Gameday Kickoff: Full Game Preview
By Dave Razzano
This might look like a mismatch on paper but you can bet the UCLA Bruins will be playing with a ton of emotion in what could very well be Rick Neuheisel's final game as head coach. We all know how capable Oregon is, especially on offense where they average 510 yards per game. But the Bruins are capable themselves, especially on the ground where they are running for 231 yards per game with a solid 4.8 average per carry.
Oregon players to watch:
RB LaMichael James #21 - This has been another huge season for the junior sensation as he is averaging a whopping 7.2 yards per carry and can go the distance any time he touches the football. What sets him apart is his speed and second gear on the perimeter. If he gets past the second level of defense he has a very good chance to score.
QB Darron Thomas #5 - The junior QB runs this zone option offense with precision and doesn't make many mistakes. Has become an accurate and reliable passer to go along with his running skill this season.
RB/WO De'Anthony Thomas #6 - The #2 rated runner coming out of high school last season has not disappointed. He is averaging 8.3 yards per carry on the ground and has also been a big play receiver for the Ducks. He can easily be mistaken for LaMichael James due to his rare speed and explosion.
DC Terrance Mitchell #27 - If you want to watch one of the very best cover DC's in college football just watch this redshirt freshman. His outstanding quickness and instincts allow him to stick on opponents like glue.
LB Dion Jordan #96 - The 6-foot-7 junior has been a disruptive force all year long from his OLB spot. Has 6.5 sacks on the year and numerous pressures. Uses long arms effectively to separate from blockers and make plays in the run game as well.
UCLA players to watch:
RB Johnathan Franklin #23 - Has had very productive seasons back to back for the Bruins. He is a north/south runner who is both fast and elusive with an impressive 6.1 average per carry on the year.
RB Derrick Coleman #33 - Part of one of the most productive one-two punches at RB in the country. This kid is a 235-pound workhorse type with very good quickness and run skill for a big man. Dangerous near the goal line with 11 TD rushes.
QB Kevin Prince #4 - This player is a two way threat and not easy to defend as he has passed for 1,463 yards and run for 563. Has size and a strong arm. Can be a little streaky but possesses loads of talent as well as leadership skills.
DC Aaron Hester #21 - Big, physical DC who matches up well with taller receivers. He likes to come up strong and force the run which will be a big key in stopping the outside speed of the Ducks run attack.
LB Sean Westgate #11 - He is a LB/SS combo type who is fast and athletic as both a pass defender and run support player. He makes plays from sideline to sideline and like his teammates will have to be efficient tackling in space to stymie potential long gainers for the Ducks. I expect this SR leader to have a very productive game.
The Bruins should be able to run the ball effectively on the Ducks early, led by the talented duo of Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman. The Ducks inside run defense is not their strength and I can see UCLA gaining big chunks between the tackles while trying to control the clock early on. They need to keep the Ducks' explosive offense on the sidelines as long as possible so running the ball will be key for them. With QB Kevin Prince also a very capable runner, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see the Bruins come out in two-TE formations while trying to eat up clock in the first period. This could also set up positive pass plays as the Bruins tall receivers can create some mismatches vs. the Ducks secondary. Big 6-foot-8 TE Joe Fauria could play a vital role as well. It would be wise however to stay away from talented Oregon DC Terrance Mitchell as he is a game changer with rare cover skills.
The Ducks offense is very difficult for any team to deal with due to their zone option attack and perimeter speed. They average a stunning 291 yards rushing per game which opens up big plays in the pass game. It is an offense that constantly creates cutback lanes for runners to burst through. It is essential for UCLA not to be overaggressive and play disciplined gap control defense. The Bruins will likely load the box and single cover freshman speedster De'Anthony Thomas with the quick and capable DC Andrew Abbott. It will be crucial for Bruin rush ends Datone Jones, Damien Holmes and Owamagbe Odighizuwa to stay at home and turn plays inside and not get up field too fast. This game could be closer than people think because UCLA has a lot of positives and if they come to play could make it interesting going into the second half. If they put together four solid quarters of football then they can stay with the Ducks for awhile. Otherwise, we all know the Ducks offense is capable of scoring big against any team in the land.
Dave Razzano is a former NFL scout with more than 22 years of professional scouting experience with the San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals under NFL coaches Bill Walsh, George Seifert, Chuck Knox and Dick Vermeil. He's been a part of five Super Bowls with three Super Bowl wins (49ers, 1989, 1990; Rams, 2000).