With Championship Weekend starting early this year, we decided to give you a little “Dirty Dozen” preview on all the biggest games.
First up, the first ever Pac-12 Championship Game, a game which will go down in the history books for a lot of things... unfortunately none of which are expected to involve compeitive collegiate football. Quite frankly, a better name for this game might be “Rick Neuheisel’s Swan Song,” or even better, “The One Which Would’ve Been Way More Entertaining If USC Weren’t On Probation.”
Still, a game will be played Friday night in Autzen, and our writers weighed in with their picks:
Michael Felder’s Take: Ordinarily I'm the guy who can find some sort of a strategic advantage or a way for a team to beat their opponent, regardless of the talent disparities. As I sat around in an effort to do that this week, I got filled up with UCLA football to the point where I'm just pissed off at them. Their effort, their lack of discipline, the seemingly willynilly approach to football and the entire season they've had. This team is not very good and really, their only chance to win this game is for a mega-implosion from Oregon while they have the greatest game that the Bruins have played since 2006 USC upset.
I don't see that happening. Look for the Ducks to get up early and then cruise to end the game. They have the Rose Bowl on their racquet and this is a game that- while not the one they wanted to be playing in- should be a nice reward for the Ducks. Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, De'Anthony Thomas and the rest should make quick work of a UCLA team that might play some inspired football early for the sake of Rick Neuheisel. In the end the Ducks slam the door on the hapless Bruins to get to the Rose Bowl.
The Pick: Oregon 47 UCLA 17
Tom Perry’s Take: I still can't believe a 6-6 UCLA team made Kirk Herbstreit look like a genius at the beginning of the season when he picked the Bruins to play in the Pac-12 championship. OK, maybe genius is going to far, but that son-of-bitch has everything.
Focus on the game.
Man I wish USC was eligible, because a rematch of USC-Oregon would so much more fun. I have actually developed a man-crush on Matt Barkley over the last four weeks. I never thought much of him until I saw him play these last four games and he just picks apart defenses. He has actually made me think twice about Andrew Luck being the clear-cut No. 1 overall pick. I'd rather see Barkley return next fall and see what an eligible USC program could do.
Seriously, talk about the real game.
Well, UCLA will show up at Autzen. Right? They are going to make the trip?
Hell, Oregon has way too much firepower and there is no way the Bruins are going to pull out one of those emotional victories for the embattled coach.
The Pick: Oregon 58, UCLA 10
Regie Eller’s Take: Can Rick Neuheisel motivate the Bruins for one last hoorah? In a word, no.
Oregon's depth, its skill-set, coaching and everything in between is just better than UCLA. The Bruins' have discussed sending Pistol Rick out a winner, a champion, and appear motivated to do as much. Motivation can only last so long - like a quarter maybe - when you are the far less talented football team.
The Pick: Oregon 56, UCLA 13
Allen Kenney’s Take: "The best runners don't run to win the race; they run just to run." (Or something like that.)
Heed the words of Mr. Joe Pesci in "With Honors," Coach (for a few more days) Neuheisel. Don't give up. Yes, you were notified of your dismissal while you were out promoting this game for your employer. But are accolades and paychecks what it's really all about? This is your chance to remind us all what's really important, Pistol Rick.
If I'm in Neuheisel's shoes, I'm rolling in sweats and lobbying for a running clock.
The Pick: Oregon 52. UCLA 6
Aaron Torres’ Take: Apparently none of my colleagues were inspired by Rick Neuheisel’s “Rudy-like” moment on Wednesday, when his players carried him off the field after his last practice as UCLA’s head coach (one can only wonder if each of his assistants walked into the AD’s office and laid their polo on the desk, before stating that they wanted Neheisel to coach in their place).
I- on the other hand- was inspired and touched by the UCLA players yesterday… for about a half a second anyway. Then I realized, “Wait a second, these are the same players that quit on Neuheisel a game or two into the season, and gave such little effort against cross-town rival USC Saturday, that I openly wondered if they were shaving points.” Then I scratched that idea when I remembered that no one would be dumb enough to bet on UCLA.
Point being, there are a lot of reasons to like Oregon here. They’re at home. They’ve got more speed. They’ve got more skill. They’ve got one of the smartest head coaches in the game.
UCLA? Well, they carry the coach of a 6-6 team off a practice field in front of tens of adoring fans.
The Pick: Oregon 45, UCLA 13
Kevin McGuire’s Take: UCLA comes in to this game as one of the biggest underdogs in championship game history in college football, and the question is just how much fight will the Bruins have in them to send Rick Neuheisel out as a winner? If there is any chance to do that the Bruins need to establish the run and take control of the clock. We know how quickly Oregon can score so UCLA's best defense may be to be consistent and effective with the clock on offense. Long drives resulting in points will be the only way UCLA has a shot to claim the Pac 12's first championship game victory.
But who am I kidding? What's the point in breaking down UCLA in this one? Oregon is at home. This one is easy.
The Pick: Oregon 43, UCLA 17