BYU vs. UCLA: The Breakdown

The G-man breaks down the Cougar vs. Bruin matchup that will take place at the Rose Bowl this Saturday. Going through each respective position group, he gives an overview of who should come on top at each position and who will prevail in the Cougars' first road game of the year.


UCLA: Ben Olson (6-4, 227 Jr.) had a very good outing last week on paper, throwing for five touchdowns and 286 yards as UCLA won comfortably over the Stanford Cardinal. Olson benefited a lot from a very productive run game that gained well over 300 yards, allowing for some things to be opened up downfield.

Olson still is a very much unproven commodity. Most of his long passes came as a result of his talented receivers making yards after the catch. Furthermore, his completion percentage wasn't anything to write home about, as he completed just over 55 percent of his passes.

BYU: Max Hall had a very similar game last week to that of Ben Olson's, save not as many touchdown passes thrown. Hall stayed within the system very well, as he wasn't asked to do much in a game where his running backs, particularly Harvey Unga, made great plays in the open field.

Conclusion: Both quarterbacks showed great poise in their first games of the season. Both benefited from great play around them at virtually every position on the offensive side of the ball. It will be interesting to note which of the two quarterbacks will fare better when forced to make plays down the field and in coverage.

The slight advantage goes to Olson here, if only for the experience factor, as Olson has logged more consistent play than Hall on the playing field. It's an edge that Hall could very well take over in Saturday's game, as he's still relatively unproven.

Edge: UCLA

Running Backs

UCLA: UCLA's running attack was dominant last week against Stanford, as they combined for well over 300 yards on the ground, as mentioned above. Khalil Bell (6-0, 211 Jr.) is UCLA's leading rusher, and he rotates with Chris Markey (5-10, 210 Sr.). Both Bell and Markey are very good running backs who could cause many a headache for the Cougar defensive front.

BYU: The Cougars saw good production on the ground against a stingy Arizona defensive front last game. Unga had a breakout game, serving notice that he's a force to be reckoned with and accounted for on every play. The Cougars add considerably to their running attack with the addition of Manase Tonga, whose main contributions will come with lead-blocking, picking up blitzes and catching the ball out of the backfield, in addition to running the football.

Conclusion: A lot of relative analysis has to go in with this comparison, as Arizona's defense looked far superior to Stanford's going in. While UCLA's backs saw more production on the ground, BYU's proved to be more effective at catching the ball out of the backfield. Bell rushed for 195 yards, yet had one catch for -1 yard. Meanwhile, Unga rushed for 67 yards and had 127 yards receiving, matching Bell's 194 all-purpose yards exactly. Unga's stats, however, came against a much tougher opponent.

Edge: BYU

Wide Receivers

UCLA: UCLA features two speedsters with good size on the outside, Brandon Breazell (6-0, 162 Sr.) and Marcus Everett (6-1, 204 Sr.). Both are experienced, and Breazell is coming off a game where he caught six passes, two of them for touchdowns.

BYU: The Cougar receivers weren't featured all that much last week against Arizona, but look to play a bigger factor in this week's game. Matt Allen looks to return to the lineup to rotate with Austin Collie and Michael Reed at the outside receiving positions. Collie and Reed had identical stats last week, with each catching four passes each for 41 yards and no touchdowns.

Conclusion: The upside to BYU's receiving corps is great, and their best work is yet to come as Hall settles more and more into the system. Meanwhile, UCLA's receivers showed an ability to make plays and break it open with any given play last week against Stanford.

Edge: UCLA

Tight Ends

UCLA: The Bruins use a lot of double-tight formations with Logan Paulsen (6-6, 252 Jr.) and William Snead (6-5, 238 Sr.). Both are used like classic tight ends, blocking and running routes up the seam and in the middle of the field. They combined for three catches last game.

BYU: BYU uses its tight ends a lot in its offensive game plan, rotating as many as three tight ends to make plays. Dennis Pitta and Vic So'oto combined for six catches, 66 yards and a touchdown a week ago, and look to build on that this week with Andrew George looking to add to the mix.

Conclusion: More catches, a more active role in the offense, and a more athletic group collectively gives the edge to the Cougars at tight end.

Edge: BYU

Offensive Line

UCLA: Any offensive line that can lead a running attack like UCLA's did against Stanford last week is obviously a dominant unit. The Bruins stack their line with four seniors and a sophomore. They're big and physical, and will provide a stern test for BYU's young defensive front.

