-- The UCLA/Oregon series dates back to 1928, with UCLA leading by a count of 37-19.
-- UCLA is not ranked (only #25 in the USA Today/ESPN poll), but is favored by 2 ½ points over the the #7-ranked team in the country, Oregon.
-- Oregon has beaten UCLA once in its last three visits to the Rose Bowl. Last year the Ducks beat the Bruins 21-20, with UCLA's Chris Griffith's field goal attempt from 50 yards coming up short.
-- UCLA has scored more than 40 points in two consecutive games for the first time since 1998. In that year, UCLA scored 40 points in five consecutive games.
-- Oregon's defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti was UCLA defensive coordinator in 1998. UCLA Head Coach Bob Toledo was the Offensive Coordinator at Oregon in 1983-1988. Oregon's running back coach, Gary Campbell, was a UCLA fullback in the 1970s.
-- UCLA and Stanford are the only two Pac-10 teams that hold an edge in wins over Mike Bellotti since he's been coaching at Oregon. Bellotti is 3-4 against UCLA and 1-4 against Stanford.
-- Oregon is the third most successful college football team in the new millenium (the last two years). Miami is 29-1, Oklahoma is 29-2 and Oregon is 26-3.
-- Oregon also owns the second-longest winning streak in the nation. Their ten straight wins is second only to Miami's 27.
-- UCLA is expecting around 70,000 fans on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
-- Oregon senior wide receiver Jason Willis stands as the national co-leader for consecutive games with at least one reception (40), tied with USC's Kareem Kelly.
-- Oregon is 15-11 against ranked opponents under Bellotti, including five consecutive wins and nine of the last 11.
-- UCLA has won 15 of its last 22 games against ranked opponents.
-- Oregon snuck by Fresno State, 28-24. Fresno State lost to Oregon State, 59-19. UCLA beat Oregon State, 43-35.
-- In the eight years since Bellotti has been Oregon's head coach, the Ducks are 26-0 when it has held opponents to under 100 yards rushing.
-- Oregon has allowed the fewest quarterback sacks of any Pac-10 team in the last three years. Oregon allowed only 11 sacks all of last season, a school record. So far this year the Ducks have allowed 8, and five in one game against Fresno State.
-- Oregon has won 9 of its last 10 road games.
-- Oregon's running back Onterrio Smith leads the Pac-10 in rushing, averaging 122.4 yards per game. If he records a 100-yard rushing game against UCLA, he will set the Oregon record for most consecutive 100-yard games (6). Smith grew up a UCLA fan, living on the same street as UCLA's star defensive back Don Rogers.
-- Oregon placekicker Jared Siegel is second in the nation in field goals, converting 11 of 12 so far this season. He's kicked a 52- and 53-yarder.
-- So far this season, UCLA is 3-0 when the opponent scores first, and 1-1 when the Bruins do.
-- Oregon is second-most penalized team in the Pac-10, averaging 10.8 penalties a game for 88.8 yards.
UCLA'S OFFENSE V. OREGON'S DEFENSE
It's a clash of the two units that lead the Pac-10 in rushing and rushing defense, respectively. UCLA is gaining 173.2 yards a game on the ground, and Oregon is only allowing 79.4. You'd have to think that the battle here between the units will be won on the ground.
And that could be right. UCLA goes into this game with a newfound confidence in its running game. Running back Tyler Ebell busted out last week against Oregon State, which had a pretty good defensive line. He gave UCLA a dimension and hole-hitting ability that it hadn't had yet this season. UCLA's #1 tailback Manuel White is not expected to play, so it will be on the true freshman Ebell's shoulders to carry UCLA's running game. The UCLA offensive line seemed inspired a bit by Ebell, having perhaps one of their best performances in recent years in providing run blocking last week against the Beavers. UCLA senior tackle Mike Saffer played with a broken rib, which he still has (even though it feels considerably better). He and fellow senior tackle Bryce Bohlander put together a very good game last week and the offensive line feels like they're in a groove.
