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Bruins Get Lost If They Leave Home

October 11, 2008

UCLA stopped a three-game losing streak by defeating Washington State last week at the Rose Bowl. Now the Bruins will try to end a four-game road skid when they play Oregon and its potent offense tonight in Eugene. Times staff writer Chris Foster looks at the issues and matchups when the Bruins play the Ducks:

Uphill road

This game will be difficult for UCLA not only because the Ducks are pretty good and Autzen Stadium is a tough place to play, but because the Bruins have had trouble winning anywhere away from the Rose Bowl.

The Bruins have lost 11 of their last 14 road games and been outscored, 423-160, in that span.

Autzen won't help, though. The Ducks have won 23 of their last 30 games at home, including victories over USC (2007), Oklahoma (2006) and Michigan (2003).

"The place is crazy," UCLA defensive tackle Brigham Harwell said. "It's like a video game."

Harwell is more right than maybe he knew. Autzen made the list of EA Sports' 25 toughest places to play, checking in at No. 7.

Run off

UCLA has 487 yards rushing in five games. That means the Bruins have outgained each of Oregon's running backs, Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount -- but just barely. Johnson has 485 yards and Blount 481.

UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker typically crafts a game plan designed to take away one part, usually the run. That will be a difficult chore here. The Ducks have three returning starters on the offensive line and are seventh in the nation in rushing, averaging 267.2 yards.

The Bruins might catch a small break. Blount has been bothered by a hip injury. Of course, that would just mean more chances for Johnson, who is averaging 6.2 yards a carry.

Beating the spread

The Bruins have had trouble against spread offenses in recent seasons, and the Ducks run the spread as well as anyone. Oregon averages 482.8 yards a game, which is 10th in the nation, even though injuries have beset three quarterbacks.

Nate Costa is out for the season. Justin Roper suffered a knee injury in the third week. Jeremiah Masoli sustained a concussion a week later.

Masoli didn't miss a game and Roper could return this week. Yet the offense has rarely been held in check by any team other than USC.

Betting the spread?

Oregon is favored by 20 points.

Meanwhile, the Cougars Index reads: Oregon 63, Washington State 14; UCLA 28, Washington State 3.

That works out to a plus-24 for the Ducks.

We didn't say there was much science to the Cougars Index.

Nick-ed up

The spotlight matchup features two Mission Viejo High graduates.

Nick Reed, Oregon's right defensive end, has made 41 tackles for losses and has 22.5 sacks in his career. Lining up across from him will be UCLA freshman tackle Jeff Baca, making his third college start.

To the victor goes UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft's blindside.

The Ducks appear vulnerable to the pass. While Craft doesn't register on the Heisman Richter scale, he showed against Washington State that, given time, he can be efficient.

By the numbers

*--* UCLA CATEGORY ORE 19.2 Scoring 41.2 30.6 Points given up 25.8 189.0 Passing off. 215.7 97.4 Rushing off. 267.2 286.4 Total offense 482.8 227.0 Passing def. 265.5 141.0 Rushing def. 109.3 368.0 Total defense 374.8 *--*

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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UCLA (2-3, 1-1) VS. OREGON (4-2, 2-1)

Tonight at Autzen Stadium, 7:15, FSN

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