The Oregon vs. UCLA game brings the Pac-10 Conference to Thursday night football this week. Oregon is No. 1 in both the 2010 AP Top 25 as well as the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, and they will have to defend those rankings against a conference opponent that has given them troubles in the past. The best thing going for Oregon, though, is that Thursday night’s game is receiving a national broadcast, so college football fans from around the country might get their first look at what this team can really do on both sides of the ball.
The big story coming out of Oregon right now isn’t that they were No. 1 in three of the four major college football rankings, but that they were not at the top of the first BCS rankings. Their strength of schedule apparently worked against them when it came to the computer voting, knocking them to the No. 2 spot in the week 8 BCS standings. Oklahoma instead made the No. 1 spot, which isn’t all that bad for Oregon, because you just have to be ranked in the top two teams to make it into the national championship game. Both schools should be more worried about LSU or Auburn jumping past them in the coming weeks.
What Oregon cannot do is focus too much on their BCS standing and overlook the UCLA Bruins on Thursday night. This UCLA team has had a very up-and-down college football season, posting a 3-3 record so far, but beating Texas and Houston along the way. They have their eyes set on a nice bowl game as well, so a win over Oregon would be a great statement game for them. For UCLA to even have a chance, they need a huge rushing game from Johnathan Franklin, they must protect the ball on offense, and they have to make some key stops on defense.
Oregon currently has the highest-scoring offense in college football, backed by the third-best running game. They average 54.3 points per game, 314.8 rushing yards per game, and give up an average of just 16.3 points per game. Everything has been working well for Oregon in 2010, and the offense starts with sophomore quarterback Darron Thomas (1,231 passing yard, 14 touchdowns) and lead running back LaMichael James (848 rushing yards, nine touchdowns). Stopping those two could be too much for the UCLA defense, and it’s even more remarkable that James has done it in just five games.
The Oregon vs. UCLA game will be at 6 p.m. PT (9 p.m. ET) on ESPN, Thursday, Oct. 21, and it will be interesting to see how the Ducks handle the new spotlight that has just been placed upon them. Will they continue the trend of No. 1-ranked teams losing? Or are we looking at another blow out?