A little over a week ago, UCLA and Oregon was being billed as a top-10 showdown with major College Football Playoff, Heisman Trophy and NFL draft implications.
It might still wind up being an important piece of the puzzle in all three, but it was not a top-10 matchup nor much of a showdown, as the Ducks emptied the Rose Bowl crowd early in the third quarter during a 42-30 rout.
It was a vintage Oregon performance. If you want to go back far enough in time, it was a vintage UCLA one, too.
Despite a wealth of interesting games on at the same time, NFL scouts and general managers likely paid particular attention to the Pac-12 game of the week with Marcus Mariota showcasing his talents against Brett Hundley in a battle of possible first-round quarterbacks. The Ducks' signal-caller did little to dissuade anybody from taking him that high in the draft, but that wasn't the case for his counterpart in powder blue.
Mariota finished the contest with solid passing numbers by going 17-of-27 for 210 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His athleticism was on full display on his two touchdown runs, as well, turning the edge on a fast UCLA defense to scamper in for a 13-yard score in the first quarter and picking up a ball off the turf before running it into the end zone later on. He had several beautiful throws along the sidelines for big gains throughout the game and continued to look like an All-American behind center.
The signal-caller's performance on Saturday was no doubt helped by the return of left tackle Jake Fisher, who missed the team's previous two games with a leg injury. Mariota was harassed and flushed from the pocket at times but mostly stayed upright and able to step into throws. The previously iffy run game for the Ducks also received a boost as freshman running back Royce Freeman became the team's first 100-yard rusher of the season.
The Oregon offense was so clinical against the Bruins' defense during the game that head coach Jim Mora and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich even got into a shouting match on the sideline in the first half in which Ulbrich nearly walked off the field after turning in his play sheet and headset. It was a bizzare scene at the Rose Bowl, but perfectly illustrative of the team's day.
Hundley had a big stage to showcase his talents but looked only marginally better than he did last week in a loss to Utah. The redshirt junior finished 26-of-37 passing for 216 yards and two touchdowns but was still plagued by timing issues and sacked several times by an active front seven for the Ducks. He was also intercepted by Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, a top cornerback prospect for the Ducks who had been picked on the past few weeks by Pac-12 quarterbacks but returned to form in Pasadena.
In the end, Oregon got back on track in the Pac-12 race with its sixth straight win over UCLA and might not be done in the national championship race just yet.