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by Ben Burns - 10/21/2010
UCLA at Oregon (-24.5, 61.5)
Oregon puts its new No. 1 ranking on the line Thursday against UCLA in a place it rarely loses – Autzen Stadium.
The Ducks (6-0, 3-0) have won 10 straight in Eugene and seven of nine overall against the Bruins (3-3, 1-2 Pac-10), who arrive with a major injury concern with their starting quarterback.
It seemed doubtful Bruin sophomore Kevin Prince (knee) would be able to play on Wednesday, meaning sophomore Richard Brehaut would make his second career start in one of the toughest environments in college football. In his only other start, Brehaut completed 12 of 23 passes for 128 yards in the Bruins’ 42-28 win over Washington State on Oct. 2
Oregon saw its starting quarterback Darron Thomas leave in its last game against Washington State with a shoulder injury. But Thomas reportedly showed no signs of the shoulder giving him problems at practice this week and is expected to start.
Unlike the Bruins, the Ducks do have a seasoned backup in senior Nate Costa. He played well after taking over for Thomas against Washington State, completing 13 of 15 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown.
Also unlike the Bruins, Oregon’s quarterback will be surrounded by a bevy of offensive weapons, most notably running back LaMichael James. The Ducks lead the nation in total offense and are third in rushing offense, with James averaging 167 yards per game. UCLA’s rush defense is ranked 92nd in the nation and is surrendering an average of 182 yards on the ground.
Clearly, Oregon is the much more explosive of the two teams; hence, the 24.5 point spread.
UCLA has shown the ability to raise its game to a high level, though. The Bruins convincing win at Texas is proof. But the Bruins also are inconsistent, as their 35-7 loss at Cal two weeks ago proves.
Both teams are coming off a bye. Oregon is at USC next week.
The line has seen a lot of movement since it opened at Oregon -21.5 on Sunday.
Early money dropped the number to -20.5, but the Prince injury situation appears to have made the Ducks a more popular bet. The Ducks were laying as much as 24.5 as of Wednesday.
The Bruins are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games as an underdog of 10.5 points or greater and are 23-10 ATS after a straight-up loss.
The Ducks are 20-8 in their last 28 games as a favorite of 10.5 points or greater.
The total opened at 60.5 and was up to 61.5 at most outlets on Wednesday.
A 60 percent chance of rain is forecast for Thursday night in Eugene.
Oregon is averaging 54.33 points per game and allowing 16.33 points per game. UCLA is averaging 22.67 points per game and allowing 25.67.
The Ducks beat the Bruins 24-10 last season in Los Angeles. In their last four meetings, the teams have combined to score an average of 38.75 points.
The under is 7-1 in Bruins last eight games following a bye week. The under is 21-5-1 in UCLA’s last 27 conference games.
The over is 8-1 Oregon’s last nine conference games.
Neither team is healthy.
Three starters from the Oregon defense—corner Anthony Gildon, end Terrell Turner and Zac Clark--are listed as doubtful. Running back and kick returner Kenjon Barner, who was carted off the field during the Oct. 9 Washington State game, isn’t expected to play either.
UCLA is waiting news of a reported second MRI on Prince’s knee. Chances seem to diminishing that Prince will be able to play. Chris Foster of The Los Angeles Times tweeted Wednesday that “if the decision is put into the hands of the UCLA medical staff, [Prince] will not play.”
The Bruins also suspended top return man Josh Smith and tight end Morrell Presley for violating team rules.
BATTLE IN THE TRENCHES
UCLA has recorded 18 sacks this season, second most behind Oregon in the Pac-10. But Oregon, with its quick-hitting offensive scheme, has allowed only two sacks all season.