Premature 2014 Schedule Prediction

After calling the 2013 season pretty closely in December of last year, we take a look at how the 2014 schedule could play out, nine months before the start of the season...

As we've been saying for over a year now, 2014 sets up to be the big year for UCLA football, but, in reality, we might have been framing the situation poorly.

With how Jim Mora has transformed the UCLA program, it's starting to look like 2014 is not just the one year when the stars align, the program randomly has experienced talent and it has a chance to compete for a Rose Bowl; instead, 2014 is simply the first year of the Mora era where you'd say, reasonably, that UCLA has a chance to be an elite national team.

Think about this: for the first time in the Mora era, and for the first time in a long time, UCLA will not be a "young" team. It's not that it'll be an old team by any stretch, but the roster should be loaded with juniors and sophomores from Mora's first two recruiting classes. The reason why 2014 shouldn't be a one-off, though, is that there really won't be that many seniors. On defense, the only seniors should be Eric Kendricks and Anthony Jefferson. On offense, the only starting seniors would be Xavier Su'a-Filo, if he decided to come back, and Jordon James (with the caveat that Brett Hundley would almost certainly enter the Draft after next season). However good the team is next year, you can expect it to be pretty close to as good the following year.

So, because we're pretty excited about the potential for next year's team, we decided to take a look at what the schedule could look like next year. Bear in mind that this is just a preliminary look, and that many things could change with UCLA's opponents before the start of next season. Heck, we don't even know the order of the games yet, which can play a role in the outcome. That being said, we did pretty well with our early season look last year, when we took a peak at the 2013 schedule in December of last year and called losses to Stanford and Oregon and said Arizona State was the most likely home loss. And, again, we'll base this off our predictions from the depth charts, where we said Brett Hundley would stay for his junior year.


Virginia was miserably bad this year in a bad conference. The Cavaliers won just two games, one of which came against VMI, which was last relevant when Stonewall Jackson was a professor there. Head coach Mike London likely won't be fired this offseason after his miserable 4th year, but he will be on the immediate hot seat to start next season. Fortunately, the team should be improved, especially on offense, with a young receiving corps and a young quarterback. Even on the road, though, this shouldn't be too much trouble for a UCLA team that should open up the year in the top 15. 1-0


To echo our comments about Virginia, Memphis was miserably bad this year in a bad conference. The Tigers won just one conference game, and won just three games overall—including one over Tennesee-Martin. The team will be in its third year under head coach Justin Fuente at that point, but there's little pressure on him—Memphis is a historically bad program, and Fuente was actually rewarded with a contract extension after going 4-8 in his first year. Again, it's hard to imagine a scenario where this game would even be close. 2-0

@Texas (or, technically, at Cowboys Stadium)

Here's where we think the non-conference schedule could get interesting, and it'll really depend on the coaching situation at Texas. The Longhorns have a good amount of talent, and a new coach coming in at some point over the next month could boost Texas recruiting a good deal, enough to bring in an impact class. The Longhorns do lose starting quarterback Case McCoy, and it's no guarantee that David Ash, who sat out most of the year with concussion symptoms, makes it back next year. They also lose three starting offensive linemen, but just three starters on defense, including two in the secondary. The thing is, UCLA virtually always does well in these big, marquee, non-conference road games, to the point where it's a trend. We'd have to imagine with this game coming before the start of school, UCLA manages to knock off the Longhorns. 3-0


Utah loses most of its defense, including two starters on the defensive line and Trevor Reilly, who is easily the best player on the defense at that hybrid linebacker/end role. The Utes also could likely be without quarterback Travis Wilson, who may have to retire after doctors discovered a brain abnormality this year. In addition, unlike this year, when the Utes got UCLA at home, in 2014 the Utes will have to go to Pasadena, and Utah is just a different team on the road. Again, this shouldn't be too difficult of a game. 4-0.


Cal was a complete and utter dumpster fire of a program in 2013, and there's little reason to expect different in 2014. The offense should be improved, you'd have to think, with another year of Jared Goff and the young receivers. The defense, which was poor this year, should be marginally improved next year. That shouldn't be enough, though, to make this game at all difficult. Yes, we're going to go out on a limb and predict that UCLA finally ends its losing streak in Memorial Stadium. 5-0


Stanford doesn't lose as much as you'd think looking at their depth chart, since they list seniors by academic year rather than eligibility, but they do lose starting ends Josh Mauro and Ben Gardner, starting linebackers Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov, and nickel back Usua Amanam. On offense, they'll lose offensive linemen Khalil Wilkes and Kevin Danser, fullback Ryan Hewitt, and TB Tyler Gaffney. There's also a good chance that starting guard David Yankey could also leave school, which would force Stanford to replace the entire interior of its offensive line. Ty Montgomery, Henry Anderson, A.J. Tayprley, Ed Reynolds, and Jordan Richards also could put their names in the Draft.

