Pregame Guesses: UCLA Bruins Host #10 Oregon Ducks
Which squad will run the ball better? Can the Ducks' QB Anthony Brown hurt the Bruins throwing the ball downfield? Who wins the turnover battle? And a stadium anthem to pump up Bruin fans . . .
Welcome to Week Eight of Pregame Guesses! The UCLA Bruin football team (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) is coming off two road wins and returns to the Rose Bowl for a huge, nationally televised clash against the Oregon Ducks (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12).
So far, the Bruins have been better on the road this season, sitting at 3-0, while only winning two of four at home. The Ducks, on the other hand, have only one Pac-12 road contest, and it was their only loss, to the Stanford Cardinal in Palo Alto. Oregon, of course, won a huge non-conference game at Ohio State back in week two.
Something has to give this week.
I learned something new today. While unsuccessfully researching possible themes for today’s musical selection, in a futile gesture I typed in “Chip Kelly’s favorite songs” into Google. To my surprise, a wealth of articles from Kelly’s Philadelphia days popped up. Apparently, Chip Kelly is known for his high energy practices set to very load music. That was news to me. I can’t believe I haven’t stumbled across this yet in my years of doing PGG. One article even had a Chip Kelly practice playlist!
So, in an effort to try to be positive about the game tomorrow, I am going to pick a song from Chip’s playlist. There are a few potential candidates, but I am going “all in” on pumping up Bruin fans with positivity. We need the energy with GameDay coming to Westwood tomorrow morning. This song, now a sports anthem in stadiums across the country, certainly works. Here is AC/DC’s 1990 hit, “Thunderstruck”:
I realize that this upbeat rock anthem might not reflect the current support Chip has with the Bruin faithful right now, even with the squad winning two straight games and sitting at 5-2. As we know, many of the problems of the past—cough, pass defense, cough—still exist. But, as I figure, if the Bruins lose for the third straight time at the Rose Bowl, I can pick something that more nihilistic next week.
On to the guesses . . .
There are a lot of similarities between the UCLA and Oregon squads this season. Both feature senior dual-threat quarterbacks that sometimes have issues getting the ball downfield. Both have impressive rushing attacks. Both teams have poor passing defenses. This PGG will focus on the respective rushing offenses and defenses of the Bruins and Ducks.
UCLA is #17 in rushing offense, averaging 219.9 years per game on the ground. Oregon is a few slots worse—but still very good—at #23, averaging 210.3 yards per game. On defense, UCLA is #9 at stopping the run, conceding only 91 yards per game. Oregon is farther down at #58, allowing 139.8 yards per game. The rushing defenses might actually be the starkest difference between the squads, although Oregon is by no means bad. Another factor that hurts the Ducks here is the injury to CJ Verdell. The junior was the big difference in the Ohio State win, rushing 20 times for 161 yards and two touchdowns. The Ducks still have Travis Dye, who is averaging 6.7 yards per carry, but losing Verdell limits Oregon a bit. PREGAME GUSESS NUMBER ONE: Which team will rush for more yards, Oregon or UCLA?
For the Ducks, the key to the game might whether senior quarterback Anthony Brown can hurt the Bruins with long passes downfield. In both of UCLA’s losses, the Bruins were gashed in the intermediate to long passing game.
Last week, UCLA was able to limit Dylan Morris, who only averaged 6.1 yards per pass in the contest versus the Bruins. When Morris tried to throw downfield, UCLA intercepted him twice. Morris’ longest completion of the day was only 26 yards. Part of this was no doubt due to UCLA’s change in scheme and moving to more zone defense concepts.
Believe it or not, Brown actually is behind Morris in passing yards on the season, although Morris is much more turnover prone than Brown, the latter of whom only has one interception on the season. It certainly helps to have a running game, something that the Huskies lack. Brown averages 199 passing yards per game, while UCLA allows on average 290.1. Will Anthony Brown follow the example of the last senior quarterback faced by the Bruins—Jayden Daniels, who carved up the UCLA secondary? Or will he play more like UW’s Dylan Morris? PREGAME GUESS NUMBER TWO: Predict Anthony Brown’s stat line versus UCLA (passes, completions, yards, touchdowns, interceptions).
You’ve heard the mantra before: turnovers win games. It is not just an empty quote though, as studies have shown that this mantra is true. It is certainly true for UCLA and Oregon in 2021. The Ducks have the fourth best turnover margin in the country, with a plus-nine in turnover margin. Oregon has recovered four fumbles and has nine interceptions while only coughing up the football three times with one pick. The Ducks sit at 5-1 and are ranked in the top ten. UCLA is also well “in the black” in turnover margin. Like their 5-2 record, UCLA’s turnover margin is good but not as good as Oregon’s. The Bruins are tied for #26, at plus-five. UCLA has five fumble recoveries and six picks while fumbling four times and losing two interceptions. Turnovers will be a huge in tomorrow’s game. PREGAME GUESS NUMBER THREE: Predict the number of turnovers for each team in tomorrow’s game.
ESPN’s College GameDay is coming to UCLA for the first time since 1998. Unlike 1998, however, GameDay will be in Westwood, not Pasadena. I am not really a fan of “talking head” shows and haven’t watched GameDay for years, especially since NBC and its affiliates began showing English Premier League soccer on Saturday mornings. I prefer to watch actual sports than people talking about sports. But I will probably tune in this week. The internet and Twitter are already ablaze about how UCLA students will not show up and represent the Four Letters on GameDay. I would think that UCLA AD Martin Jarmond will light a fire under the students after his success promoting the LSU game at the Rose Bowl. Although Westwood is certainly more accessible for students than Pasadena, it will be early as GameDay starts at 6 am PT. Are the internet and Twitter keyboard warriors correct? BONUS GUESS ONE: I realize that this is purely subjective and not 100% provable in everyone’s mind, but here goes anyway. Will UCLA fans “represent” UCLA well during College GameDay? In other words, will it look like any other GameDay at an SEC or Big Ten school? Lots of students, clever signs, and screaming? Or will it look like the local Target the day after Black Friday?
BONUS GUESS TWO: Predict the attendance for this Pac-12 midday clash, televised nationally on ABC. I am thinking (hoping?) it will be better than the attendance at the LSU game.
Thanks for reading. Sound off with predictions and comments in the thread below. And cheer hard tomorrow.