With all eyes on them, there is plenty at stake for both the Bruins and Ducks this weekend.
UCLA football (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) will play Oregon (5-1, 2-1) at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. Although the Ducks have won 13 fo the last 16 head-to-head matchups, the Bruins won the last time the teams played in Pasadena and owns a 39-30 lead in the all-time series. UCLA enters this year's game as a 1.5-point favorite.
All Bruins is making its picks for who will win, what the score will be and how the game will play out, courtesy of Managing Editor Sam Connon, contributing writer Benjamin Royer and guest predictor Max Torres, Publisher of Ducks Digest.
Sam Connon, Managing Editor
Prediction: UCLA 30, Oregon 27
This is as close to a coin flip as it's been for me picking UCLA games this season.
Coming off back-to-back wins, the Bruins have to feel nice heading into their big matchup with the Ducks. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson has gotten things under control, posting a 75.7% completion percentage and 153.2 passer rating without a turnover in his last six quarters, and the running game is hotter than ever after averaging 287.5 yards per game since the loss to Arizona State.
Oregon, on the other hand, got beat by a Stanford team that UCLA beat the week prior, with both the Ducks and Bruins playing them on The Farm. Oregon's next game came against Cal, which has still yet to defeat an FBS opponent this year, and the Ducks actually trailed by a touchdown heading into the final 12 minutes.
It isn't as if UCLA has played top-tier opponents during its recent resurgence, but using the transitive property, Oregon doesn't exactly stand out as the top 10 team they are in the polls.
Both the Bruins and Ducks were leading Arizona by single digits through three quarters. Washington may not have been the team many expected UCLA to meet preseason, but they are still better than Cal, which gave Oregon even more trouble than the Huskies gave to the Bruins.
I understand that's a lot of hoops to jump through, and it probably isn't the best way to look at things when making picks ahead of Saturday. By all accounts, this is going to be a tight contest with some high-quality football on display.
It's just that in playing the momentum game, UCLA is ever-so-slightly on the rise, while Oregon has been slowly slipping for the better part of a month.
The Bruins have found their formula for success – quick, rhythmic passes for Thompson-Robinson to go along with a forceful ground game and a more balanced, well-schemed defensive look – and now that they've workshopped it against inferior opponents and came out with feel-good victories, they should be able to put it all together against their toughest opponent yet on the biggest stage possible.
Benjamin Royer, contributing writer
Prediction: Oregon 38, UCLA 30
ESPN’s College GameDay comes to Westwood this weekend for the Pac-12’s top matchup between the Ducks and the Bruins. The national crowd watching will not be disappointed, nor will be UCLA’s neighbors from the Pacific Northwest when all is said and done.
Coach Mario Cristobal will march into the Rose Bowl with a likely predictable game plan – pass the ball. Even against Washington last week, the Bruins were unable to stop the majority of plays through the air, with quarterback Dylan Morris posting a season-best 66.7% completion percentage.
Yes, two interceptions always look good, and the pick from cornerback Devin Kirkwood helped seal the game, but when every Pac-12 offense is trying to play the same way against your defense, that's when you know you have some obvious flaws that still need to be addressed.
Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown may not be the most consistent option in the conference, but he has helped lead the Ducks to early-season success. Now the favorites in the Pac-12 North – and arguably the conference as a whole – a strong performance on Saturday from Brown would shut down the doubters and preserve a sliver of hope for the Pac-12 sending a representative to the College Football Playoff.
To be blunt, the Bruins need to be better. If they lose this Saturday, it will put a damper on this season, especially with a difficult matchup in Utah looming in Week 9.
Thompson-Robinson needs to be on his best game for UCLA to have a shot against Oregon. A performance like the one he put out against Washington would do the trick, as it was one of his first start-to-finish consistent outings without any cold stretches or costly mistakes.
Oregon gives up 270.5 passing yards per game, and it is certainly possible that Thompson-Robinson can reach 300-plus yards through the air.
At the end of the day, UCLA’s big-play potential won't be able enough to carry them to a division-deciding victory. Instead, Saturday will stand as a proper introduction for Oregon to the East Coast crowd that has not been able to tune in to their games yet.
Max Torres, Publisher at Ducks Digest
Prediction: UCLA 28, Oregon 24
This is definitely the Pac-12 game of the week, and for good reason. UCLA's potent offense meets Oregon's opportunistic defense. Add in that Chip Kelly is facing his former team at home with College GameDay in town and this one has all the flair you could ask for.
UCLA's offense can hurt you in a lot of different ways, and Oregon's defense, although getting healthier, is still adjusting to the loss of safety Bennett Williams and hasn't forced a turnover in two games. Turnovers were a huge reason why the Ducks were able to put away Arizona – albeit very late – but one could also argue they were part of the reason they lost to Stanford. Penalties or not, Stanford won the turnover battle in a game where every drive was more critical than the last.
I think Oregon will be able to move the ball decently on the ground, but if I'm UCLA, I'm keying in on the run and making Anthony Brown beat me through the air. That could be easier said than done, as the Ducks average 210 yards on the ground per game. But beating teams with his arm isn't something Brown has done all year, save maybe Ohio State.
I think this game is going to be a very close battle that could come down to the wire, but I'm giving the edge to UCLA by a hair. Sure, Oregon's defense is getting better and the return of edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux for a full game will be huge, but college football has been dominated by the teams who can generate big plays and outscore their opponents. I think Oregon's lack of a consistent passing attack could be what allows UCLA to pull away.
Follow Connon on Twitter at @SamConnon
Follow Royer on Twitter at @thebenroyer
Follow Torres on Twitter at @mtorressports
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