Just two teams remain undefeated in PAC-12 play. Oregon and UCLA. In typical conference cannibalism fashion, those two will play each other this weekend. The Bruins are the ninth-ranked team in the country, while the Ducks come in at number 10.
Many are surprised by UCLA’s massive leap this season in the conference and their 6-0 start to begin the season. Chip Kelly has this team firing on all cylinders and is really proving that if you give a coach enough time, he can rebuild a program and create a winner.
This is the most important game that will go down in the PAC-12 so far this season. For starters, another loss likely eliminates Oregon from the College Football Playoff discussion. With a win, UCLA should rightfully have a seat at the table with a 7-0 record and wins over some good teams.
The energy will undoubtedly be felt at Autzen Stadium as this is just the first Top-10 matchup to be played there since 2014. Oregon obviously loves playing in Eugene, where they have a 22-game winning streak, the third-longest in the nation.
This will be a fight for the Ducks, but one where they can come out on top. The keys to this one will be stopping Dorian Thompson-Robinson, keeping Bo Nix moving, and using the home-field advantage.
The Bruins QB
Thompson-Robinson is a stud, and there is no doubt about it. This guy has been torching defenses all season long and is one of the most versatile signal-callers in the nation.
In a game against Utah, which is similar to the one coming up, he torched the Utes. He threw for four touchdowns and rushed for two. He is as accurate as anyone in the nation and owns the Bruins’ passing touchdown record in the high 70s. Simply said, he will be the difference maker in this game, and the Ducks have to find a way to at least slow him down because, at this point, I’m not sure you can even stop him.
The quarterback has undoubtedly stood out to Dan Lanning, who answered questions about him during his weekly press conference,
“High percentage passes. He’s completing the ball well, and when they run the ball, he’s a threat to run it. When you don’t turn it over, that’s a big piece. They’ve done a good job in that category, especially since early in the season. They’ve gotten better and better as the season has gone on.”
Nix on the Run
Bo Nix has been the pleasant surprise of the season at the QB position, putting up better numbers than he ever did at Auburn. He is getting it done with not only his arm but also his legs, reminding Ducks fans a little bit of Justin Herbert and some other Oregon QB that won the Heisman once upon a time.
His rushing scores rank second in the Pac-12, and just this month, he rushed for three against Arizona. UCLA has a very stout run defense, but that typically refers to their play against runners coming straight out of the backfield. If Nix can keep the secondary guessing with legs and create some separation for receivers, the Ducks can open up this offense and score points as they have been.
Let’s not forget that the Ducks have the biggest advantage in their home crowd in this game. Not only is this matchup already huge because it features two top-10 teams, but I would say that Chip Kelly coming back will juice up this crowd quite a bit.
It wasn’t that long ago that it felt like fans would be happy to welcome Kelly home once Mario Cristobal dipped for Miami. Instead, the job went to Lanning, and I guess we will never know if there were even talks with the former Ducks coach.
He’s been back to Eugene to face Oregon but never in a spot like this. It’s easily the biggest game of his UCLA career and could absolutely catapult the Bruins. But winning in Autzen is hard, I mean really hard. 22 straight victories aren’t easy to come by, and on top of the rowdy crowd, rain is in the forecast for Saturday, which tips the scale in favor of the Ducks, not the team from sunny LA.
Kelly is excited about returning home in this game,
“It’s always special going back there. It’s a special place in my life. There are a lot of great people there that had a profound impact on my life. But I’m not playing the game. So we’re totally focused. We get in Friday around 6 and play at 12:30 the next day. We all know what this entails. It’s a business trip, just like any other week.”
Sounds like it’s all business to him.
Points will run rampant, quarterbacks will have highlight reels, and the Ducks will have their 23rd straight win. This Oregon defense has stepped up over the last few weeks, and Kelly admits it’s a concern for him. This will be a staple Dan Lanning win.
UCLA 35 Oregon 42