Against Oregon in 2009, UCLA's Akeem Ayers made a name for himself with a ridiculous pick six.
UCLA may have lost the game 24-10, but Ayers came out of the game looking like a future first-round pick. Since then, he's done nothing to make people think otherwise.
Against Texas earlier this season, Ayers was arguably the best player on the field when he finished with six tackles, two tackles for a loss, a sack and an interception. He'll carry the same title tonight against Oregon, now the nation's No. 1 team.
Ayers, a junior, is an athletic big man at 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds. With a 4.64 40-yard dash time, it would be easy to classify Ayers as purely a 3-4 outside linebacker. But he's more suited for a 4-3 defense that would allow him to showcase his range in pass coverage. Ayers can man up tight ends underneath and has good instincts to break on the ball. He's still developing as a pass rusher, though.
Oregon will likely win the game tonight, but UCLA has the better NFL talent. Along with Ayers, the Bruins have safety Rahim Moore on defense. His production has dipped following last season's 10 interceptions, but Moore has been playing closer to the line of scrimmage. His strongest area is coverage where he can play the deep middle and close in on the ball.
The Bruins also feature Kai Forbath, the best kicker in the nation. Don't be shocked to hear his named called in the first 150 picks in April.
Oregon isn't without NFL-caliber players, however. Redshirt sophomore LaMichael James has the speed and shiftiness to be a solid running back in a two-back scheme. Middle linebacker Casey Matthews has the kind of pedigree you can't ignore. He could be a decent special teams player and backup linebacker at the next level.