All eyes will be on UCLA-Oregon football matchup in Eugene

LOS ANGELES — UCLA football captures the college football world’s attention a little bit more each week. The spotlight intensifies on Saturday as College GameDay heads to Eugene for the No. 9 Bruins’ game against No. 10 Oregon.

“All eyes on us,” defensive back Stephan Blaylock said. “It’s a big stage for us. We welcome it. It’s just like any other game, though. If it wasn’t College GameDay, we’d still go out there excited to play the game and looking to get a win.”

UCLA has proven that statement true. When the spotlight wasn’t on UCLA — when fans weren’t even at UCLA games — the Bruins went out with the same attitude and worked their way to a 6-0 start.

The last time College GameDay featured a UCLA game was Oct. 23, 2021, when Oregon beat UCLA 34-31. Prior to that, UCLA was on College GameDay in 2015 when it thumped Arizona 56-30. Coincidentally, UCLA was also ranked No. 9 at the time.

Coach Chip Kelly also has his own history with Oregon, taking the program to the BCS national championships in 2010 and going 46-7 in his four years with the Ducks.

“It’s always special going back there,” Kelly said on Monday morning prior to practice. “It’s a special place in my life. There’s a lot of great people there that had a profound impact on me. But I’m not playing the games. We’re totally focused.”

Saturday’s top-10 matchup will be the second game in a row that UCLA has a game televised on Fox as well as the second-straight game with a 12:30 p.m. kickoff.

The Bruins’ last outing against Utah drew 2.65 million viewers according to Sports Media Watch. More eyes will be on the Bruins this week as Kelly makes his return and UCLA continues to climb.

“This team wants to win this for the university, coach Kelly included in that, and everything that he’s done for this program,” quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson said. “We’re just trying to put this program back in the national spotlight.”

‘Protect the King’

Thompson-Robinson wears two rubber wristbands from his chess mentor. One says “player not a piece” and the other says “protect the king.”

He said “the king” has many different meanings. This week, in particular, it represents the ball. The memory of his pass that ended in a pick-six in the Utah game two weeks ago still lives in his mind.

“The only thing I’m thinking about from two weeks ago was the interception late in the game, the pick six,” he said. “I pride myself on keeping the ball safe and that’s one of the ways I’ve got to do it, is making sure I protect the king.”

Possible Ale Kaho comeback

Kelly said on Monday morning that there is a chance linebacker Ale Kaho may play this season.

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“I’m not a doctor, so when they get him cleared to play,” Kelly said. “He’s up moving around and running around. We’ll see what happens.”

Kaho joined the Bruins in March 2021 after transferring from Alabama. He started in two games and played in 11 games total last season and had 32 total tackles, but has yet to see the field this year due to an undisclosed injury.

He could add more depth to a linebacker corps that has recently benefitted from Kain Medrano’s return from injury. Medrano played two different linebacker designations against Utah and logged two tackles.

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