Who will it be? Ben Olson or Osaar Rasshan? With every day that Olson misses practice reps, it looks more and more that Rasshan will be under center for the Bruins. Regardless of which QB will be starting, the Bruins will present a QB with some pretty paltry numbers on the year.
Both QBs have completed fewer than 50 percent of their passes on the year and have had trouble throwing for even more than 200 yards in any given game. Rasshan has completed just 38 percent of his passes on the year to go along with two interceptions and no touchdowns. The UCLA passing attack has proved inept throughout the year in large part due to inconsistent and substandard quarterback play.
UCLA at Running Back
The Bruins will be without Khalil Bell, which is significant as he was the team's leading rusher this year. They'll march out Chris Markey in his stead, who has seen some good production on the year.
Given UCLA's struggles in moving the ball through the air, the running attack must prove productive if the Bruins hope to see any success in putting points on the board.
UCLA at Receiver
Brandon Breazell is the game-breaker for the Bruins. He's the one guy on the offensive side of the ball that the Cougars will have to account heavily for on every play. While Breazell can break a game open on any given play, the question remains whether UCLA has the quarterback that can get him the ball when he needs it.
The Bruins employ a tight end primarily for blocking purposes. Their starting tight end Logan Paulsen has only 10 catches on the year for 101 yards. Breazell along with fellow wideouts Dominique Johnson and Joe Cowan will be the players the Cougars will have to account for most, as any of these guys can beat a defense on any play.
UCLA's Offensive Line
UCLA's offensive front is solid. It has provided good protection on the year and mounted a decent running attack. It won't be the best offensive front the Cougars have gone against so far this year, but they won't be close to the worst.
It's an offensive front that the Cougars were able to handle physically in their first go-around, and it would be completely justified to believe the same this time around.
BYU vs. UCLA's running attack
This is the area where UCLA must prove productive to have any hope of putting points on the board. If Olson or Rashaad are left without a running game, then it could get very ugly for the Bruins.
BYU's defense is coming into the game playing as well as they have all season. They're healthy, strong and confident. It's a defensive front that knows they handled UCLA up front last time and they expect to do the same during the bowl game. I expect the same.
BYU vs. UCLA's passing attack
Both Olson and Rashaad have trouble when their first read is shut down. If BYU can just lock down on the primary receiver on most passing plays, UCLA will struggle to improvise, let alone move on to the next passing progression. There is a reason why UCLA has averaged less than 200 yards through the air per game this season.
As mentioned, UCLA is not without weapons on the outside that can beat a defense down the field. Don't look for Olson or Rashaad to have much success throwing into the coverages that BYU presents. Any success they have will likely have to come over the top of coverage, where BYU has proved stingy since the Tulsa game.
UCLA's Defensive Line
It was the Bruin defensive front that won the game for them the first time around. Cougar fans got to know defensive end Bruce Davis a bit too well, as the Cougar offensive line failed to contain him during key moments at the Rose Bowl.
Overall the Bruins have been very good against the run, only giving up 115 yards per game. It's an experienced front that will present a stiff challenge for the Cougar offensive front.
UCLA at linebacker
The Bruins present a very athletic and quick linebacking corps. Due to the success of the Bruin defensive line, these linebackers more often than not are able to run free from sideline to sideline to make plays.
The Bruins can be exploited through the air, but give up a respectable 234 yards per game through the air this season. It's a group that includes three seniors and one sophomore.
BYU vs. UCLA's run defense
UCLA's run defense is an area that offensive coordinator Robert Anae really didn't test the first time around. Harvey Unga wasn't used nearly as much as he should have been last game, and the Bruins benefited largely from it.
Since then, Unga has emerged as the top offensive threat for the Cougars and should be getting at least 15 carries Saturday, and as many as 25 against a tough Bruin defensive front.
The Cougar offensive line meanwhile has been a very productive unit for the Cougars down the stretch. Led by the punishing blocks dealt out by offensive guards Ray Feinga and Travis Bright, the Cougars have been punishing opponents at the point of attack.
Enter a stingy Bruin defensive front, and this should prove to be quite the battle. While the offensive front really didn't get tested against the Bruin defensive front on the ground in the first game, that certainly won't prove to be the case Saturday. The Cougar offensive front against the Bruin defensive front at the point of attack should prove to be a very competitive and entertaining matchup.
BYU vs. UCLA's pass defense
Stop Bruce Davis, stop Bruce Davis and stop Bruce Davis. The Cougars do this at the Rose Bowl and they win the game. It's really that simple. Davis wreaked havoc against a patchwork left tackle position, making huge plays during key junctures of the ball game.
Enter Dallas Reynolds - who was never beat by Davis in the first matchup against UCLA - and the Cougars look far more apt to contain the Bruin outside pass rush. Reynolds got only half the reps at the Rose Bowl due to some nagging injuries, and the Cougars suffered for it. Reynolds is fully healthy now and should be able to contain Davis on the edge.
Meanwhile, Max Hall and the Cougar passing attack have found their stride. They proved that they could beat UCLA's pass defense last time around, and with the increased protection provided by a healthy Reynolds, they should prove at least as effective.
The Cougars are peaking. They've already proved to be more physical than the Bruins, having outgained them by more than 200 yards last time out. Now that they've fixed their execution issues that plagued them at the Rose Bowl, they should roll.
Although I predicted a close defensive slugfest on national TV, I'm recanting. Call it an epiphany if you will. BYU wins comfortably, 31-14.