The Ducks defensive line is young - -but huge. It basically has three defensive tackles that it considers starters – senior Kai Smalley, who is the smallest of the three at 6-2 and 280. He's joined by big youngsters, sophomore Igor Olshansky (6-6, 304), and true freshman Haloti Ngata (6-4, 333). Ngata, who was one of the most highly touted high school players in the west last year, has shown that the hype was legitimate. Last week he had two tackles, one very impressive for a loss. He has 14 tackles on the season. Another young tackle, sophomore Robby Valenzuela has played well, with four tackles for loss so far this season. Oregon's starting defensive ends are seniors, steady Seth McEwan and speed rusher Darrell Wright (pictured below, # 40). JC transfer Roderkus Wright, who has made an impact, recording two sacks so far this season in limited action. Two good backup defensive ends are out for the game, making them a little thin at the position for Saturday.
One thing to consider, though, when analyzing Oregon's rush defense: They've done well so far this season against teams that don't run the ball well.
Oregon has some an okay group of linebackers, led by middle linebacker David Moretti (pictured at right, #44), who is the co-leader on the team in tackles along with inside linebacker Kevin Mitchell. Garrett Graham, the Ducks' strongside linebacker is also pretty good, standing 6-5.
Oregon's pass defense hasn't been spectacular, allowing an average of 221 yards per game against some mediocre teams. Oregon allowed 302 yards through the air against Arizona, 285 against Idaho, and 192 yards against Mississippi State. They actually were outgained through the air in all three of those games.
It's defense is really dependent in Aliotti's scheme on having some superior cornerbacks, which is in question this year. Oregon has two new starters, with junior Steve Moore at one corner, who is 5-9, and a true freshman at the other, Aaron Gipson, who is 5-8. They've been pretty susceptible to getting burned so far this season.
Junior free safety Keith Lewis is definitely the talent in the Ducks defensive backfield. In the only game he missed because of an injury last year, the Ducks lost. Senior Rasuli Webster is a returning starter at strong safety. They go 6-0, 210, and 6-1 and 196. In other words there isn't a lot of size in Oregon's defensive backfield, and there is a considerable lack of experience at cornerback.
UCLA's Cory Paus is coming off the best performance of his career. He has traditionally done well against Oregon, and Oregon's defense. He has three great targets in Craig Bragg, Tab Perry and Mike Seidman, who make it impossible really for Oregon to take away one of them. UCLA will probably do more of the short drops and quick throws to offset Oregon's pressure and exploit their man-to-man coverage on Perry and Bragg. Watch for Marcedes Lewis to probably get more playing time, even at wide receiver, to try to exploit his 6-6 height over the Oregon munchkin cornerbacks. You can probably bet that you'll see more new plays in the UCLA game plan this week like you did last week against Oregon State. Toledo has been saving it up a little and really wants to unleash it on Oregon.
Advantage: UCLA. Oregon's defense is dependent on its cornerbacks to go man-to-man on receivers, in order to free up some bodies to move up into the box, to stop the run and blitz the quarterback. Without really standout corners this year, Oregon's defense is really relying on pressuring the quarterback, which it has done only moderately well. UCLA has done unusually well (at least compared to recent years) in protecting its quarterback. UCLA might get bogged down by trying stubbornly to run into Oregon's stacked box, but after seeing the firepower that it has in the last two games, and knowing that Oregon's passing defense is vulnerable, it won't stay stubbornly on the ground for long.
OREGON'S OFFENSE V. UCLA'S DEFENSE
The Ducks have a pretty balanced offensive attack, averaging a total of 442 yards a game and 168 of that on the ground.
But just about everything in their offense begins and ends with running back Onterrio Smith. He leads the Pac-10 in rushing as a junior at 122.4 yards a game. He's strong for 5-10, very quick and shifty, and explodes through holes. UCLA will have his hands full in trying to contain him. Its quick linebackers might be a formidable matchup for Smith, though, with Marcus Reese, Brandon Chillar and Spencer Havner pursuing running backs very well so far this season. Perhaps the biggest concern will in the running game for UCLA will be Smith's ability to break one right up the middle since UCLA is without its #1 defensive tackle, Rod Leisle, and one of the best defensive players on the team. Ryan Boschetti will start in place of Leisle, and many believe that Boschetti could bring some much needed quickness to UCLA's defensive line. Add to the equation that quick junior defensive end Asi Faoa is making his first start, replacing suspended (for a half) Dave Ball, and it becomes one of the biggest curiosities of the game – whether the increased speed and quickness of Boschetti and Faoa will possibly improve UCLA's defensive line performance. It will be interesting to see if UCLA can, after a few years of getting burned, actually stop Oregon's misdirection running game.
