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UCLA Bruins vs. Oregon Ducks: Preview and Pick

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On 10/20/2013 12:53 PM in NCAA Football
UCLA Bruins vs. Oregon Ducks: Preview and Pick

The Oregon Ducks are one of the favorite teams to play the Alabama Crimson Tide for the BCS Championship. However, the Ducks have to avoid falling down during the season if they want that rematch to happen. One of those potential pitfalls happens this week when the Ducks go up against the Bruins. UCLA has a very good football team and they have all the tools to go up against the Ducks.

UCLA Bruins vs. Oregon Ducks Odds

The college football odds for this game opened up with the Ducks listed as (-20) point favorites. This number is high due to the fact that the Ducks have yet to lose and the Bruins are off a very ugly loss to the Stanford Cardinal. If the Bruins were able to pull off that upset then this line would have at least been below -20 at several of the top rated sportsbooks.

How bad did it get for the Bruins? UCLA was held to 74 yards rushing. Malcolm Jones had a team-high 30 yards, 28 on UCLA's first three plays. He had two carries the rest of the game.

Mora said that Jones was in at the start because they had us backed up. UCLA started at the four-yard line after Stanford downed a punt. It only got worse from there. The offensive play of the game was by Stanford wide receiver Kodi Whitfield, who reached up with his right hand to make a one-handed catch between two UCLA defensive backs on a 30-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. They will have to play better if they hope to beat the Ducks.

The college football betting trends for this game reveal many positive angles for both teams. The Ducks are 13-3 against the spread (ATS) in their last 16 games after accumulating more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game, 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games after scoring more than 40 points in their previous game and 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games after scoring more than 40 points in their previous game.

The Bruins are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games after scoring less than 20 points in their previous game, 7-1 ATS in their last 8 games after accumulating less than 100 yards rushing in their previous game and 4-1 ATS in their last 5 road games when playing a team with a winning home record. The road team and the underdog is 7-3 ATS in their last 10 meetings.

UCLA Bruins vs. Oregon Ducks Pick
With plenty of time before kickoff we will wait for more information to come in before we select a side on this contest. Make sure to check back on the day of the game to see who we select as our winner for this big game.
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10/21/2013 02:38 PM

Out of the frying pan and into Eugene.

The "O" word was used a lot by UCLA football players Saturday. It wasn't "ouch" after being pounded on in a 24-10 victory by Stanford, now ranked No. 8. Nor was it "Oregon," in anticipation of playing the second-ranked Ducks this week.

"We have another big opportunity," quarterback Brett Hundley said.

Said linebacker Jordan Zumwalt: "We had an opportunity to take a step."

And now? "We have an opportunity to grow," Zumwalt said.

Having such opportunities against two of the nation's top teams on consecutive weekends caused Coach Jim Mora to chuckle during his Sunday evening teleconference call.

"Well, they are both very good football teams," Mora said. "They are very different in the ways they play the game. It is two very hostile environments to go in to play."

Which brings things back to opportunity.

The Bruins weren't able to seize it against bump-and-grind Stanford, losing for the first time. It was a game the Bruins could have won . . . and one they could have lost by more.

Now comes fast-and-furious Oregon, the back end of a two-game swing in seven days.

Said Mora: "No one said it was going to be easy."

Yeah, but the Pac-12 Conference schedule makers seemed to go out of their way to make it tough.

Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian has hard-knock experience in this area.

The Huskies played Stanford and Oregon back to back this season. They pushed the Cardinal to the limit in a 31-28 loss at Palo Alto, then wilted against Oregon, 45-24, the following week in Seattle.

There was nothing to be learned there.

"Maybe if Washington was able to beat Oregon or slow them down," Mora said. "But Oregon is a special team."

The aftershock Washington suffered might be worth noting. The Huskies were pummeled by Arizona State, 53-24, on Saturday, a week after the Oregon game. Fortunately for the 12th-ranked Bruins, Pac-12 doormat Colorado is their follow-up to Oregon.

Attrition was on Mora's mind.

The Bruins may be without two key players this week, linebacker Eric Kendricks and offensive tackle Simon Goines.

Kendricks, the team's leading tackler, went to a hospital for tests on his kidney. All were negative. Mora said he suffered a bruise during the Stanford game, though he was unsure whether it was a bruise to the kidney or to "the surrounding tissue."