We've been guilty of picking UCLA against Stanford in two out the three losses over the last two years, but we have to guess that Stanford will take at least some form of hit next season, with the losses on defense and on the offensive line. UCLA, also, should be improved on both lines from last year, which should help greatly in making the Bruins the favorite heading into this game. Winning this game will be the biggest sign that UCLA is ready for primetime, and we have to imagine the Bruins finally knock off the Cardinal. 6-0


Oregon may have had a difficult end to the 2013 season, but there's little reason to believe the Ducks will be anything other than a national championship contender next season. First, Marcus Mariota has announced his return, which easily elevates Oregon's offense, particularly if his knee is healthy to start the year. The Ducks don't lose much on offense or on defense, with De'Anthony Thomas the most notable loss on offense since he plans on entering the NFL Draft. And, as we've learned over the year, it's easy to plug running backs into that offensive system. The question will be just how good of a coach Mark Helfrich is. The early returns aren't great, but Oregon should have the talent and system to still be very good. We're going to call this one a loss for UCLA, mostly because Oregon is still peaking a bit in terms of experience and talent, but we could see it being a very competitive game. 6-1.


The Buffaloes graduate just six starting seniors, and we'd expect the team to be improved a good deal under second year coach Mike MacIntyre. Sefo Liufau, in his second year, should be much improved, and will likely remain the toughest quarterback in the Pac-12. Defensively, the team should be improved as well. We think this could be a surprisingly tough game on the road, one that UCLA might take a bit lightly heading into it. Still, we can't imagine that a UCLA team that's expected to be as good as it is in 2014 will have much of a chance of losing to Colorado. 7-1


Arizona loses four of its starters in the defensive front seven, including two defensive linemen and two linebackers, as well as starting cornerback Shaquille Richardson. The Wildcats will also lose starting quarterback B.J. Denker, and will almost certainly lose Ka'Deem Carey to the NFL Draft. The thing is, Rich Rodriguez is a good coach, who showed this year that he has the ability to scheme for a lack of talent, especially at quarterback. We can't imagine that the Wildcats will be bad next year, but, at home, UCLA should take this one. 8-1


Washington is a tough team to pick. With new coach Chris Petersen, it's tough to say how the major scheme changes he'll likely make will fit with the talent currently in place. The Huskies do lose a fair amount, with Keith Price graduating and Bishop Sankey, and Austin Saferian-Jenkins likely gone to the NFL. On defense, Washington loses three starters in the secondary and a starting linebacker, but return pretty much everything else. We'd guess that the Huskies' defense will look about as good as it did this year, but the offense should take a pretty considerable hit. Petersen will almost certainly have a well-coached team, though, so this could be a tough game. At Seattle, this would probably be the most likely game, other than Oregon, that UCLA would lose in 2014. Still, we think UCLA's overall level of talent should win out, and the Huskies could have real trouble scoring on UCLA's defense. 9-1

@Arizona State

If there's a team that does embody the stars-are-aligned-for-one-year it's this year's Arizona State team, because next year ASU might take the largest hit among Pac-12 teams next year. The Sun Devils will lose seven defensive starters, including Will Sutton, and could lose Carl Bradford in addition those seven if he elects to go out in the NFL Draft. On offense, Arizona State loses Marion Grice, Chris Coyle, and two starting offensive linemen. While we'd anticipate that Todd Graham should be able to bring in a pretty good class in 2014, and probably go back to the JUCO ranks to do it, it's up in the air how many of those newcomers will be instant-impact type of players, so we'd have to guess that Arizona State will regress a good amount next year. In the same way where a senior heavy Arizona State squad was able to beat a young UCLA team this year on the road, we'd have to anticipate the Bruins return the favor next season. 10-1.


The Trojans really don't lose much from last year, as long as too many players don't make awful decisions to leave for the NFL. Kevin Graf, probably USC's best offensive lineman, will graduate, and Marqise Lee, the star receiver, will likely leave for the NFL Draft, but otherwise the offense should be intact, with some added talent from what figures to be a good freshman class. On defense, USC loses just Devon Kennard to graduation, but there are some other players who could make decisions to leave. Whether they leave or not, you'd have to guess that USC will be about similar to this year, maybe slightly improved depending on how Steve Sarkisian closes on the 2014 class. Sarkisian is a factor, too, likely bringing in a spread offense, which should help to modernize the scheme at USC. We do wonder, though, how an up-tempo spread will do with the lack of players USC will have, since it usually demands more plays per game over the season and that likely means more fatigue and more injuries. USC will still be in NCAA sanction mode for its last year in 2014 and it's lucky UCLA plays USC at the end of the season when the limitations on scholarship players could impact USC the most (Well, maybe not "lucky," since USC made its own bad luck).

A year after beating the Trojans by three touchdowns with a beat-up offensive line, though, we have to guess that UCLA will be more than able to deal with much of what USC brings to bear. With that win, in this scenario, a win over the Trojans would give UCLA a three game winning-streak in the series, the Bruins' first 11-win season in history, and another trip to the Pac-12 championship game, and a real shot at the first NCAA football playoff. 11-1

So, with the way things look right now, a full nine months before the start of next season, we think there's a good chance that UCLA could find itself looking at a 10- or 11-win regular season, and could find itself in good shape for a berth in the first NCAA football playoffs.

Next up: we'll predict wins and losses for the next six seasons of UCLA football.

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