Ranked eighth in the country, the 10-2 Oregon Ducks are 31-point favorites over the 6-6 UCLA Bruins in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game at Autzen Stadium on Friday night. The Ducks, who beat UCLA 60-13 in 2010, are vying for a third consecutive Pac-10/Pac-12 title, which would make them only the second school to do so since the conference expanded to ten teams in 1978.
Ducks running back LaMichael James leads the nation in rushing (142.7 yards per game) and is the school's all-time leader in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. James, a fourth-year junior who is on pace to graduate this year, could be playing in his final game at Autzen Stadium and leads a Ducks' rushing attack that ranks fifth in the nation, averaging 291 yards per game on the ground. In addition to James, junior running back Kenjon Barner averages 83 rushing yards per game, which ranks 53rd in the country. UCLA's defense ranks 81st or below in every major statistical category, including scoring defense, where they're tied for 87th with a 30.8 points allowed per game average.
Friday night will be the final conference game for UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisal, who was fired following the team's 50-0 loss to the USC Trojans last Saturday night. The Bruins are representing the Pac-12 South because USC is ineligible for post-season play. A loss to the Ducks would drop the Bruins below .500 on the season, but the school requested and were granted a waiver by the NCAA and would remain eligible to participate in a bowl game this season.
FOX has the television rights to the Pac-12 Championship Game, with Gus Johnson on the play-by-play and Charles Davis serving as analyst. ESPN Radio has the radio broadcast rights. UCLA leads the all-time series (39-25), but the Ducks have won three straight and nine of the last 11 meetings. The winner of the Pac-12 Championship Game will face the winner of the Big Ten Championship Game (Wisconsin Badgers-Michigan St. Spartans) in the 2012 Rose Bowl on January 2, 2012.