Goines, who protects Hundley's blind side, reinjured his right knee. Conor McDermott, his backup, suffered a separated shoulder. The Bruins have already lost starting tackle Torian White for the season after he tore a ligament and broke a bone in his right leg Oct. 3 against Utah.

Mora was unsure whether Kendricks, Goines or McDermott would play. The Bruins were already without starting running back Jordon James and receiver Darius Bell.

Heading to Eugene short-handed is far from a start to the perfect game plan.

"My concerns right now are health along the offensive line," Mora said. "I'm not quite sure what we can put together up front. We're very young and not very deep."

That could be a linchpin issue in UCLA's effort to keep the Ducks' point-a-minute offense off the field. Oregon averages 57.6 points per game.

Stanford beat Oregon in Eugene last season, 17-14 in overtime. The Cardinal held on to the ball for 37 minutes. The Bruins' offensive line showed that it's not quite on par with Stanford's unit Saturday, at least not yet.

Stanford started four seniors on the offensive line, two fifth-year seniors. UCLA started two sophomores and two freshmen, then lost Goines. Hundley spent the day being pursued.

The Bruins' line also had four penalties — three false starts and an illegal motion — that disrupted the offensive rhythm.

UCLA had 74 yards rushing, the second consecutive week the Bruins have been held under 100 yards.

"I didn't see it as a setback," offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. "I saw it as part of the learning process in becoming a great football team."

UCLA has a week to get a little greater.

Said Hundley: "In order to be a championship team, sometimes you're going to get knocked down. It's really about what you do when you get knocked down."

In this case, play Oregon.

"The great thing is we get to line up next week and do it again, against a really good football team," Mazzone said.

One that is better than Stanford?

"A really good football team," Mazzone said.

One that is better than Stanford?

"I'm not going to say that about Stanford," Mazzone said. "They just whupped our [tails]."
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10/22/2013 02:35 PM
Oregon star De’Anthony Thomas on Monday said he returned to practice and said he “should” play Saturday when the No. 2 Ducks play host to No. 12 UCLA at Autzen Stadium.

“I’m ready. I’m hungry and ready to get back on the field,’’ Thomas said.

Thomas hasn’t played since Sept. 28, when he sprained his right ankle on the opening kickoff against California. The Ducks’ top running back hasn’t carried the ball since Sept. 14 against Tennessee. He said he is not worried about taking a hit on Saturday.

“When I’m in the game, I don’t really get hit that much,’’ Thomas said.

Thomas was the Ducks’ leading rusher and scorer before his injury, and said he was “pretty close” to playing last week against Washington State.

“I just felt like I should wait one more week to be on the safe side,’’ Thomas said.

Thomas is one of the most explosive and versatile players on the Ducks. He is the team’s top kick returner, top running back and throughout his career he has lined up as wide receiver, a slot receiver. This season, he has 42 rushes for 340 yards (8.0 yards per carry) and six touchdowns. He has also caught three passes for 58 yards (19.3 average). He also averaged 23.2 yards on five kickoff returns, with a long of 32.

While Thomas was sidelined, sophomore Byron Marshall started and rushed for more than 100 yards in all four games, including 192 yards and three touchdowns last week against Washington State. True freshman Thomas Tyner also excelled, rushing for 94 yards and a touchdown against Cal and 99 yards and two touchdowns against Washington State.

Offensive coordinator Scott Frost called his stable of running backs “a luxury” and said he has confidence using all three of them in a game.

Thomas said he did not experience any pain while cutting in Monday’s practice and said the ankle didn’t prevent him from making any moves or doing any activity. He said he does not yet know if Saturday’s return will also include him returning kicks.
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10/23/2013 02:35 PM
UCLA coach Jim Mora has told NFL scouts that Oregon star Marcus Mariota will be a star at the next level.

Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley is also projected to play in the NFL, but he may be dealing with a patchwork offensive line again as he enters off a rough effort.

These star quarterbacks meet Saturday in Eugene, and the second-ranked Ducks expect running back De'Anthony Thomas to return from a three-game absence to face the No. 12 Bruins.

Mariota has developed into one of the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy with an astounding 19 touchdown passes to no interceptions along with nine rushing scores for Oregon (7-0, 4-0 Pac-12).

"I had a couple guys ask me, NFL guys, if I thought he could play at the next level," Mora said. "I said, 'Have you not watched him? I mean, he'll rip it up at the next level.' I mean this guy is ripping it up at this level. He's really special."

