• UCLA heads out on the road again this weekend, this time to face the Texas Longhorns at the ostensibly neutral site of AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex. The game will kickoff at 5:00 p.m. PST on September 13th, and will be televised by FOX, with Gus Johnson, Charles Davis, and Molly McGrath on the call.
• UCLA (2-0) dropped once again in the polls, this time to #12 in both the AP Poll and USA Today Coaches Poll after a second consecutive too-close victory (beating Memphis 42-35).
• Texas (1-1), unranked, lost 41-7 to BYU last week after trouncing North Texas in the season opener.
• UCLA and Texas have played six times, but two of those meetings have come in the last five years, with UCLA beating Texas 34-12 in Austin in 2010 and then losing 49-20 in Pasadena in 2011. Each team is 3-3 against the other, making this a rubber match of sorts in the series.
• Texas, for the first time since the late 1990’s, has a new coach, with Charlie Strong taking over for Mack Brown. Strong, who has a 38-17 record as a head coach, helped to turn Louisville into a major power in college football and brings a substantial defensive background to the Longhorns. The Longhorns need all the help they can get after the long descent to mediocrity over the last five years of the Brown era. Texas lost 21 games in the last four years. For context, in the previous four years, the Longhorns lost just eight games.
• Strong inherited a bit of a mess, and he’s spent most of the offseason trying to clean it up. He has dismissed seven players from school and has suspended four, which is by far the most of any first-year coach in the country this year. There’s some speculation that most of the suspensions and dismissals have been drug-related, and it’s clear that Strong is having to engage in some pretty substantial culture change.
• Just last week, Strong suspended his two starting offensive tackles, and both players are out for the UCLA game as well.
Starting quarterback David Ash, who has had significant issues with concussions throughout his career, suffered from post-concussive symptoms after the opener against North Texas, and he too will be out indefinitely.
• Strong called last week’s 34-point loss to BYU an “embarrassment” and in his teleconference this week said that he wished he had dragged his team back into the locker room before the game because he could tell they were not mentally engaged. The loss was the worst for Texas since being blown out by No. 13 Oklahoma 63-21 in 2012, and the worst to a (then-)unranked opponent since, you guessed it, losing 66-3 to UCLA in 1997.
• The game should be a bit like a home game for Texas, which has to travel just under 200 miles from Austin to Arlington for the game. UCLA, by contrast, must travel almost 1500 miles.
• The game will be the first time that UCLA has played in AT&T Stadium, but the second for Texas, which beat Nebraska in a 13-12 barn-burner in the 2009 Big 12 title game.
• Texas’ defense was impressive in game one, limiting North Texas to just 94 yards of total offense. That’s just the 14th time in UT history that the Longhorns have held an opponent to under 100 yards of offense. Of course, in week two, the defense was much less impressive, giving up 429 yards to BYU including 248 on the ground (on 59 carries, it should be noted).
• UCLA has not been particularly impressive through two games, which has led to the Bruins dropping two straight weeks in the polls, a pretty rare occurrence for a team that’s 2-0. In looking at the remaining schedule, it looks unlikely that any wins over the last ten games, no matter how ugly, would result in UCLA dropping in the polls further.
The Bruins have been excellent in non-conference road games over the last few years. In the Mora era, UCLA is 8-0 in regular-season, non-conference play, with road wins over Nebraska, Virginia, and Rice by a combined 53 points.
UCLA will get its first bye week after the Texas game, and will open the Pac-12 schedule on a Thursday night against Arizona State on Sept. 25th.
• UCLA opened as 6-point favorites over Texas, and the line has climbed to 8 points at the time of this writing.
• The weather forecast for Saturday calls for a high of 75 degrees, with cloudy skies and a 10% chance of rain. The temperature could drop into the high 60s by the end of the game, and the humidity could climb as high as 60% by the evening.
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