I've always considered UCLA one of the Pac-12 teams that could beat Oregon. It still could happen, but now I'm doubting it.
The Ducks seem to have everything going for them: QB Marcus Mariota, the running game, playmaking receivers, an experienced defensive line and a ballhawking secondary. Alejandro Maldonado has made field-goal attempts, too. And, now, it sounds as though De'Anthony Thomas will return against the Bruins (4 p.m. Saturday, Autzen Stadium, ESPN/ESPN 2), making the Ducks even more dangerous.
Washington and Washington State battled Oregon, putting up something of a challenge, and I think UCLA should possess the best defense and best quarterback (Brett Hundley) the Ducks will have faced this season.
The Bruins' linebacking corps has standouts, led by Anthony Barr, and depth. Coach Jim Mora will game-plan to disrupt Mariota and contain the UO running game and his players will have to tackle well in space. The Bruins allow just below 20 points and 357 yards per game.
Dual-threat Hundley has some no-name playmakers at his disposal, and the Bruins average close to 40 points per game. But Stanford put the clamps down on Hundley last week, and UCLA scored 10 points. And, now news out of Westwood has the Bruins planning to start three true freshmen on the offensive line, because of injuries.
I see the Bruins scoring more than 10 points against Oregon, by possessing the ball and not turning it over and sparked by Hundley. I just don't see them scoring enough to keep up with the Ducks. If the game was played at the Rose Bowl, I'd go with the Bruins. It'll be at Autzen, and I'm not sure the Bruins have the moxie to slay the home team.
Our sports editor, Steve Brandon, predicts 42-24 Ducks. Our other Duck writer, Stephen Alexander, says the Ducks will blow out the Bruins 52-24, with Mariota having another Heisman-worthy game.
I'm thinking it'll be close. UCLA has too good of a coaching staff, too good of athletes on both sides of the ball and a crafty and athletic quarterback.
THE PICK: Oregon 44, UCLA 34