Texas-UCLA, The Matchups

Every week, LonghornDigest.com breaks down the key matchups for Saturday's big game. Read inside for what to watch for against UCLA.

Texas linebackers vs. Johnathan Franklin, UCLA running back

Franklin gave the Longhorns fits a year ago, and he's a back with deceptive strength of his size (5-10 193), and the speed to take plays the distance. The Longhorn linebackers played much more physically against BYU, and seemed to have more confidence in their run fits. If Franklin is able to find creases, he could be in for another big day, which has become typical for him — he rushed for over 1,000 yards last year and is on pace to do it again this year. If the linebackers can eliminate his space, UCLA will become one dimensional, and that's a huge key toward stopping the Bruin offense.



Kenny Vaccaro and Blake Gideon, Texas safeties, vs. Kevin Prince or Richard Brehaut, UCLA quarterbacks

This one could almost be paired with the above ones. UCLA typically strikes best off of play-action, and if the UCLA running game is working, that might lead to Prince or Brehaut being able to find space over the top. But if the linebackers are slowing down the run, Vaccaro and Gideon should be able to reach their depth and not worry as much about Franklin and Derrick Coleman. Vaccaro and Gideon will also be called on to make some tackles at the second and third levels, and making those tackles, and forcing UCLA into prolonged drives when they do hit on big plays will be huge.



Malcolm Brown, Texas running back, vs. UCLA linebackers

One of the biggest positives for Texas fans this week was the word that came out that Brown would be getting more carries, and getting them earlier in the game. With the two starting quarterbacks playing on the road for the first times in their careers, expect Texas to lean heavily on the running game, which could mean 20 carries for Brown. How well he does against an active, but at times undisciplined, group of linebackers will dictate how much support the Longhorn quarterbacks receive, and also how effective the team can be on play-action and trick plays. What Brown is able to do will dictate just how effective the offense is.



Case McCoy and David Ash, Texas quarterbacks, vs. Tony Dye, UCLA safety

The Texas quarterback duo will see plenty of Dye, who serves as UCLA's leading tackler and its best chance for a defensive honors candidate. He'll be flying up in support on Ash run plays as well as reading the quarterbacks' eyes on passing plays. If the quarterbacks can move him around or keep him off guard, the Longhorns will have a better chance to take advantage of players like Jaxon Shipley in the slot (more on that in a minute). If Dye is at his best, he's a tough centerfielder to deal with, especially for two quarterbacks making their first starts, and playing their first games on the road.



Jaxon Shipley, Texas wide receiver, vs. UCLA linebackers

UCLA has two returning starters at cornerback in Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price. After that, the experience, and quality, drops off. And UCLA's desire to shut down the running game will likely keep three linebackers in for much of the game. That means that Shipley is going to find himself in some desirable matchups out of the slot, at times with a linebacker, at other times against an inferior corner or a third safety. And his ability to make big plays out of those matchups could be huge in terms of establishing enough of a passing game to keep players out of the box and keep pressure off Brown and Fozzy Whittaker running the ball.



X-Factor: Texas misdirection vs. UCLA lack of discipline

The one thing that really shows up on UCLA film is that the Bruin defense — while athletic — is prone to lapses in discipline. Overrunning is common, and flat-out missing assignments has occurred a number of times early. Obviously, that plays right into the Longhorns' hands in terms of the misdirection that Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin relies on. If Texas can get UCLA moving one way and get somebody like D.J. Monroe to the edge going the other, the Longhorns could see some big plays. UCLA has to stay at home to stop the Texas offense.


Prediction

Seemingly lost in the talk of last year's game was this simple fact: the Longhorns essentially beat themselves by turning the ball over repeatedly and failing to execute. And, as harsh as this might sound, the Longhorns are less prone to turn the ball over with Garrett Gilbert on the bench. Texas might not put up 450 yards of total offense in this one, but they'll be just as well-served to play conservatively and not beat themselves. And while that might not produce a scoreline that's altogether indicative of the talent gap in the Longhorns' favor, it should produce one that leads to a W.


Texas — 24

UCLA — 17


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