Reporting from Eugene, Ore. -- Pac-12 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott opened his state-of-the-league address Friday by saying, “We are very excited to be here … and to have what I know will be a full house, a raucous, loud atmosphere.... That’s what we hoped for with this football championship game.”
What the conference had also hoped for was a better matchup in its inaugural football title game. Oregon, ranked eighth nationally, rolled to a 49-31 victory over a UCLA team that came into the game with a 6-6 record.
The Bruins advanced to the title game because ninth-ranked USC was ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA sanctions.
“Of course, I acknowledge the disappointment over the fact that we have a 6-6 team that fired its coach this week,” Scott said. “I don’t spend a lot of time trying to script what happens on the field or what happens as a result of the NCAA Committee on Infractions.”
Scott said the “home-field model,” with Oregon hosting the game, had reduced the impact of a less-than-marquee matchup in the championship game. The Ducks earned home-field advantage with a league-best 8-1 record in conference games during the regular season.
“What was most important from my perspective was to have a full house and an atmosphere of energy, to have a collegiate atmosphere,” Scott said.
The conference has seven bowl-eligible teams. Oregon will go to the Rose Bowl and Stanford is also expected to land in a Bowl Championship Series bowl, perhaps the Fiesta, leaving five teams for six Pac-12-affiliated bowls.
The bowl selection order is Alamo, Holiday, Sun, Las Vegas, Kraft Fight Hunger and New Mexico, though the bowl games are not locked into that order and are free to negotiate among themselves.
Under conference rules, bowls can select any team as long as they are within one game in the standings. Washington and UCLA finished the regular season 5-4; Utah, California and Arizona State were 4-5.
UCLA, which wouldn’t typically be eligible because at 6-7 it has a losing overall record, received a waiver from the NCAA to go to a bowl game.
Linebacker Patrick Larimore finished the regular season as UCLA’s leading tackler with several key plays, including a sack, three pass break-ups and a forced fumble.
On Friday, he added another: His first interception of the season, which he returned 35 yards for a touchdown.
Oregon led, 7-0, in the first quarter and appeared poised to launch another scoring drive after stopping the Bruins on a fourth-and-one play.
But two plays later, Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas tried to hit running back Kenjon Barner with a pass on a slant route to the middle. The ball bounced off Barner’s chest and into the arms of Larimore, who ran toward the left sideline and then turned the corner to the end zone.
Just for kicks
In his seventh game as UCLA’s placekicker, senior Tyler Gonzalez converted on a season-long 44-yard field goal.
The one-time team manager for the Bruins’ men’s soccer team is seven of nine on field goals and 19 of 19 on point-after kicks.
Josh Smith set a UCLA single-season record for kickoff return yards. He had 85 yards in five returns against Oregon, giving him 1,117 yards for the season to pass Terrence Austin.
Austin had 1,109 yards in 2008.
Running it up
Oregon’s LaMichael James ran for 219 yards to move into third on the Pac-12’s career rushing list, passing former USC running back Marcus Allen.
Allen had 4,812 yards. James has 4,923 yards.
James, a junior, is the first player in conference history to have three 1,500-yard seasons. He has 1,646 yards rushing this season.
Staff writer Gary Klein contributed to this report.