It's possible that part of what makes Mariota special is his approach this week after he lost two fumbles in last Saturday's 62-38 rout of Washington State. Even though he threw for 327 yards and two scores and carried eight times for 67 yards and another TD, Mariota is focused on improvement.

"Obviously I've got to take care of the ball a lot better," Mariota said. "I was pretty non-chalant with it in the pocket and we can't have that."

Scouts who travel to Oregon this weekend to check out Mariota will also get a chance to see another dual-threat QB in Hundley.

The UCLA junior will try to bounce back after he was held to a season-low 192 yards passing while getting sacked four times by then-No. 13 Stanford last Saturday. He played behind an injury-plagued line in that 24-10 defeat.

"Hundley's the type of guy that can work with that, being an athletic guy, being a versatile guy, who can run, who can throw, who can make plays, (the) quick game down the field, all the things that they do," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said.

It didn't help the Bruins (5-1, 2-1) that running back Jordon James missed a second straight game with an ankle injury. UCLA was held to a season-low 74 yards on the ground without James, who is averaging 115.8 yards.

Left tackle Simon Goines exited with a knee injury and his status is also uncertain.

The Ducks are getting healthier since Thomas expects to play. Thomas suffered a sprained right ankle on the opening kickoff of a 55-16 win over California on Sept. 28, and hasn't carried the ball in a game since two weeks prior to that against Tennessee.

Oregon's rushing attack hasn't missed a beat in the last four games Thomas hasn't carried the ball, with Byron Marshall totaling 550 yards and seven rushing touchdowns in that span.

Thomas, who totaled 330 yards and six TDs on the ground in his first three games, has returned to practice and enjoyed what he saw from the sideline.

"It's great just to go out there, see guys having fun," Thomas said. "I hope we can continue that, and put more points up on teams and I feel as long as we keep winning games, we should be successful."

The Ducks trail top-ranked Alabama and No. 3 Florida State in the first BCS standings of the season, but insist they aren't concerned.

"That's their opinions, we have no control over that," Mariota said. "We'll just continue to take it one game at a time."

Mariota will have to worry about UCLA star linebacker Anthony Barr, who Helfrich feels presents a big matchup problem. Barr leads the Bruins with 11 tackles for loss.

Although UCLA suffered its first loss last week, Mora felt his team can draw on plenty of positives after going on the road and nearly beating one of the conference's powerhouses.

"I believe that last week, we started seven true freshmen if you include the punter against one of the best teams in America and we took it down to the end," the coach said. "It was 17-10 there with 2:29 or whatever left on the clock. I think that's a testament to the way our guys compete, I think it's a testament to our coaching."

These teams did not meet last season. The Ducks have taken the last four matchups and totaled 109 points in the past two.
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10/24/2013 03:14 PM
The UCLA Bruins were the toast of LA as USC was fresh off of losing and firing their head coach. The Bruins were ranked in the top ten and were touting a Heisman hopeful at quarterback. And then they got smacked on the road by Stanford. Brett Hundley went from a major offensive weapon behind center to throwing for 192 yards and two interceptions. The reality check hurt and it wasn't pretty. UCLA's offensive line was dominated and exposed by the Cardinal defensive front. And their conciliation prize is another road trip, this time to Eugene.

And the Ducks just keep rolling along. They again embarrassed a PAC 12 opponent by defeating Washington State 62-38. At least Mike Leach's Cougars were able to put some points on the board. I honestly don't think that UCLA has a chance in this game unless Oregon looks ahead to next week's contest at Stanford. That game will more than likely decide the PAC 12 title and will have national title implications for both teams as well. Stanford has one loss but they are not out of the BCS title picture.
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10/24/2013 03:17 PM
Keys for UCLA.

1. Play defense.
You're unlikely to win a shootout, so don't get into that mindset. Stopping the run gives you a good chance to win. I wasn't able to find the number of sacks or hurries quickly enough, but that should be a part of the gameplan.

2. Be aggressive (but not stupid).
You've got to make plays. Force turnovers, go for it on fourth down. Pressure the quarterback, but don't leave the back end or the perimeter vulnerable.

3. Be disciplined.
Don't shoot yourself in the foot with stupid penalties. This will also be true in terms of keeping contain and staying in the assigned position on defense and running routes properly on offense -- this hurt against Stanford. Get to the line on defense and don't let Oregon snap it before the defense is ready.

