With this being a bye weekend UCLA is trying its best to put together a regular game week practice schedule leading up to Thursday night's game. During regular game weeks Bruins usually practice from Tuesday through Thursday. This week Bruins are going to take today off and go at it starting tomorrow and continue through Tuesday to keep the routine as regular as possible. So hopefully the guys are getting some much needed rest, healing up and are fresh and ready to go tomorrow at Spaulding.
While all the focus has been on Kevin Prince, I am equally anxious about the health of our defensive players. Akeem Ayers have been banged up since the Texas game and hasn't been the same. Perhaps Dalton Hilliard is also feeling much better. So hopefully both of them are rejuvenating this weekend. There is also a chance of getting Sheldon Price and Anthony Barr in action tomorrow afternoon as well.
As for the opponent, I think we all know the deal. This is pretty much an impossible situation. I was never crazy about a Thursday night schedule to begin with - not during a season where we had so many question marks going into it. It doesn't matter at this point though. Bruins will have to find a way to deal with Oregon's "blur" offense. From FoxSportsWest.com:
Oregon does not change personnel groups nearly as often as Stanford and Cal, but once the ball is spotted they are ready to run another play. The Ducks have run 470 offensive plays in six games and in the FBS only Tulsa with 481 has run more.
‘'They're trying to get one every 20 seconds, so we're talking a lot of plays very fast,'' safety Tony Dye said. ‘'It's kind of the same thing we saw with Houston, where they're going to get on the ball quick and they're going to snap it to try and catch you off guard. That's a big emphasis. In practice we're turning around and waiting for the offense to come out and then we're just reacting.''
The Bruins did get a primer when it played the Cougars, but the Ducks are at another level. Oregon is going into its bye week leading the FBS in total offense and scoring offense, averaging 567 yards and 54.33 points per game. Nevada and Oklahoma State, ranked second in those categories, would have to rack up 703 yards at Hawaii and score 64 points at Texas Tech on Saturday to pass the Ducks.
Well the Bruins dealt with the Houston offense by being extremely physical and attacking the Cougar offense early and often. They were absolutely ruthless in taking out the Cougars' QBs. I doubt they can replicate that kind of aggression in Eugene, considering the Ducks' OL are at a different level than what Houston had in the trenches. Still of the Bruins were to have any shot against the Ducks, they are going to have to "bring it" early. If they sit back and wait to make their adjustments in second half, the humiliation on national TV will start early.
As for Oregon, Coach Chip Kelly treated his bye week as "an improvement week":
Coach Chip Kelly kept the first couple of practices private - with no fans and no news media - and did his best to take the spotlight off the Ducks, while fans excitedly anticipated the possibility of an upset when the Buckeyes played at No. 18 Wisconsin on Saturday.
"We don't look at this as a bye week, we look at this as an improvement week," Kelly said about what his sheltered team was doing. "We're just stressing fundamentals, because fundamentals is what wins for you. Blocking, tackling, ball security are huge priorities for us this week."
Ducks are dealing with couple of injury issues. Sophomore QB Darron Thomas, who has been explosive through first 6 games (1,231 yards with 14 touchdowns), hurt his shoulder against Washington State. Oregon has not released his status for the UCLA game. Doesn't matter all that much though because his backup his the same guy who managed a win against UCLA last year at the Rose Bowl. Also running back/return specialist Kenjon Burner (who killed us last year as well) had a concussion against the Cougars. Kelley is being guarded about the condition of both of these guys, although the latest report out of Eugene was that Barner is "doing good."
While Ducks offense has been getting all the attention, Ted Miller reminds everyone about the impressive stats piled up Nick Alliotti's (GAH) Duck defense:
- Has forced more turnovers (22) than any other team in the country (No. 2 has 18).
- Is No. 2 in the nation in redzone defense.
- Ranks sixth in the nation in passing efficiency defense
- Ranks 15th in the nation on third downs, with opponents converting just more than 30 percent of the time.
- Ranks 16th in tackles for a loss.
- Ranks 20th in scoring defense (16.33 ppg).
- The Ducks have allowed just 13 total points in the second half (12 quarters)
As Miller pointed out Duck D's overall number (ranked 45th in the country in total defense) is not superlative, however that is due to the fact they spend so much time on the field.
So the situation for UCLA defense is going to be interesting. In last few years we have had situations where our defense tired out since the offense couldn't sustain drives. It appears that tiring out might not be the issue for our D this time because of Ducks' "blur" offense. I think the key to success on Thursday night might be in Chuck Bullough's ability to figure out the best possible combination of athletes up front, and then sticking with them and developing a defensive rhythm instead of creating chaos through constant substitutions.
I also think this is a game for our LBers other than Akeem Ayers to come through in a big way. No doubt the Ducks are going to scheme around Akeem. So it is going to be imperative for Bullough to put in special packages turning in his LBers lose. He needs to give them a lot of different looks and whenever possible bring in pressure via the secondary.
Anyway, we will have more on the game later this week. As for today, enjoy a stress free Saturday. We will have a game thread up around 12:00 pm PST.