The Bruins are coming off a disappointing loss last weekend to Oregon on the road and will now enter Notre Dame Stadium trying to avoid a losing streak with difficult games against Washington State, Cal, Oregon State, Arizona State and still USC left on the slate.
In other words, this is a very important game for UCLA.
Irish fans seem to be confident heading into Saturday"s game despite signs of trouble ahead.
Yes, I know that UCLA's defensive stats are padded by playing awful offenses like Utah, Rice, Stanford and Arizona, but they are still impressive stats none the less.
The concerning part to me is the Bruin rush defense. It's widely known to Irish fans that if Darius Walker is able to get some early rushing lanes, it's usually goodnight for opposing defenses. But the Bruins have been pretty stout against the run.
To me, this will be the key to the game. If the Irish can get Darius Walker north of 100 yards in this game, the Irish should win fairly handily. However, if Notre Dame struggles to run the football early, I see a challenging game for Notre Dame.
What is concerning is the speed UCLA possesses in their pass rush. The Irish have given up a good number of sacks against the better teams they've played, and UCLA has two lightening quick defensive ends in Justin Hickman and Bruce Davis.
What head coach Charlie Weis doesn't want to do is put Brady Quinn into a position to where he has to throw the football 40 times in this game. If he does, Quinn will likely get hit and often.
I think we'll see some early controlled passing to open up some running lanes by the Irish offense, and then it's run, run, run—that is if they're successful early. If they are, I expect the Irish to cruise to another hard-fought victory where the game is relatively close, but you never feel the Irish are in danger of losing the game.
The Bruin offense doesn't scare me much. Notre Dame's defense struggles with speed and speed that can get deep. I don't see that on this current Bruin roster. I fully expect the Irish to load eight men in the box and try to force the Bruins to beat them deep.
Without a true playmaker in the passing game, and a quarterback who might be limited in this game, I just don't see UCLA scoring more than 17 points in this game.
I also can't see the Bruins defense holding the Irish under 28.
Mike Frank Prediction
Notre Dame: 31
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