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OCTOBER 29


UCLA Defense


he inaugural Pac-12 Champion- ship Game has fi nally arrived, and it offers a study in contrasts. Given Oregon’s success in recent sea-


T


sons (two straight Conference titles in 2009 and 2010), pretty much every- one outside of Stanford, Calif., fi g- ured the Ducks would be playing in today’s game. Few outside of West- wood expected UCLA to make it. The Ducks are all fl ash-and-


dash on offense, where their multi- dimensional attack features some of the fastest skill-position players in the country, led by LaMichael James, who is bidding to be the top runner in in the nation this season. UCLA, for its part, wins games when it controls the line of scrimmage and runs the ball right at teams with its Pistol offense. And then there’s the elephant in the room. The North Division-champion Ducks come in with a stellar record of 10 wins and two losses, with the two setbacks coming against


teams currently ranked in the top 10 in the nation. The Bruins? Well, they’re 6–6 and have no wins on their résumé against currently- ranked teams. If all that sounds like it will be an uphill battle for


the South Division representative this evening, you’re probably right. But the Bruins wouldn’t have it any other way. They’ve taken more body blows than Floyd Mayweather’s sparring partner, but they’ve yet to hit the canvas. In fact, UCLA hasn’t lost back-to-back


LaMichael James


games all season, despite its .500 record. And even though the Bruins are coming off a drubbing by No. 10 USC last Satur- day, they’ve bounced back from their poor- est games this year to play their best football. There was a victory in the Pac-12 opener on


the road at Oregon State one week after a blow- out loss to Texas. There was a stirring fourth- quarter comeback over Washington State one week after a loss to Stanford. And the biggest turnaround of all: a win over California on the heels of a rout by Arizona.


34


Eric Evans


ASUCLA Photography


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