Jim Mora brings the UCLA Circus to town on a Thursday night in Primetime for Stanford's sixth game. The Cardinal will be in the midst of its first three-game homestand of the season, with the Baby Bears sandwiched 'twixt visits from Rich Rod's Wildcats and the Washington Huskies. We'll know plenty about both squads when this game kicks off, as UCLA will have been to the desert to play those same Wildcats and Stanford will have played both USC and Arizona by that time. Let's take a look at where UCLA stands now as the 2015 season is just days away. For that, we've got David Woods, Co-Publisher of the Bruin Report Online (AKA "The BRO Board") to answer some of the burning questions facing a team with legitimate national playoff aspirations.
1. Any concerns about the non-conference slate? Do you consider it enough to prep the Bruins for a very tough Pac-12 opener in Tucson?
2. Which game stands as the biggest potential trap game and why?
California after Stanford. First, it's a second-consecutive Thursday night game, which is a strange bit of scheduling, and it comes after one of the most physical opponents on UCLA's schedule. Cal should be surprisingly frisky this year, and that makes this a classic trap game.
4. Any surprise players on offense or defense coming out of camp?
The surprise on offense was probably Caleb Benenoch, the right tackle, who has slimmed down and looks like he should be a force in both pass protection and run blocking. The surprise on defense was Marcus Rios, who has supplanted Ishmael Adams as a starting cornerback and could be UCLA's best defensive back this season.
6. Biggest reason for optimism on offense?
UCLA's starting offensive linemen all started games last year, which is a huge positive. The tackles are the best they've been in a long time, with Benenoch and Conor McDermott. The interior is very stout with Jake Brendel leading the way. The offensive line could be among the best in the Pac-12, which should help to ease Rosen into the starting spot.
The defensive line has two legitimate NFL prospects in Kenneth Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes who should set the tone for the defense. They were a huge part of UCLA's pretty good run defense last year, and they should be equally stout this season. Good defense begins with the defensive line, and UCLA's might be the best in the Pac-12.
10. How would you grade the D Line? Has Takkarist McKinley or any others made an impact at this point?
The defensive line looks like it should be fairly good. The two tackles, in Clark and Vanderdoes, are both elite prospects with the potential of being eventual top round picks by the NFL. Takkarist McKinley has bulked up in the offseason and looks like he should be able to hold up against the run better. The depth is pretty good, with both Matt Dickerson and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner looking like eventual starters.
Soso Jamabo has looked OK thus far. He was running a big tentatively through most of fall camp, but broke out a little bit in the scrimmage on the final day of camp. He'll be used in a variety of ways by the UCLA offensive staff with an effort to get him touches in space.
12. UCLA has had its share of off the field issues. Have the Bruins gotten better at handling the spotlight and shutting out distractions?
So much is unknown between now and this game, but as it stands right now, there's no reason not to think that this UCLA team poses the biggest threat to Stanford's six-season, seven game winning streak against the Bruins.
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