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Pregame Guesses: UCLA Bruins at Oregon Ducks
Can UCLA stop the Ducks' potent running attack? Will DTR be able to play? If so, will he continue to use his legs? Will Oregon be able to get to DTR?
Welcome to Pregame Guesses and, with this PGG, we have reached the halfway point of this abbreviated Pac-12 season. UCLA fans can finally celebrate being at least .500 in the Chip Kelly era, as the Bruins thoroughly dominated UC Berkeley on both sides of the ball last Sunday, winning by the score of 34-10.
Bruin fans shouldn’t get too high, however, because the Golden Bears really had zero preparation time for last weekend’s hastily thrown together contest, and it showed. Further, UCLA will face what could end up being its stiffest test of the year this Saturday, when the Bruins travel to Eugene to take on the defending Pac-12 Champion Oregon Ducks.
This week, I have chosen a band formed in Oregon singing a song about a town just west of UCLA. Actually, the song seems to be about how hard it is to leave and move on from a broken relationship (or, perhaps, how hard it is to leave a personal path of self-destructive behavior). But the California coastal town IS the song’s title and many a Bruin have no doubt enjoyed spring quarter Fridays--who had classes on Friday in spring quarter?—dipping their toes in the Pacific and enjoying the warm sands of Will Rogers State Beach. Ah, memories. Yes, the 90s alternative rock band “Everclear” was formed in Oregon and here is their most famous song, “Santa Monica”:
This tune, off their second album, “Sparkle and Fade,” made Everclear a household name. If you like “Santa Monica,” which is no doubt catchy and easy to sing along to, check out “Summerland” and “The Twistinside” from the same album for a couple of edgier Everclear songs (and which also happen to be my two favorites).
On to the guesses . . .
After suffering through a tough outing versus Colorado, the UCLA rushing defense was much better last Sunday, holding the Golden Bear rushing attack to 54 yards on 18 attempts, a 1.9 yard average. To be fair, and as I mentioned earlier in this article, UC Berkeley did not have much time to prepare for this game, so these numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt.
Now, UCLA faces a formidable Oregon backfield. The Ducks have a “three-headed monster” in junior running backs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, as well as dual threat quarterback sophomore Tyler Slough. Slough himself has 20 rushing attempts in two games, with an average of over eight yards per carry. And, we all know how poorly the UCLA defense has performed in the last few years against dual threat quarterbacks. Collectively, these three players have rushed the ball 67 times for 512 yards (a 7.7 yard per carry average) and five touchdowns. With a small sample size of two games against winless Stanford and 1-1 Washington State, the Ducks are #6 in the nation in rushing yardage per game. Will Oregon shred UCLA’s rushing defense like Colorado did? Or will the Bruins’ performance last week help this unit turn a corner?
PREGAME GUESS NUMBER ONE: Predict the number of rushing attempts, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns for the Oregon offense.
I am not the only person who noticed this, as the in-game announcers during the UCLA v. UC Berkeley game mentioned it, and so did Dimitri in his excellent Eye-Test. The Bruins adjusted their offense last week and went away from a more pro-style offense to something that more resembled the “blur” offense that UCLA Coach Chip Kelly ran when he was the lead guy at Oregon. Among other things, the Bruins relied more on Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s legs and tried to get their speed guys in space. As a result, DTR has 12 carries for 52 yards and a touchdown. DTR running the football also opened up the game more for senior running back Demetric Felton and grad transfer running back Brittain Brown.
Then, yesterday, Bruin Report Online reported that Dorian Thompson-Robinson may not be able to play against the Ducks. Ben Bolch of the LA Times later wrote, “Multiple UCLA football players, including junior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, are waiting to find out whether they can play against No. 11 Oregon on Saturday after at least one positive COVID-19 test placed teammates in quarantine through contact tracing. “
Will DTR be able to play? If not, who will be the Bruins’ starting QB? If DTR can play, will he continue to run the ball more against an average Oregon rushing defense?
PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: Predict who will start at quarterback for the Bruins. Then, predict the number of rushing attempts, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns for Thompson-Robinson or UCLA’s starting QB versus the Ducks (remember, unlike the NFL, sacks count as negative rushes in college football).
Oregon’s total defense is #69 in the country, which is below average. But, one of the defensive metrics in which Oregon is among the worst in college football is sacks per game. Again, we are talking about a small sample size, but Oregon is one of three Pac-12 teams (the others are Stanford and Oregon State) that are tied for last in NCAA football in sacks per game, averaging ½ sack per game. Will the UCLA offensive line be able to protect DTR (or UCLA’s starting QB) from the Oregon pass rush? Or will the Ducks take advantage of the youth on UCLA’s offensive line? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: How many sacks will Oregon record versus UCLA on Saturday?
UCLA wide receivers haven’t done much so far this season. The top two pass catchers for the Bruins are Felton and tight end Greg Dulcich. UCLA’s top true wide receiver is Kyle Phillips with six catches for 62 yards and one touchdown. That an average of 31 yards per game. I am setting “the line” for Phillips’ receiving yards at 50 versus the Ducks. BONUS GUESS: Are you taking the over or the under?
Another week of PGG is in the books. Make your guesses and let us know your thoughts about the upcoming game in the comments below!