In a star-studded matchup between Oregon and UCLA, a few players expect to steal the spotlight. The undefeated Ducks are led by Heisman trophy candidate Marcus Mariota at the quarterback position. His dominance this season over opposing defenses parallels the type of success Oregon has had as a whole through seven weeks of the season. Failing to eclipse the fifty-five point scoring output in just one game, the Ducks’ offense has become everything an offensive coordinator dreams of.
The Bruins also have a quarterback on their side drawing Heisman attention. Brett Hundley has carried the No. 12 UCLA Bruins to a 5-1 record despite not having much of a running game the past few weeks. Former starting running back Jordon James sustained a leg injury against Utah three weeks ago and hasn’t seen the field since. Since then, the running game has been non-existent, putting more pressure on the sophomore Hundley to make plays.
Here are a few other players to keep an eye on in Saturday’s matchup:
Derrick Malone (ILB) -- The last time Oregon played an explosive dual-threat quarterback, they absolutely shut down Washington quarterback Keith Price. Much of that lock-down performance can be accredited to linebackers Rodney Hardrick and Derrick Malone. Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti schemed inside blitzes for Malone, who became a consistent resident in the Huskies backfield throughout the second half. This week, it’s much of the same going up against Brett Hundley. With the way the Ducks’ secondary has been playing, containing Hundley should fall on the shoulders of Hardrick and especially Malone. Whether it’s during a blitz, or spying Hundley in the passing game, Malone will be key in stopping the Bruins’ offense.
Torrodney Prevot (OLB/DE) -- Tony Washington has been a force on the outside replacing pass-rushing specialist Dion Jordan. Washington has 6.5 sacks through the first seven games. In order to prevent Washington from being double-teamed by opposing offensive lines, someone on the opposite end of the formation needs to step up and get after the quarterback. That’s where Prevot comes in. Since the Washington game, Prevot’s playing time has consistently increased due to his natural pass rushing skills. Prevot has the capabilities to be a perfect counterpart to Washington, and those capabilities should be on display against a lackluster Bruins offensive line decimated by injuries.
Keanon Lowe (WR) -- Aside from his incredible perimeter blocking skills, Keanon Lowe has the potential to be an explosive wide receiver in the Pac-12. However, recently Lowe has been quiet in the passing game. Receivers Josh Huff and Bralon Addison have looked dominant so far this season, which means Lowe — the No. 3 wideout — should draw a lot of single coverage against UCLA. If Lowe, and tight ends Johnny Mundt and Pharaoh Brown, can have success in against man coverage, expect the Oregon offense to yet again eclipse fifty-five points against the Bruins.
Paul Perkins (RB) -- Part of Brett Hundley’s success last season as a freshman was due to the impact Johnathan Franklin had in the running game. Franklin, now a member of the Green Bay Packers, rushed for 1734 yards last season and 13 touchdowns, easing the pressure off of Hundley. With Franklin gone, and Jordon James out with an injury, freshman running back Paul Perkins needs to be a presence in the running game. Perkins is the Bruins’ third leading rusher, behind James and Hundley, but struggled last week against a gritty Stanford defense. Perkins had 4 carries for 10 yards against the Cardinal, and the entire UCLA offense struggled on their way to scoring a measly 10 points. Hundley, and the success of the Bruins offense should correlate with the impact Perkins, and the rest of the running backs have against Oregon.
Scott Quessenberry (OG) -- The true freshman offensive guard expects to get his first start after Simon Goines, the team’s usual starter at tackle, hurt his knee last week against Stanford. Xavier Su’a-Filo moved over from guard to tackle, opening the door for Quessenberry to play against the Ducks. Quessenberry won’t be the lone freshman starter on the offensive line for UCLA. The team also starts guard Alex Redmond and tackle Caleb Benenoch — each freshman struggled mightily last week against Stanford. Quessenberry and the other two freshman starters will be relied upon to keep Hundley upright against an aggressive Oregon front seven.
Eddie Vanderdoes (DE) – When attempting to stop the Oregon offense, the first objective has to be limiting Mariota. The front seven of UCLA needs to stay with their assigned game plan, keep Mariota in the pocket and pray he doesn’t pick their secondary apart. Part of that defensive front is freshman defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes, who had a career high 11 tackles against Stanford last week. Containing Mariota is not an easy task, but Vanderdoes, Anthony Barr and senior Cassius Marsh will be leading of the effort.