At a glance: No. 12 UCLA at No. 2 Oregon

No. 12 UCLA (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) at No. 2 Oregon (7-0, 4-0)
Location:
Autzen Stadium, Oct. 26, 4 p.m.
TV: ESPN (Brent Musberger, Kirk Herbstreit, Heather Cox)
Radio: 570 AM (Chris Roberts, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Last meeting: An already-fired Rick Neuheisel coached his final game, a spot in the 2011 Pac-12 Championship game that came by way of a USC postseason ban. UCLA lost 49-31 against No. 8 Oregon, as LaMichael James rushed for three scores — tying LenDale White with 52 career touchdowns.

He scored one more in a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin, taking sole possession of second in conference history.

Key storylines: UCLA is trying to rebound after its first loss of the season, a 24-10 loss at Stanford in which its offense struggled as much as ever in the Jim Mora era. Few outside the program, currently have much faith in the Bruins’ chances to beat Oregon — which speaks to the Ducks’ dominance this season more than anything else.

Even at full strength, UCLA would be hard-pressed to knock off a team that leads the Pac-12 in both scoring offense and scoring defense. Oregon is a force under Marcus Mariota, a multi-talented sophomore who breaks the “system quarterback” mold of the Ducks’ recent signal-callers. A top NFL prospect and Heisman frontrunner, Mariota ranks fifth in the nation in quarterback rating (181.72) and eighth at his position in rushing (70.43). He also hasn’t thrown an interception in his last 265 attempts, helping Oregon to the second-best turnover margin in the country (1.86).

The Bruins, meanwhile, are trying to survive without starting tackles Torian White and Simon Goines. Two true freshmen already start on the offensive line, and assistant coach Adrian Klemm is loath to burn any more redshirts. The ground game has also suffered without starting tailback Jordon James. A top-15 rushing offense earlier this year, UCLA hasn’t cleared 80 yards in two straight games; it is now ranked 39th.

Autzen Stadium is also one of the loudest stadiums in the country. If UCLA somehow pulls off the shocker against these odds, it’s right back on the national map.

For the Ducks, it’s another week in what Oregon fans expect to be an undefeated campaign. Some students have already printed “We Want Bama” T-shirts.

Key players: Quarterback Brett Hundley is coming off his poorest performance of the season, throwing two interceptions to Stanford safety Jordan Richards and averaging a career-low 4.9 yards per attempt. He seems rattled by the porous line in front of him; offensive Noel Mazzone even admitted that the issue lurked in the back of Hundley’s mind all game. Jake Brendel’s low snaps also disrupted UCLA’s rhythm. The junior redshirt sophomore center didn’t miss as badly as he did at Utah earlier this month, but even a slight mishap hampers the timing Hundley has with his receivers.

UCLA’s entire defense will also be pressed like never before. Linebacker Anthony Barr thought that the Bruins could be better matched up against Oregon rather than Stanford, given the time they spend practicing against an up-tempo offense. We’ll see. Opposing teams have also targeted cornerback Ishmael Adams much more than Fabian Moreau, so he should have another busy day.

Mariota has weapons aplenty, most notably running back De’Anthony Thomas. He expects to return this Saturday after missing almost four full games with a sprained ankle. The junior was Oregon’s lead back to start the season, but with the emergence of sophomore Byron Marshall — he of 746 yards and nine touchdowns — Thomas shift back to the do-it-all role he had last year. Receivers Josh Huff and Bralon Addison have combined for 1,170 yards and 12 touchdowns. The latter has also returned punt return touchdowns, both against Cal.

Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is regarded as one of the best in the country, and led the Pac-12 with 20 pass breakups in 2012 as a first-year starter. His stats are down at two interceptions and two pass breakups, but teams avoid throwing in his direction.

Did you know?: Oregon’s highest-scoring game came on Oct. 21, 1910, when it beat Puget Sound, 115-0. Charles Taylor scored 10 touchdowns.

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  • Bruin 34

    Oregon hasn’t played anybody! Wa. looked good but have now lost three in a row. We can definitely win. We just need to play our game. This game will fall on the o line. I have faith! Go Bruins!

    • Hogsman

      While I do appreciate your consistent optimism, I don’t agree that “just playing our game” will get it done vs. Oregon. UCLA’s going to need to play its best game in years in order to win (or Mariota doesn’t play or loses all composure, which is doubtful). It’s possible – we’ll see.

      • Bruin 34

        I hear you hogs. We need a great all around game. But look at what Stanford did to them last year. Our defense and team are clearly the best Oregon has faced all year. I was disappointed against Stanford and know that loss was on us and not what Stanford did. I truly believe we can win this game cause Hundley has always bounced back and never has had two bad games in a row. The culture change is evident. But dynasties take time. Go Bruins!

        • Joe Blow

          Laughable. Here’s the bad news: Oregon has to score a ton of points every game to pass FSU. If you think they’ll back off, you’re drinking even more Kool Aid than I thought. Hundley was horrible last week and Barr looked lost at times. And Stanfurd is big and SLOW. Don’t blink, you’ll miss a score.

          • patricia Olforo

            If UCLA hold Oregon to 42 poins or less the Bruins have a great shot at beating Oregon. WSU exposed the Ducks defense, I am very confident we will beat the Ducks. Go Bruins!!!

          • Joe Blow

            Hope you can. Nobody else has held them down, except the ‘Furd. I think the Ducks will be sky high. Don’t bet on the game, unless you take the points.

          • fanchris

            The Ducks haven’t scored fewer than 45 points all season. What makes you think UCLA can keep them to 42 or less?

          • EncinitasBruin

            Hmm, same way RA Harrison spells “Stanfurd” on the L.A. Times blogs. You are boring, Harrison. Go home.

          • Joe Blow

            Don’t know who Hamilton is, but there is nobody more boring than you.

  • Jacob Ramirez

    This should fire up the defense to another level, “He also hasn’t thrown an interception in his last 265 attempts, helping Oregon to the second-best turnover margin in the country (1.86).” Something is telling me he throws one on Saturday…

  • LTEfan

    UCLA lists Jake Brendel as a redshirt sophomore, not a junior.

  • Hogsman

    I think Mariota must be a robot to be that good – it seems like he always makes the right decision. UCLA will need to get pressure on him, yet not lose containment. He can beat almost anyone to the corner, so maybe they should shadow him with Barr or Jack.

  • Bruin 34

    Some people just can’t get enough kool aid! Its damn delish! Go Bruins!

  • WhatsBruin

    Last year after the Cal game Hundley/the offense struggled against Utah at home… But won 21-14….I’m worried….but hopeful:-/

  • EncinitasBruin

    A miracle win in Eugene is possible. Hey, we were a mediocre, no-name team in ’06, and we pulled off the 13-9 stunner against the trogladytes. Realist in me says it’s unlikely we get a W in Autzen, though. However, I think we have a decent chance of running the table AFTER Oregon, if Goines and James return. If we finish 10-2, we return to the P12 title game as three-time South champs, and would face either Oregon or OSU (there’s NO WAY Stanford beats Oregon twice in a row). Our best hope is for the Civil War game to be against a 10-1 OSU team vs a 11-0 Oregon team. Perfect set-up for a Beaver upset (one of the most underrated teams in FBS). I’d much rather face OSU than Oregon a second time….