4. Zone blitzing with disguised coverage.
Oregon wants to play fast. Spanos needs to disguise coverages and blitzes, he needs to show blitz and then not bring it. This will need to be practiced at full speed because Oregon doesn't give a defense much time to adjust. Try to confuse the offense.

5. Disrupt the offense with offense.
Put together methodical sustained drives to keep Oregon's offense on the sidelines. This isn't about conservative playcalling, but it's about putting together sustained drives and conversely, not getting into 3 and out situations
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10/25/2013 03:44 PM
Oregon’s running game didn’t skip a beat with De’Anthony Thomas sidelined. DAT is expected back today, and combines with Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner to give the Ducks a wealth of options at tailback.

No time to think: In UCLA’s loss to Stanford, quarterback Brett Hundley was under constant pressure behind a depleted offensive line and threw two interceptions. Look for defensive linemen Tony Washington (nine sacks), Taylor Hart (three sacks), and Wade Keliikipi (three sacks) to make life difficult for the Bruins’ signal caller.

Marvelous Mariota: Marcus Mariota isn’t flawless after all. He had his first turnovers of the season (two fumbles) in last week’s rout of Washington State. The Heisman Trophy frontrunner has thrown 19 TD passes without an interception and has run for 493 yards and nine scores.

Autzen Magic: The Ducks have won 33 of their past 35 games at Autzen Stadium. The “House of Loud” will be rockin’
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10/25/2013 03:46 PM
Jim Mora wants to make sure one loss doesn't derail UCLA.

The No. 12 Bruins, coming off a disheartening loss to Stanford, have a chance for redemption — in a big way — against the No. 2 Oregon Ducks this Saturday.

"I don't think any one game ever really defines you. Whether you've arrived or you're not very good or whatever, I think it's your body of work," Mora said. "So far our body of work is for the good. It's got to get better at the end of the season to see where we are." The coach added: "There is a process to building something. There is a process to going through a season."

But the Bruins (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) face a considerable challenge in Oregon (7-0, 4-0), which is favored by more than three touchdowns. UCLA has not won at Autzen Stadium since 2004, and the team hasn't defeated the Ducks since a 16-0 blanking in 2007.

The two teams last met in 2011, when Oregon downed UCLA 49-31 in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game.

The Ducks, meanwhile, are looking to show they belong in the conversation for this season's national championship. Oregon is ranked No. 3 in the initial BCS standings, behind Alabama and Florida State.

The Ducks are averaging just over 643 yards in total offense and 57.6 points per game, second among FBS-level teams in both categories, but they've just played one game against a ranked opponent this season —a 45-24 victory over then-No. 16 Washington at Husky Stadium.

Oregon is coming off a 62-38 victory at home last weekend over Washington State.

"Of course we like where this season is going and how we have played so far but we really try to not pay attention to the rankings," Ducks receiver John Huff said. "We take it one day at a time, one week at a time, and just continue trying to get better."

For Oregon the next big test comes quickly: The Ducks next travel to face No. 8 Stanford in a Thursday night game on Nov. 7.

Here are five things to look for when UCLA visits Oregon on Saturday:

DAT'S RETURN:
Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas says he plans to play this weekend. Thomas hurt his right ankle on the opening kickoff in Oregon's 55-16 victory over California on Sept. 28, slipping on slick turf from a driving rain. He's missed three games since then, although he has suited up for each one. Thomas ran for 338 yards and six touchdowns in Oregon's first three games this season. "I'm ready, I'm hungry and ready to get back on the field," Thomas said.

JAMES UNCERTAINTY:
It wasn't immediately known whether UCLA junior running back Jordon James would play against the Ducks. James, who has missed the past two games because of an ankle injury, ran for more than 100 yards in each of the Bruins' first three games, including 155 yards rushing against Nebraska. UCLA could use his help: The team ran for just 74 yards in the loss to Stanford.

DEPLETED OFFENSIVE LINE:
Mid-season injuries have hit UCLA's offensive line, and on Saturday the Bruins are expected to play three freshmen there: Alex Redmond at right guard, Caleb Benenoch at right tackle and Scott Quessenberry at left guard. The Bruins have played 17 true freshmen this season. "For us, we're going to play the best players, the guys who give us the best chance to win, and right now that's some freshmen. So we're playing a bunch of them," Mora said.

