Editor's Note: Christian Alexander is on an 80 percent run in college football and he's locked and loaded with tonight's Pac 10 pick. Click to win!
Date: Thursday, October 21
Matchup: UCLA Bruins (3-3, 1-2 Pac-10) at #1 Oregon Ducks (6-0, 3-0 Pac-10)
TV: 9:00 PM ESPN
Venue: Autzen Stadium (FieldTurf)
Sports.com Line: Oregon -25 O/U 61.5
You have to hand it to the schedule makers at ESPN, they certainly know how to pick the Thursday night matchups.
Landing Oregon on a Thursday night during the week when the program was voted number one in the nation for the first time in school history is programming genius…combined with a little luck. After all, you would have to go back to Oct. 14, 1990 to find the last time when a team (Virginia) was voted No. 1 in the AP Poll for the first time ever in school history.
Of course, being the nation's No. 1 team hasn’t been such a good thing these past couple of weeks as Alabama fell to South Carolina two weeks ago and then Ohio State lost at Wisconsin last week.
UCLA will be trying to make No. 1 unlucky for the third week in a row but history is not on their side. In fact, you would have to turn the calendar all the way back to November of 1960 to find the last time an AP No. 1 has lost in three straight weeks.
You can be sure that coach Chip Kelly has been constantly reminding his team of what has happened to No. 1 teams lately. Combine that with the fact that Oregon doesn’t yet sit atop the all important BCS standings – that position belongs to Oklahoma – and you would think the Ducks have plenty of motivation for this game.
One thing is for sure, the Bruins will need a great effort to slow down the juggernaut that is the Oregon offense. The stats really tell the whole story: Oregon leads the nation with 54 points and 567 yards per game. The main catalyst for the offense is sophomore running back LaMichael James who has almost single handedly propelled the Ducks to the nation's third-ranked rushing offense, averaging 322 yards a game. James leads the nation with 170 rushing yards per game.
However, while everyone thought James would be a one man show after the suspension and transfer of QB Jeremiah Masoli, QB Darron Thomas has proved to be quite a capable replacement and the sophomore has already tossed 14 touchdowns. Thomas was banged up a little the last time out (Oct. 9) against Washington State when he fell on his throwing shoulder. The bye came at a perfect time though and all signs point to the QB being 100% this Thursday night.
Coach Rick Neuheisel and his Bruins are also coming off a bye and also dealing with a QB who is a little banged up. Unfortunately, the news for Neuheisel is not as promising as starting quarterback Kevin Prince is still dealing with an ailing right knee which he originally injured against Texas on Sept. 25. Prince, who has started five of the Bruins' six games, missed practice on both Monday and Tuesday of this week making it increasingly likely that sophomore Richard Brehaut will make his second college start at Oregon.
That news is probably not as bad as it would be for most teams. The fact is, while Prince has a good deal of experience as a starting QB, his performance this season has left something to be desired.
Part of that lack of production can certainly be blamed on the UCLA coaching staff who installed the Pistol offense during the offseason. Needless to say, Prince has yet to run the offense as effectively as QB Colin Kaepernick at Nevada – probably the best Pistol offense in college football. In five games using the new scheme, Prince has thrown for 384 yards, three touchdowns, and five interceptions.
Overall, the UCLA offense is last in the Pac-10 with 95.5 passing yards and 318.5 total yards of offense per game and so keeping pace with the Ducks this Thursday will be a tall challenge.
Last year, Oregon travelled to Los Angeles for a 24-10 victory in which James rushed for 152 yards. While the Bruins lead the all-time series 39-24, the victory was Oregon's seventh in the last nine meetings against UCLA. UCLA is 4-10 all-time against top-ranked teams and have knocked one off since the 1976 Rose Bowl against Ohio State.
Oregon is 3-2 against the spread while UCLA is just 2-4 ATS.