BYU: The Cougar offensive line proved very effective in run blocking and pass blocking last week. Like UCLA's offensive front, the Cougars return a lot of starting experience and equal the size of the Bruin front.

Conclusion: While BYU's offensive line could well be considered one of the top OL units in the country, it's hard to ignore the stats put up by UCLA's running game a week ago. It's the offensive line that is the catalyst for the dominant Bruin run game, giving them the slight edge here going in.

Edge: UCLA

Defensive Line

UCLA: The Bruins run a four-man front, with four seniors returning from a season ago. It's a line that has two big defensive tackles inside, and some good speed and athleticism on the outside, where Nikola Dragovic (6-4, 263 Sr.) and Bruce Davis (6-3, 234 Sr.) start at either end.

BYU: The young Cougar defensive front will be tested a lot this week, as the Bruins should be looking to pound it out up the middle, hoping to exploit and wear down the young and inexperienced interior of BYU's defensive line. While the young rotating nose tackles saw good production last week, they'll have to be a lot better against UCLA to match last week's success.

Conclusion: More consistency needs to be seen from BYU's defensive front before I can give them the edge at the defensive line. While Jan Jorgensen and Ian Dulan create little worry at the end positions, Eathyn Manumaleuna and Rick Wolfley have much to prove against UCLA this week.

Edge: UCLA


UCLA: The Bruins lack a little bit of strength that the Arizona LB corps have, but make up for it with added speed and overall athleticism. UCLA starts two linebackers who weigh 220 pounds, and one who weighs in at 215. These are LBs who are quick in the open field and have good lateral movement, which may help to nullify BYU's running backs and prevent them from making plays out in the flat and over the middle.

BYU: The Cougar linebackers were dominant last week, showing again to be the strength of the Cougar defensive unit. Bryan Kehl in particular was all over the field, making play after play in stopping the Arizona offensive attack.

Conclusion: The edge goes the Cougars, as they proved solid and productive in every facet of the game last week.

Edge: BYU


UCLA: The Bruins don't present as great a challenge in the secondary as Arizona did a week ago, but they're still talented, despite giving up a lot of yards against a suspect Stanford offense. Like at almost every other position, UCLA features a lot of experience; the two starting cornerbacks and the two starting safeties are all seniors.

BYU: The Cougars meanwhile kept everything in front of the coverage, as Arizona was unable to do much of anything against BYU's coverages downfield. The Cougar secondary looks to improve upon the sort of breakout success they had a season ago, and have returning experience at every position in the defensive backfield.

Conclusion: The edge goes to BYU, as they're coming off successive dominant performances against Pac-10 teams (Oregon in last year's bowl game and Arizona last week).

Edge: BYU

5 Things

1. Stop the Run

The Cougars must stop the run if they're to have any hope of winning this football game. Even cutting UCLA's ground production in half from what they had last week against Stanford may not prove to enough. As mentioned, the Cougar front-seven will face a much more physical and productive attack this week. BYU will have to work to limit UCLA's ground production to keep it close, let alone win the game.

2. Special Teams

If the Cougars repeat their collective special teams effort from last week, they'll lose this football game, plain and simple. Everything from the coverages, kicks, snaps and holds on kicks were suspect, but luckily did not play a factor due to BYU's offensive and defensive dominance.

Since UCLA will bridge the gap on both sides of the ball, relative to what Arizona did last week, the Cougars will not be able to escape with suspect and downright poor special teams production.

3. Win the turnover battle

Look for Hall to try and go downfield a lot more this week, giving UCLA more turnover opportunities. The Cougar offense didn't take many chances last week, but will likely have to this week to beat UCLA. Limiting turnovers will be key.

If the Cougars can limit UCLA's effectiveness in the run game, forcing Ben Olson to make throws downfield and in coverage, the turnover opportunities will in no doubt increase on the other side of the ball.

4. Penalties

Cougar fans will in no doubt be holding their breath and hoping for the best from the Pac-10 refs who will be officiating Saturday's game. Penalties were a very bright spot last week, as they took almost no part during the course of the game. Limiting penalties will again be key against UCLA.

5. Wide Receiver production

With UCLA looking more to cover the flat and underneath routes run by the Cougar RBs, the wide receivers will need to become much more involved in the game plan than they were a week ago. While BYU's WRs were solid last week, they'll need to become play-makers this week and put points on the board if BYU hopes to win the game.

Final Score prediction: UCLA 31 – BYU 27

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