MARIOTA'S MARCH:
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota remains one of the top picks for many Heisman Trophy pundits. So far this season, he's thrown for 2,051 yards and 19 touchdowns, while running for 493 yards and nine more scores. He has thrown a touchdown and run for one in the last nine straight games. And he's made 265 pass attempts without an interception, an ongoing Pac-12 record that dates back to last season.

HUNDLEY'S GOOD, TOO:
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is averaging nearly 277 yards passing and 325 total offensive yards a game. He's run for 287 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 1,661 yards and 13 scores this season. "I don't think he's as fast as Marcus, but he's a real strong guy and he's elusive," Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. "He can extend plays and whenever a quarterback can do that, just like our guy, it's tough."

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10/25/2013 03:47 PM
Asiantii Woulard might be UCLA’s quarterback of the future, but right now his job description is a little bit different. Woulard, the Bruins’ 6-foot-3, 205-pound freshman, has yet to take a snap as a backup for starter Brett Hundley this season. But that hasn’t stopped coach Jim Mora Jr. from assigning Woulard a truly difficult task as the program prepares for No. 2 Oregon on Saturday.

For much of this week, Woulard was asked to play the role of Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota in practice.

“[Woulard is] about the same height and weight as Marcus,” Mora said during this week’s Pac-12 teleconference. “[He] certainly doesn’t have the experience Marcus has, but we put him back there and tell him to do his thing. Marcus is fun to watch; he’s very difficult to prepare for. You’re never going to be able to find a kid in your scout team to put out there and say, ‘OK, you’re Marcus Mariota.’”

That’s not a slight on Woulard; he was rated as ESPN’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback recruit in the class of 2013 as a senior at Winter Park (Fla.) High. Rather, it’s a nod to the challenge UCLA will face in Eugene. Mariota is putting together a Heisman Trophy-worthy résumé for the unbeaten Ducks.

Defenses have had very little luck stopping Oregon’s offense this season. The Ducks have scored at least 45 points in all seven games, and Mariota is the biggest cog in that machine. He has passed for 2,051 yards with 19 touchdowns and no interceptions. In Oregon’s biggest victory to date, a 45-24 win at Washington two weeks ago, the sophomore torched the Huskies previously stingy pass defense for 366 yards and a season-high 77.4 completion percentage.

Mariota could also have another weapon available with the expected return of tailback De’Anthony Thomas, who has missed the last three games with an ankle injury. Mora said there aren’t many glaring holes in Oregon’s attack, though Ducks coach Mark Helfrich sees it differently.

“I think in everything, in every phase, we can get better, starting with me and everything that we do,” Helfrich said on the teleconference. “We’re always getting better. We’re always going to try to be more efficient in what we’re doing well, and change some things we aren’t doing well.”

The Bruins will look to shake off their first loss of the year, last week’s 24-10 defeat at Stanford, a game in which the Cardinal held Hundley to a season-low 192 yards and forced two interceptions. UCLA managed only 266 yards of total offense on the day and didn’t reach the end zone until the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Mariota will look to improve his ball security. Against Washington State last Saturday, he lost two first-half fumbles that both led to Cougars’ touchdowns. Those miscues marked Mariota’s first turnovers of the year.

“Obviously I have to take care of the ball better,’’ Mariota told The Oregonian. “I was pretty nonchalant with it in the pocket and we can’t have that. Lucky for us, we were fortunate to come out with a win with that, but a couple of these next games, we can’t have that.’’

Oregon’s defense could ultimately determine this week’s outcome. UCLA is set to start three freshmen (tackle Caleb Benenoch, guard, Alex Redmond and guard Scott Quessenberry) on the offensive line, and they’ll be asked to block a Ducks’ defense that ranks third in the Pac-12 with 20 sacks. According to Mora, UCLA’s veterans need to play a major role in steadying a largely inexperienced team.

“[Our veterans] impressed me immediately last year with their ability to just refocus,” Mora said. “If you’re going to be a good football team, there’s got to be a consistency with how you prepare and how you perform, how you handle wins and how you handle losses, how you handle games against Stanford and Oregon … It’s just about developing a consistency.”

Of course, in order to stand a chance, UCLA must slow Mariota, who is quickly emerging as the most dynamic player in college football.

“It’s certainly a challenge,” Mora said. “They’re very efficient in the way they play the game, they’ve got a lot of skill, and you’ve got to be prepared on every play, or they make you pay for it.”
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