The first year of the Pac-12 conference championship game is not what many expected as the ninth-ranked Oregon Ducks host the struggling UCLA Bruins on Friday at Auzten Stadium in Eugene.
Oregon (10-2) go into the title game following a resounding victory over in-state rival Oregon State, while UCLA (6-6) are coming off perhaps their most demoralizing loss in years, as they got thumped by crosstown rival USC, 50-0.
It will be the last game Rick Neuheisel serves as the Bruins' head coach, as the former Bruin quarterback failed to live up to the lofty expectations he set for the program when he arrived in December 2007. UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero has already begun the search for a replacement.
The Bruins will need to force turnovers, and minimize mistakes against Oregon. UCLA is playing for a bowl bid, and an upset victory would mean a better bowl game, and a positive send off to Neuheisel.
Though UCLA has had its share of poor showings this season, there have been bright spots. The Bruins defeated Arizona State when the Sun Devils were ranked 19th in the nation. UCLA also played a competitive game with undefeated Houston, and handily defeated Colorado.
The Bruins will likely run a lot of plays for Johnathan Franklin, who has rushed for 912 yards this season. The junior running back has three games where he has rushed for 100 yards or more.
Quarterback Kevin Prince will need to be on his game, as well. The junior has only thrown eight touchdown passes, to go along with seven interceptions, this season. Should Prince have a big game, he could go into next season as the probable starter, as freshman Brett Hundley looks to take over in 2012.
UCLA will especially need a substantial improvement on defense. The Bruins were completely out-matched by the Trojans last week, and they will be facing one of the most explosive offenses in the nation.
The Ducks pile up points in bunches, and they often look unstoppable with their spread offense. Oregon's lowest scoring output all season was in its first game against top-ranked LSU, when they scored 27 points. The Ducks average nearly 46 points a game this season.
USC head coach Lane Kiffin described the Oregon defense as under-rated, as the Ducks have limited six opponents to under 25 points.
A player on offense that might be considered under-rated is quarterback Darron Thomas. The speedy junior has thrown 27 touchdown passes and only five interceptions, while also being a threat to scramble.
While Thomas perhaps flies under the radar, LaMichael James is one of the most prolific running backs in college football. James, a junior, might make himself eligible for the NFL Draft, as he has rushed for 1427 yards this season, and 14 touchdowns.
The Ducks should be in good shape next season should James forgo his senior year, as De'Anthony Thomas has lived up to expectations. The freshman running back has nearly amassed a combined 1,000 yards rushing and receiving this season, and the Bruins will need to limit James and Anthony if they expect to make the game competitive.
This is the first meeting between the two schools this season, but the Ducks annihilated the Bruins last season in Eugene, 60-13.
LINE: Oregon is favored by 32.
OVER/UNDER: 66 points.
PREDICTION: This game might be over by the start of the end of the first quarter. The Bruins will need a lot of luck, and play nearly flawless football if they expect to make a game of this. By the way they seemed to have quit against USC, it seems hard to believe they can give the Ducks a good game. Oregon will likely throw the ball early, and then rely on the running game in the red zone. Expect multiple touchdowns from James.
PREDICTED SCORE: Oregon 62, UCLA 10.