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Thursday, October 21, 2010
Showtime for Oregon, LaMichael James?

By Ted Miller

EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon wants to put on a show tonight against UCLA in order to impress the nation and further validate its national-title contention.

And if the Ducks put on a big show, expect the star to be running back LaMichael James, who can further validate his Heisman Trophy candidacy.

James is the nation's best big-play running back. ESPN Stats & Information, in fact, can prove that, as the chart at right shows.

Since 2009, James has gained 20 yards or more on more than nine percent of his carries, which is the highest percentage among running backs in the FBS in that time frame.

This season, Oregon has 21 rushes of 20 yards or more. The Ducks hit a big run more often than any other team in the country outside of Taylor Martinez and Nebraska.

So, of course, you can expect the UCLA defense to be keying on James. The Bruins might even dare quarterback Darron Thomas to beat them passing, particularly with Thomas coming back from a sprained shoulder that knocked him out of the Washington State game two weeks ago.

But that might not be too wise, because Thomas is at his best going deep in the play-action passing game as the chart at right shows.

So the Bruins have to be smart on defense and mix things up. They can't crowd the line of scrimmage to stop James and the spread-option. And they can't forget Thomas over the top in play-action.