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UCLA hopes to smell the roses

The Bruins are 32-point underdogs, but if they can beat Oregon in the Pac-12 title game they will play in the Rose Bowl.

December 01, 2011|By Gary Klein
  • Bruins quarterback Kevin Prince (4) and running back Johnathan Franklin will have a tough test on Friday night in trying to control the clock and keep pace with Oregon in the Pac-12 Conference championship game.
Bruins quarterback Kevin Prince (4) and running back Johnathan Franklin… (Christian Petersen / Getty…)

UCLA, coming off a 50-0 loss to USC, attempts to regroup under fired Coach Rick Neuheisel, pull off one of the biggest upsets in college football history and earn a berth in the Rose Bowl. Oregon is playing for its second trip to the Rose Bowl in three years. Staff writer Gary Klein examines the game's issues and matchups:

Blueprint for success

No one in Westwood probably wants to acknowledge it, but USC provided a blueprint for success against the Ducks.

The formula: Take a quarterback on a late-season surge into the Heisman Trophy discussion, throw in a couple of future NFL receivers, build a 24-point lead and then hold on for dear life.

The Trojans executed that plan to perfection, ending Oregon's 21-game home winning streak when a last-second field-goal attempt went wide.

USC was a two-touchdown underdog. Oregon is favored by 32 points over the Bruins.

When asked about UCLA's chances, USC Coach Lane Kiffin referred to Stanford's stunning 2007 upset of the Trojans.

"It's why they play the game," he said. "Stanford beat 'SC at 'SC as 40-point underdogs, so you never know. But it would probably have to take a miracle."

At the controls

UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince has passed for eight touchdowns with seven interceptions in nine games.

Nelson Rosario, who has eclipsed 100 yards receiving in each of the last two games, is Prince's favorite target. Prince also can be an effective runner if he stays out of harm's way.

Oregon's Darron Thomas suffers from playing in the same conference with Stanford's Andrew Luck and USC's Matt Barkley.

How else to explain a quarterback who leads his team to a division title and passes for 27 touchdowns with only five interceptions yet fails to make the All-Pac-12 first or second team?

Thomas triggers an offense that ranks third nationally in scoring, averaging 45.9 points per game.

"They are so good at what they do, and they do it at such a relentless pace, you can't afford to get tired," Neuheisel said.

On the run

Oregon running back LaMichael James has rushed for a nation-leading 142.7 yards a game. He eclipsed 200 yards in three consecutive games before suffering a midseason elbow injury.

There isn't too much of a drop-off when Kenjon Barner gets the ball. The former Riverside Notre Dame star has scored 11 touchdowns. DeAnthony Thomas ranks 10th nationally in all-purpose yardage, averaging 159 yards a game. He has scored 16 touchdowns, an Oregon freshman record, and is Oregon's leading receiver.

That doesn't bode well for a Bruins team that has trouble tackling.

UCLA has surrendered at least 202 yards rushing six times this season. The level of opponent did not seem to matter. San Jose State and Stanford both rushed for 202 yards, Texas 284. USC gained 149, but averaged 7.8 yards per carry.

UCLA's Johnathan Franklin has averaged 76 yards rushing and has scored five touchdowns. Derrick Coleman averages 53.6 yards and has scored 11 touchdowns.

Line of fire

UCLA's offensive line will be challenged to hold off an Oregon defensive front that shifts constantly.

The Ducks have 39 sacks, which ranks sixth nationally. The Bruins have given up 20 sacks.

Meantime, Oregon's offensive line has surrendered only 11 sacks. UCLA has 13 sacks.

Road weary

UCLA is happy to be back in the Beaver State, where it enjoyed its only road victory this season. The Bruins won at Oregon State in September but lost five other road games.

UCLA has been outscored 129-18 in its last three road games.

This is the Bruins' fourth road game against teams currently ranked in the top 10. UCLA was outscored 133-53 in games against Houston, Stanford and USC.

The Bruins are 17-12 in games played in Eugene, but they have not won at Autzen Stadium since 2004, when they prevailed, 34-26.

Quick hits

UCLA leads the series against Oregon, 39-25. … The Bruins have not won a conference title since 1998.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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