Heisman frontrunner Mariota, Ducks look to continue their dominance against Pac-12 foe
UCLA comes into this game against the No. 3 Ducks after a brutal 24-10 loss against Stanford. Things don't get any easier as they get a firsthand look at the nation's second-best scoring offense at 57.6 points per game. Bruins' quarterback Brett Hundley needs to bounce back from last week's poor performance, in which he threw two interceptions. UCLA will also need to put together a better run game than the 74 yards they racked up last week. If Stanford rushed for 192 yards against the UCLA defense last week, Mark Helfrich and the Ducks are probably drooling as they prepare for this game. Oregon has won four-straight games in this series, but UCLA holds a 39-26 all-time record against the Ducks. Tune it to ESPN at 7 pm ET to watch the nation's most exciting offense.
Three Things to Watch
The aforementioned title goes to the uber-talented Oregon QB Marcus Mariota. Mariota has thrown for 2,051 yards with 19 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also has rushed for nearly 500 yards, averaging over 10 yards a rush, and has piled up nine rushing touchdowns. No defense has been able to stop him or the Oregon offense yet. Mariota has tallied 14 total touchdowns in just three Pac-12 contests. Despite UCLA's defense, which is 19th in the nation in points allowed, Mariota should continue his rampage on the college football world.
UCLA pass protection
The Bruins offensive line is inexperienced and struggled last week against Stanford. Hundley was under consistent pressure and responded with his worst game of the 2013 campaign. UCLA is actually starting three true freshmen on the offensive line. Tony Washington heads up a deep and talented Oregon defensive line. Washington leads the Ducks with 6.5 sacks and 9.0 tackles for loss. The quickness of the Oregon defensive line, which normally rotates in six or seven players, could spell trouble for UCLA's offensive line.
Return of De'Anthony Thomas
Oregon's dynamic tailback is due to return after missing three weeks. The Ducks' offense is already nearly unstoppable and the reintegration of Thomas will just make it that much better. Thomas' versatility and ability to line up all over the field makes him a matchup nightmare. Not to mention, he may just be the fastest player in the country. Thomas immediately improves the Ducks' running game and passing game, making the read option with Mariota even more lethal. Good luck Bruins.
Player to Watch: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Despite top-level talents in Mariota, De'Anthony Thomas and even Brett Hundley, Anthony Barr could be the best player in this game. He has the pro scouts raving as many are calling him the nation’s top defensive player, vaulting over preseason draft favorite Jadeveon Clowney. Stanford coach David Shaw compared Barr to former All-Pro Jevon Kearse. They certainly have reason to make such claims as Barr has racked up four sacks, 10 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles in just six games. Barr is probably the Bruins only chance to stop Oregon's deadly read option plays.
UCLA is a top-15 team, and Jim Mora has this program on the right track. But this is Oregon. I actually don't doubt that UCLA can keep up with the Ducks from a points perspective, but I really don't see the Bruins being able to stop the combo of Mariota and Thomas. Stanford is just a bad matchup for UCLA so I expect their offense to look better, despite Oregon looking to be on its way to the national title game.
Prediction: Oregon 45, UCLA 28