Pac-12, set the conference record for rushing yards in a game against the Buffalings last season. Expect more of the same.
#8 Stanford vs Oregon State (7:30 pm PST, ESPN) — Can Stanford pull off the Herculean feat of beating Oregon State in Corvallis as Eastern Washington did earlier this season?
California vs Washington (8 pm PST, Fox Sports 1) — If a team on a three-game losing streak plays a 1-6 team after midnight on the east coast, would anyone notice? UW is commemorating the recently deceased coaching legend and "Dawgfather" Don James at the game.