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U.C.L.A. vs. Oregon Pregame Open Thread

Remember back in August and we were considering the long term outlook for the season, and we noted that we had an advantage by not playing Oregon this year?

Then some wise folks noted that we still had a chance to face Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game.

How hopeful and promising that thought was back them.

Welcome to Autzen Stadium, Bruins. This wasn't the path we imagined, was it? As this pregame thread goes up, the Bruins are putting the final touches on this evening's preparations, and Coach Neuheisel is putting the final touches on his U.C.L.A. head coaching career. The Bruins are massive underdogs, with the Ducks currently favored by 30. The only bigger underdog is our AD facing the task of making an intelligent and timely hire to replace Neuheisel.

After what was probably the most tumultuous U.C.L.A. football season in pretty much ever, the Bruins have somehow found themselves in the final Pac-12 game of the year, with the winner claiming the first Pac-12 Championship, and getting a ticket for the Rose Bowl on Jan 2. And with all the tumult of the season and the past week to top it off, the Bruins really have nothing to lose today and everything to gain. Let's hope they come out with passion and confidence and play the game to win. Let's hope the Bruins pattern of following a huge loss with a win holds true. Let's hope the 18 seniors do the school proud in their final conference game. Let's hope Neuheisel has one great coaching performance in him. Win or lose, Rick has been a great Bruin, and has handled this incredibly difficult past week with the utmost of class. A great piece in The Oregonian today reminds us that this is the real Rick Neuheisel that we should remember.

As for the game, it will definitely be an uphill climb (think the NW Face of El Capitan uphill climb) for the Bruins. The Bruins' strength is its run game, with Johnathan Franklin, Derrick Coleman, and Kevin Prince leading the number 3 rushing team in the conference to an average of 193 yds per game. Of course, Oregon star LaMichael James averages 143 yds per game all by himself and the Ducks rack up 291 yds per game on the ground. If the Bruins are to have any chance, they will have to pile up some major points tonight. Last week against *$c, the Bruins rolled up an impressive 400 yds of offense, but red zone failures resulted in zero points on the night. The Ducks did play Nevada earlier this year, and won 69-20, so they have some familiarity with the Pistol offense. But they have given up 27 or more points 6 times this year, so the Bruins will have to maximize every opportunity to score this evening. The speedy and prolific Oregon offense will be a severe test for Jim Tresey's soft, slow, and passive defense. Basically, the the Bruins will have to come up with some miracle to muck up the Ducks and hope that the number 3 scoring offense in the nation has some major hiccups. I have no idea how that might happen. James may be slowed by an injured elbow from last week's Civil War, but QB Darron Thomas had 27 TD's to 5 ints, and RB Kenjon Barner has 830 yds behind James. The good news is that the Ducks score so quickly that the pain of enduring it is over quickly. Kind of like execution by guillotine.

Please check out AHMB's excellent previews of the Oregon offense and defense/special teams for more details about tonight's opponent.

This is our pregame open thread to while away the afternoon. Be sure to check out Achilles' Pre Game Guesses thread and give us your predictions on the inaugural Pac-12 title game. Also, the MAC Championship game pitting Ohio and Northern Illinois begins an hour before us at 4pm PST. That game is on ESPN2. You are also invited to discuss any further thoughts on the search for a replacement for Rick Neuheisel. We'll update this post as any news comes in.

No one gives us a chance today, so let's just let it all hang out. Deserved or not, this is a (powderkeg blue and) golden opportunity. The game thread will be up about 4:45 PST. Until then, here ya go...