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Thursday, 9 October 2014

PAC 12 Showdown: #12 Oregon Ducks @ #18 UCLA Bruins

Week seven of the season features the premiere matchup of the year in the PAC 12 conference. The number 12 Oregon Ducks travel to UCLA to face the number 18 Bruins. This game entering the season was the battle that was believed to be the deciding factor in who wins the PAC 12 this year.

After the craziest weekend in the history of college football this matchup is a battle of top 20 teams instead of a top five battle. Both Oregon and UCLA were upset last week by unranked teams. Oregon lost to then unranked Arizona and UCLA lost to then unranked Utah in two classic battles.

Now these two have to pick up the pieces and keep their final four playoff hopes and PAC 12 title game dreams alive on Saturday. This game is a very interesting one for a number of reasons, but mainly for the two quarterbacks in this matchup.

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, both, were top five draft prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft. They both decided to come back for their junior season to chase a PAC 12 and national title, but with a loss on Saturday one of these two quarterbacks’ dreams of doing those things will likely disappear.

They both were Heisman Trophy candidates coming into this game, but both are currently off the list of favorites if the season were to end today. It is still a ways to go in this season, but they are in a must win situation this weekend when they face off in the Rose Bowl.

As we begin to break down this game closer the one key factor for both of these teams are the offensive lines. These two teams have some of the worst offensive lines in all of college football. UCLA quarterback Hundley has been sacked more than any other quarterback in all of college football the past two seasons.

This is unheard of for a quarterback with his mobility, but something just isn’t clicking with the offensive line at UCLA and has caused an extreme amount of hits on Hundley. The problem was thought to be improved this year, but the problem appears to be worse than ever the past couple games.

The offensive line for Oregon is just as bad at times with their inability to protect Mariota. If it wasn’t for his speed and ability to elude defenders their sack totals would be even worse at Oregon. He is the best quarterback in the PAC 12, if not the entire country, but just doesn’t get a chance to show it because of his offensive line.

Both of these quarterbacks will have to avoid taking unnecessary hits this weekend and prevent making costly mistakes because of a lack of protection by the offensive line.

I feel the Oregon run game has to step up in this contest against UCLA. The Ducks haven’t seemed to be as effective in their up tempo offensive system since Chip Kelly left for the NFL. I believe Kelly’s departure was a bigger loss than most realized and now it is beginning to show.

If the Ducks aren’t able to get the UCLA defense on their heels in this game, then the Bruins front seven will stop Oregon and make it another rough day for Mariota.

The Bruins on the flipside have to take advantage of Hundley’s strengths and get him out of the pocket. UCLA seems to make him stay in the pocket and force passes down field in tough situations instead of letting him use his athleticism and pass outside the pocket. If the coaches allow Hundley the ability to run more in this game then UCLA will have success on offense.

So, what will decide this game when all is said and done? I believe the team with the least amount of mistakes in terms of turnovers will be the difference. We should expect a good old fashion PAC 12 shootout style of game and that favors Oregon.

The Ducks have an impressive resume coming off a loss in PAC 12 play and that will have to continue this weekend. The one key factor in this game is that I just trust Oregon’s quarterback Mariota more than I do UCLA’s Hundley.

I believe Mariota is the better all around quarterback and will find a way to win on the road this Saturday. These offensive lines are both a mess as we documented, but Mariota’s ability to make more plays with his legs I feel will be the deciding factor.

I have Oregon winning a shootout 45-41 in the Rose Bowl on Saturday. It will be a very entertaining game to watch as a fan with lots of points. The winner of this game will still be alive for the final four playoffs despite their losses last weekend. It will be an uphill battle for either one of these teams to reach the final four, but if they happen to win out and win the PAC 12 title game I am almost certain we will see them in the College Football Playoff.

The PAC 12 battle we have waited for all summer is finally here and it should be a great one. This game in reality is a must win for both teams, so in a way the playoffs for these two teams begin on Saturday. The Rose Bowl is always the greatest place to watch a college football game and it will once again be the place to be on Saturday in the PAC 12.


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