Posted on: December 28, 2011 10:58 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
A look at the key matchup that could decide the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
UCLA's pistol offense vs. Illinois defensive line
When it comes to stopping UCLA's Pistol, an attacking front four can cause havoc against the run-based offense. The Bruins have been pretty good on the ground this year - one of the few things they've seemed to execute ok - finishing 29th in the country with 190 yards per game rushing. Kevin Prince wasn't the greatest signal-caller (1,627 yards passing, 10-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio) but was a solid trigger man who could pull the ball and run for a first down when needed. Johnathan Franklin had a big game against Colorado but other than that was nothing to write home about after being held under 100 yards rushing in all but three games this season. Fellow back Derrick Coleman was on and off throughout the year but turned in a productive season.
Though the Bruins have faced some good defensive lines, they haven't faced anybody like defensive end Whitney Mercilus. The 6-foot-4, 265-pound All-American led the country in sacks with 14.5 and led the conference in tackles for loss with a total of 19.5 for the year. Though Illinois struggled down the stretch by losing six straight, it wasn't because of the defense, which finished seventh overall in total defense. Michael Buchanan finished 8th in the Big Ten in tackles for a loss playing on the line and was also a disruptive force at times this season. If the line can get penetration and make some plays, that allows the back seven to matchup well against UCLA's skill position talent that hasn't done much all at all outside of Nelson Rosario. Freeing up linebacker Jonathan Brown to make some plays will be something to watch if the Illini want to win the game.
Points might be hard to come by given the way Illinois' offense has looked down the stretch so that puts the pressure on the defense once again. If the team has any hope of ending the slide, they're going to have to limit big plays from an offense that can create some with misdirection. A good push from the defensive line against a bad UCLA offensive line is where things start.
On the other side, if the Bruins want to avoid going 6-8 on the year, the offense has to execute less like they did against USC and show some of the signs of life like they did against Oregon. Prince can pick up first downs and there should be a solid rushing game but if the o-line can't block Mercilus and the defensive line, interim head coach Mike Johnson could be in for a long night.
Posted on: December 2, 2011 11:41 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 11:43 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon ran over UCLA so bad Friday night, they might have beaten the Bruins back to Los Angeles.
They'll make the trip down, to Pasadena to be precise, in a month but took care of business against an overwhelmed South representative to win the conference in the first ever Pac-12 championship game 49-31.
The Ducks will head to the Rose Bowl looking for their first win since 1917, Rick Neuheisel will head home with out a job. The recently fired head coach said the team was ready to shock the world.
They scored, shockingly, for the first time since November 19th.
UCLA lost the coin toss and, despite a few plays that gave them life, were never in the game from that point. The Pac-12 championship game was never about them however.
"We end the season with three teams in the top 10 and what looks like two BCS bowl teams for the second year in a row," commissioner Larry Scott said during his state of the conference address. "And seven bowl-eligible teams and what would have been eight."
That eighth team, USC, was the reason why UCLA "represented" the South division despite going .500 on the year . The athletic department brass didn't think too highly of their chances and applied for - and were granted - a waiver to go to a bowl game despite a 6-7 record. While the Bruins will likely end up in San Francisco for the game, the Trojans sat at home serving out the final year of their bowl ban and watched two teams they beat.
"All-in-all, I still think it's been a strong season," Scott continued. "The Pac-12 and the SEC are the only conferences to have three teams in the top 10. The conference is clearly establishing itself as a perennial, elite football conference."
The night showed off the good and bad of West Coast football. In front of a national audience, Oregon showed how good it could be. UCLA showed how far they had to go. Despite some sloppy play on both sides of the ball, the Ducks ran into the record books as easy as their running backs ran into the end zone.
LaMichael James became the first player in conference history to post three 1,500+ yard rushing seasons. He passed some guy named Marcus Allen on the career rushing list and moved into second place on the Pac-12 rushing touchdowns list. Darron Thomas became the school's career leader in touchdown passes (63) and had a career-long run. The Ducks set school records for rushing yards and touchdown passes.
Duck. Duck. Duck. Rose.
UCLA's Pistol offense was shooting blanks most of the night when it wasn't the players in the foot with turnovers. Still, they put up more points than many expected after coming in as the biggest underdog in postseason play according to Vegas insiders. There were positive plays, such as Kevin Prince flea-flicker to Nelson Rosario for a 37 yard touchdown. There were negative ones too, such as Derrick Coleman attempting to pitch the ball on a reverse despite the recipient being well past him. Oregon recovered and scored on 4th down on a Thomas touchdown pass to make it 35-14. The team fought hard but were simply outclassed by a Ducks team that seemed to be looking for style points ahead of their matchup against either Wisconsin or Michigan State the day after New Year's.
Head coach Chip Kelly made it a point to put up impressive numbers, using timeouts before halftime and going for it numerous times on 4th down. It may not have been the best show of sportsmanship but it did result in his third straight outright Pac-12 title as head coach. Winning the conference is one thing but if he wants to take the program to the next level, he'll have to get over the hump of winning a BCS game. Kelly has a .500 record against teams with two or more weeks to prepare so something will have to change.
Friday night however, nothing changed for Oregon. They ran their way to another win and in this case, plenty of roses.
Posted on: November 5, 2011 11:45 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
UCLA WON. Rick Neuheisel and the Bruins had their backs against the wall, with plenty of fans and media members already talking about potential replacements for the head coach. No worries, they took a lead into halftime and came back to score a go ahead touchdown in the final minute of a thrilling victory at the Rose Bowl.