To move from a pretty good team to one of the top teams in the Pac 12, the UCLA Bruins will need to beat Oregon or Stanford. That hasn't happened yet, but the Bruins have another chance on Saturday.
After last week's less than optimal result, there is some pessimism here, but overall, the Bruins have been recruiting players that are good enough to beat Oregon. How should the Bruins gameplan for this game?
Let's take a look at Oregon's recent defeats:
2012: Stanford 17, Oregon 14. Stanford possessed the ball for 37 minutes, rushed for 200 yards, passed 36 times, turned the ball over 3 times, and was penalized only 5 times. This was a low-scoring game, but Stanford went for it on 4th an 1. Something our coaches should keep in mind. Overall, tough defense was the key to Stanford's win.
2011: LSU 40, Oregon 27. LSU's excellent defense held Oregon under 100 yards rushing and got a defensive touchdown while forcing Oregon into 4 turnovers. Oregon still put up 27, but this was a win generated by LSU's defense. LSU was penalized only 5 times.
2011: Southern Cal 38, Oregon 35. Southern Cal won it through the air, passing for over 300 yards, what is apparently the only win over Oregon from 2011-2013 where Oregon's opponent passed for over 300. Southern Cal forced two turnovers. It looks like a bit of a shootout, but Southern Cal's defense did hold Oregon under 30, as one of Oregon's scores came on special teams. Southern Cal was penalized 6 times for only 25 yards.
2011 (2010-11 National Championship): Auburn 22, Oregon 19. Auburn didn't score a ton, but racked up over 500 yards of offense, 265 passing and 254 rushing. Auburn scored a safety in this game and held Darron Thomas to a 42 QBR and allowed less than 100 yars rushing. Auburn was penalized only 5 times.
What can we learn from this? It might not be too small of a sample size, but here's my best guess.
1. Play defense. You're unlikely to win a shootout, so don't get into that mindset. Stopping the run gives you a good chance to win. I wasn't able to find the number of sacks or hurries quickly enough, but that should be a part of the gameplan.
2. Be aggressive (but not stupid). You've got to make plays. Force turnovers, go for it on fourth down. Pressure the quarterback, but don't leave the back end or the perimeter vulnerable.
3. Be disciplined. Don't shoot yourself in the foot with stupid penalties. This will also be true in terms of keeping contain and staying in the assigned position on defense and running routes properly on offense -- this hurt against Stanford. Get to the line on defense and don't let Oregon snap it before the defense is ready.
4. Zone blitzing with disguised coverage. Oregon wants to play fast. Spanos needs to disguise coverages and blitzes, he needs to show blitz and then not bring it. This will need to be practiced at full speed because Oregon doesn't give a defense much time to adjust. Try to confuse the offense.
5. Disrupt the offense with offense. Put together methodical sustained drives to keep Oregon's offense on the sidelines. This isn't about conservative playcalling, but it's about putting together sustained drives and conversely, not getting into 3 and out situations. As Bill C explains in this week's Numerical:
three-and-outs are just deadly. All else being equal, teams who go three-and-out six to seven times win only about one-third of the time and lose by an average of about 12 points per game.