Both the Oregon (6-0) and UCLA (3-3) are coming off much needed bye weeks. The Ducks, coming off a 20 point point win in Pullman and a bump up to #1 in the AP and coaches polls needed the time to heal as multiple payers left their last game with injuries. The Bruins came into their bye week banged up as well, most notably QB Kevin Prince who is looking more and more like a no go for Thursdays contest as a result of a knee injury he suffered in a win over then #7 Texas. On top of the question as to who will start vs the nations top ranked team, the Bruins still have the bad taste of a 28 point beat down at the hands of Cal lingering in their mouths.
With Prince’s availability seriously in question the Bruins will likely start sophomore QB Richard Brehaut. Despite being regarded as the better passer between the two, Brehaut, the second year player from Alta Loma, CA has yet to throw a TD pass in 55 career attempts and would be making just his second career start in one of college footballs most hostile environments. Prince is far and away a better runner than Brehaut, and a better fit in the Bruins newly installed pistol offense. His absence could prove to be costly as UCLA managed to gain just 26 rushing yards against Cal last time they stepped on the field, and comes into Thursdays match-up with the Ducks as the nations 118th ranked passing offense. Despite their struggles in their previous match-up UCLA still boasts the 13th ranked rushing offense in the land and they have defeated the last two ranked opponents they’ve faced, but if they want to have any chance of hanging around Thursday night in Autzen they are going to have to control the ball. Rick Nueheisel agreed that playing “…a little keep away from their juggernaut.” was going to be the key to keeping the game close for the Bruins.
While UCLA has struggled with consistency on the offensive side of the ball half way through the 2010 college football season, the Ducks have been down right dominant on offense thus far. Behind the running of Heisman candidate LeMichael James Oregon is leading the nation in scoring offense. Backup RB and explosive return man Kenjon Barner will not play for the Ducks this week as he is still feeling the effects of the concussion he sustained on a kickoff return at WSU. Barner was seen wearing earplugs at practice earlier in the week to avoid getting any headaches as a result of the noise blaring from the speakers in Autzen. Ducks QB Darron Thomas, despite an awkward fall on his throwing shoulder during the Ducks last game in Pullman, is healthy and ready to lead the impossibly fast paced Oregon offense into Thursday nights game.
Chip Kelley’s offense has shown little signs of weakness, but the Oregon defense has had a hard time making the same claim. The Ducks are giving up 28 points per game in their last 3 contests, and have often found themselves trailing in games early. CB Cliff Harris is looking to change all that as it looks as if he will get the start this week opposite Talamage Jackson despite not being listed on the two deep depth chart. Although the defense has struggled in the first half of games they have been absolutely lights out in the final 30 minutes after the break, giving up just 13 points after halftime the entire season!
With nearly two weeks to prepare for the Bruins sputtering offense look for the Ducks defense to fly around and make a lot of plays early in the game. UCLA’s defense is tough and athletic, but the best defense for the Bruins on Thursday night would undoubtedly be a great offense, and let’s just be honest their offense even with Norm Chao calling the shots is far from great. At the end of the day the pace and speed of the Oregon offense will prove to be too overwhelming for a tired Bruin defense that will find itself on the field entirely too much. With that being said, I don’t see Oregon sticking to their recent script and falling behind early only to dominate the rest of the game. Look for the Ducks to get on top early, and if UCLA is forced to pass their way back into the game they might be better off letting coach Neuheisel suit up in powder blue and gold for his first action in a Bruins uniform since 1984.
About the Author
Written by Jordan Nelson
University of Oregon calss of '06 currently working for Synrgy Sports Consulting (www.synrgysports.com / Twitter.com/synrgysports) as the director of student services. I also do some work for the facilities and operations staff in the Stanford athletic department. College football is my passion, and aside from the Ducks I also follow the rest of the Pac-10 and the Minnesota Vikings.