Heading into the big Pac-12 showdown between the Oregon University Ducks and the UCLA Bruins, there is a lot of hype and excitement. UCLA’s Brett Hundley is a Heisman contender, and so is Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. Both teams are ranked in the Associated Press’ top 25 – Oregon is at 12 after their loss to Arizona, and UCLA is ranked 18 overall. Both teams are 4-1 on the season, and both quarterbacks have been sacked quite a bit in the last few weeks. Brett Hundley has spoken out and said he wants to get sacked less.
UCLA is ranked 123 out of 125 in sacks allowed. Oregon has given up 12 sacks in the last two games against Pac-12 opponents. Both offenses look to improve their protection of their talented young quarterbacks. Both defenses look to take advantage of weak offensive line play and continue the other team’s sack woes.
The Oregon Ducks come into the game with the second-ranked offense in college football, but only the 74th-ranked defense. The UCLA Bruins come in with the ninth-ranked offense and bolstering the 33rd ranked defense.
Both teams are coming off upset losses. UCLA lost to then-unranked Utah 30-28. Oregon lost for the second straight year to unranked Arizona 31-24. Arizona jumped all the way from unranked to number ten overall in the country after knocking off the second-ranked Oregon Ducks.
Hundley has been sacked a college-worst 107 times over the last three years and is hoping to get sacked less heading into Saturday’s match up. Mariota’s sack troubles can be most likely linked to a string of injuries on the offensive line. Last week against Arizona, the Ducks were forced to start a freshman lineman.
On one drive in the fourth quarter against Utah, Hundley was sacked on three plays in a row. When asked about it, coach Jim Mora said that sacks can be accredited to all 11 players on the field. Hundley took the blame on himself, stating that he needs to do a better job of getting rid of the ball quickly.
With both teams looking to bounce back after conference losses to unranked foes, it will be quite the battle this Saturday. UCLA’s defensive line has only sacked opposing quarterbacks seven times in the five games they have played this season. Saturday could be the day that the front seven for UCLA gets on track and puts some pressure on the Duck quarterback.
With UCLA only racking up seven sacks this season, it could also be a chance for the Oregon offensive line to get back into form and give Mariota the protection that he needs to be the dynamic playmaker they know he can be. Mariota can make plays with his feet almost as well as he does with his arm, but even the fastest runner needs some help from those big offensive linemen.
Saturday’s game will be held in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, with kick off at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time. If either team plans on making it to the first-ever college football playoff, both teams will need to shore up the line. A second loss in conference play will most likely end a team’s hopes of making it into that playoff. Hundley is hoping for the sake of the game, and his body, he gets sacked less in this one.
Commentary by Andy Lapic