UCLA will enter Oregon's "octagon" a man down on the offensive line, meaning they'll be adding a third freshman to their already "green" protective unit. Under normal circumstances one would be hesitant to tread in confident waters against the juggernaut which has been Oregon over the first-half of this season's campaign, but with now 3 true freshmen assigned to protect their standout quarterback Brett Hundley, those in baby-blue and gold will likely be preparing for the worst of receptions, from an Oregon team with something to prove.
Last week's initial BCS rankings left many a Duck scratching their heads, and many more crying foul. Through 7 games this year, Oregon has been dominant against all-comers. They've destroyed who they should (Nicholls, Colorado, Cal), dominated who others haven't (Virginia, Washington, and Washington State), and embarrassed a Tennessee team who's been causing a lot of the SEC's "elite" grief since their walk-of-shame home from the Willamette Valley exactly 6 weeks ago. Yet, in spite of said dominance, their resume´ left them looking up at the two-time defending champion (Alabama), and a Florida State team riding a wave of momentum stemming from their mind-boggling beat down of a Clemson team most thought was pretty good.
Like it or not, the Crimson Tide have earned the benefit of the doubt in spite of their laughable schedule to this point, and the Seminoles do own this season's most impressive win. So while neither team fails to look the part of a title contender, Duck fan's are out for blood, while their players may have a better understanding of the importance of winning, and more importantly how you do it.
Beating the Bruins would make a point, but beating them beyond recognition would go a long way towards selling Oregon as one of this season's 2-team winners. Most experts suggest an undefeated Oregon resume´ would trump that of an undefeated FSU, Ohio State, or even Baylor or Mizzou. But the way I see it; why do something half-ass, when you have the ability to leave little doubt?
Jim Mora Jr. has resurrected his career since taking over at UCLA, and has quickly emerged as a "flavor of the week" regarding movers and shakers coaching the college game. But he's yet to see firsthand what Oregon brings to the table, and I'm guessing he's a bit nervous about his first taste of a meal Oregon's been serving for the better part of this decade.
The Bruins are going to need some help if they're going to win this game, but if they get it I'll be surprised. Mariota's proved his worth on the big stage, Marshall and Tyner have improved every week, and oh by the way, the country's most dynamic playmaker (De'Anthony Thomas) is returning this afternoon from an absence of four weeks which likely has him fresh, strong and chomping at the bit to announce his presence with authority.
Can UCLA win this game? Of course they CAN, but they'll need more than the element of surprise to do so. They'll need to an inexperienced line to overachieve, a capable quarterback to live up to his billing, and a defense previously thought to be so-so…be anything but. They'll have to rattle an Oregon quarterback thought to be unrattleable, defuse a raucous crowd who's not often defused, and outplay a team most feel few if any are capable of outplaying. I'd wish them luck, but in this case I think they'll need more. Or in their case, Mora! Mora! Mora!