Quick Thoughts on Oregon vs. ASU

Oregon blew out Arizona State last night, and there were a few things about the blow out that should be encouraging for UCLA fans next week...

Is it a weird thing to think that Oregon's 43-21 blowout of Arizona State was more extreme than its 49-0 blowout over Arizona? Obviously, the scores don't indicate it, but Arizona actually played the Ducks fairly close in the first half, while the Sun Devils were out of the game last night within about the first 10 minutes. If the Ducks had really wanted to, and kept their starters in until, say, the middle of the 4th quarter, they easily could have hung 60 or 70 on ASU.

Of course, it's hard to judge a team based solely on how they perform against Oregon. For better or worse, the Ducks have become one of the most devastating offensive attacks in the last…forever, and their defense isn't shabby either. They'll blow most teams out, and make plenty of good teams look pretty godawful in the process. If you're a UCLA fan, you have to be happy that Oregon just isn't on the schedule this year, unless things start to go very well over the last five games of the season.

In any case, with ASU on the slate next week, we decided to take a look at the game to see if there's anything Oregon did particularly well that UCLA could emulate when the Bruins take on the Sun Devils. Oregon, obviously, is a machine offensively, and has more system-experience on both sides of the ball than UCLA, but in looking at the game, there are a couple of things that the Bruins can probably do about as effectively as Oregon.

First, with Will Sutton out and two other defensive linemen dinged up, ASU had no hope of stopping the run, and didn't have anyone in the front seven aware enough to blow up a zone read. So many times, Oregon was able to gash ASU for huge chunks of yards on inside zone runs. With Johnathan Franklin and Brett Hundley both probably nearing full health by next Saturday (and our guess is that Hundley's ankle is already probably there), the zone read could be a very effective offensive tool for the Bruins. If the Sun Devils couldn't effectively counter Oregon's zone-read after knowing it was coming for the entire week, we'd expect they would have the same issues if UCLA decided to go to the zone read more, considering the Bruins actually have a slightly more diverse attack than the Ducks.

Obviously, running a lot more zone read would be a departure from the UCLA offense we've known this year, and Noel Mazzone's background. Against Utah, we saw two zone read plays in the entire game, and it looked like that could have been a pretty effective weapon against the Utes, with their difficulties off tackle. Mazzone probably leans toward the generally smart idea of not having his quarterback get killed on running plays, but, if anything, Hundley's shown an ability to not get killed by defensive players (his own sliding technique, maybe). With one of these next two games, at least, being a probably must-win, it might be time to design a scheme a bit more around the threat of Hundley's running ability.

On defense, we're actually going to propose a switch from what we've talked about over the past few weeks. While we don't believe this is a very effective blitzing team, and that the defense, in general, is better off playing a bit more zone with a lot less pressure, ASU got killed by Oregon's blitzes. The Sun Devils' offensive line looked abysmal, especially on the right side, which was repeatedly blown over by Oregon defenders. Taylor Kelly looked rattled early, and didn't recover, which is the exact outcome that UCLA has hoped for in every game this year, and only gotten once, with Taylor Martinez. Now that the Bruins have switched up their linebackers to what is probably a better overall blitzing lineup, with Damien Holmes outside and Jordan Zumwalt inside, we wouldn't mind seeing how effective they can be against a fairly poor Arizona State offensive line.

Two factors allowed Oregon to play as well as they did against ASU, and those may be tougher for UCLA to emulate. First, on offense, the Ducks played at an extremely high tempo, which UCLA may or may not be able to match. The Oregon offense is uncanny because it not only plays fast when the clock is running, but also has great tempo on incomplete passes and other stoppages in play. UCLA, so far this season, has not been able to match that, and it played a huge role in how the Ducks were able to stomp on ASU.

Then, defensively, part of why Oregon was able to blitz so heavily is because they were ahead early. Offensively, getting off to a hot start is going to be important for UCLA, so that giving up one or two big plays off the blitz won't be as devastating as it might be otherwise.

Whatever the case, after watching the game last night, you had to come away encouraged. ASU clearly has some flaws, especially with the loss of Sutton, that can be exploited. Now, it just remains to be seen the kind of game plans are drawn up by the UCLA coaching staff.

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