1. Don't Make Anti-Climatic, Climatic
With UCLA backing its way in to the Pac-12 title game by virtue of USC being ineligible to play in the game due to NCAA sanctions, conventional thought strongly favors the 8th ranked Ducks, who enter Friday's game against the 6-6 overall Bruins as 31-point favorites according to Vegas. UCLA's less than impressive record, coupled with the fact that Bruin head coach Rick Neuheisel has already been informed that he will be dismissed following the game, suggests that the Bruins' experience inside Autzen Stadium will more closely be associated with a torture chamber than anything resembling a competitive football game. Yet, that's precisely the pitfall for Oregon can't allow itself to succumb to. It would be all too easy to put this game on autopilot mentally and phone in a lackluster performance, but if rose colored visions are dancing through the Ducks' collective head, maintaining focus and finishing the job Friday evening must be priority one.
2. Avoid The Pistol's Repercussions
Once already this season, Oregon head coach Chip Kelly and the Ducks have faced the "Pistol" offense which UCLA will employ Friday night. Against Nevada and the Pistol's founder, Wolfpack head coach Chris Ault, the Ducks sprinted to a 69-20 win, despite allowing 516 yards of total offense to Nevada. In 2010, in two games against teams running he Pistol offense, Oregon defeated Portland State and, of course, UCLA by a combined score of 129-13. To say the Ducks have had success against this particular offensive philosophy would be an understatement, yet with the emotion (or lack there of) surrounding this Pac-12 Championship game, Oregon can't allow UCLA's 2011 version of the Pistol to catch them flat-footed. Behind running backs Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman, the Bruins rank third-best in the Pac-12 in rushing offense, averaging 193.25 yards per game. Conversely, UCLA's passing offense is one of the conference's worst, ranking only ahead of Utah in passing yards per game. If Oregon can limit the run early in the game, quick work could be made of the Bruins.
3. Stay Healthy, Wealthy and Wise
Really, the first part of that old adage is most applicable. With a win, the Ducks will clinch a berth in the Rose Bowl, their second in three years and third consecutive BCS appearance. Assuming Oregon takes care of business against the Bruins, the daunting challenge of facing the winner of the Big Ten Championship game pitting Wisconsin and Michigan State lies ahead. In order for the Ducks to have their best chance to secure Kelly's first BCS win as a head coach, Oregon must be healthy heading in to that game, which thus means that Oregon must navigate their game versus UCLA with no significant injuries. Many fans of Oregon will deem this season a disappointment if a Rose Bowl victory isn't achieved, which is also to say that the albatross of BCS failure hovering over the program will become that much heavier. Staying healthy and finishing the season with a third straight Pac-12 championship increases the chances of reversing lingering misfortunes from the past.
Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney
3 Keys To UCLA
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