Smith's backup, Allan Amundson, is no slouch either. He's pretty small, at 5-9, but he's the fastest player on Oregon's team and a potential game-breaker.
Oregon's offensive line is very young, starting three sophomores and two juniors, and a little suspect because of it. Junior guard Joey Forster is probably the Ducks' best, having started since he was a freshman. They've done fairly well in providing Oregon's backs some running room, and they always benefit from Oregon's great offensive play-calling and game plan.
Oregon's receivers are led by senior Keenan Howry, who has been somewhat quiet so far this year – which is a bit scary for UCLA because he could break out at any time. Howry was slowed by a number of nagging injuries early, but he seemed to get a bit back on track against Arizona last week. Junior Samie Parker has picked up the slack on the other side, leading the team with 22 catches on the season so far and averaging almost 18 yards a catch. Both Howry and Parker are dangerous deep threats. The Ducks' third receiver, senior Jason Willis is most noted because he has 77 career receptions and has yet to catch a touchdown pass. Oregon has also found another target in junior tight end George Wrighster, who has 14 catches on the season so far.
Getting the ball to these guys is first-year starting quarterback Jason Fife, who is replacing Joey Harrington. Fife, only a sophomore, is having a great season, currently ranked 7th in the country in passing efficiency (154). Fife is pretty athletic and has good agility, and a strong arm and good accuracy. He hasn't put up any real eye-popping numbers in a game yet this year, but is very efficient, throwing for 10 touchdowns against only one interception.
UCLA will counter with a passing defense that likes to take away the ball, and is tied for 7th in the country in turnover margin, with nine interceptions on the year so far. UCLA predominantly runs a zone passing defense, trying to take advantage of its bigger, athletic defensive backs, and then also to hopefully mask their inexperience. Ben Emanuel looks like he won't start at free safety, and Jibril Raymo will get his first start, making UCLA even less experienced. Watch for UCLA to blitz out of its zone quite often, especially early, to try to disrupt the young Fife in much the same way it attempted to do against OSU's Derek Anderson last week. With Ricky Manning (pictured above) at 5-9, not mismatched in coverage, you could see Matt Ware blitzing quite often. With Oregon's smaller receivers, you could also see Ware playing safety, like UCLA said he could.
Advantage: Even. On paper, UCLA is better in this matchup. Even with Oregon having Onterrio Smith and UCLA missing a couple of defensive starters, UCLA has more talent, athleticism and size. But Oregon's always stellar offensive game plan makes up for so much of Oregon's personnel deficiencies and will in this game, too. Oregon's offense will get some points, but won't be near as effective as it has been in its first five games.
It's pretty clear that Oregon is overrated, ranked the #7 team in the country. But just how overrated is the question. You have to always give them a few points –and a few spots in the rankings – just because of how well coached they are. But so far this season, Oregon has beaten only one winning division 1-A team, and that was Arizona. They beat 1-4 Mississippi State, 3-3 Fresno State and 1-5 Idaho. They also beat 1-AA Portland State. They allowed 18 points per game against the weak division 1-A teams they faced. Arizona isn't very good and they were beat up to boot. UCLA could tend to hurt itself if it tends to get conservative and just gets plain dopey like it did last week in the fourth quarter against Oregon State. UCLA has revenge on its mind from last year, both the players and coaches, and are prepared to not let anything back to beat the Ducks. With UCLA showing some offensive muscle last week, this looks like the year that Oregon might come down to earth a bit after a pretty impressive run, and this is probably the game that knocks the Ducks out of the air. Onterrio Smith and Oregon's always creative offense will keep the Ducks in the game.