Oregon really has to be kicking themselves. If they hadn't blown things against USC, there would probably be playing for a spot in the national championship. It's uncertain if a one-loss Oregon team would have topped a one-loss Alabama team, but the Ducks having an extra win would have been something that would've counted in their favor.
But the Trojans took control of Autzen, and so here Oregon is now, fighting for Pasadena.
There's a lot of reasons Oregon would probably not take this game seriously. The Pac-12 South "champions" are a team that would make many ACC title reps flush with pride in their accomplishments.
The UCLA Bruins can't win on the road. Hell, they can't even compete on the road, losing by an average of about four touchdowns in their last four road conference games. They don't stand a chance on Friday night against Oregon, and the only way the Ducks could allow a victory is if Oregon thinks UCLA doesn't stand a chance.
So Oregon can leave no doubt. For the reputation of the Pac-12, they can't just beat UCLA. They must obliterate them.
The Ducks can't even pretend to give UCLA a chance. They can't dawdle around. They must beat the Bruins down.
Oregon and UCLA in a competitive matchup would cause plenty of chortles for the rest of the country. Everyone knows the Ducks have the superior scheme, the superior athletes, the superior coach. Oregon letting UCLA scrap into this one would not reflect well on the best the conference has to offer in this contest.
If Oregon somehow fell, a headless UCLA team in the Rose Bowl would be a disaster for the conference. The Bruins are uncompelling to everyone, and although I'm sure they'd sell out their home stadium, there would be a huge possibility of a national embarrassment on a grand stage.
Oregon must lay the hammer down and leave no doubt they're not only the better team, but also that UCLA isn't worthy of stepping on the same field with them. The Ducks can't get off to a slow start, look sloppy, lose the turnover battle, and play catch-up. Oregon has to play like the two-time defending Pac champs and get set for another January date. Oregon has to spoil any UCLA hopes of sending Rick Neuheisel out a winner, and Chip Kelly can show no mercy. The Ducks must conquer and pillage to ensure the Pac-12 continues its upward trend into 2012.
and the Pac-12 aren't getting their ideal title matchup. So they'll have to hope for the ideal title result.