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Game Week: Virginia Facts and Factors

Sep. 1 -- UCLA kicks off the season against its 2014 season-opening opponent, Virginia. It's probably a story of two head coaches going in different directions...

•  UCLA will face Virginia in its opening game of the 2015 season on Saturday, September 5th, at 12:30 p.m. in the Rose Bowl.  The game will be televised by Fox.

•  UCLA is ranked 13th and 14th, respectively, in the pre-season AP and Coaches Poll.

•  The Bruins were 10-3 in 2014 and ended the season ranked #10.

•  The Cavaliers in 2014 were 5-7, marking their third losing season in a row.

• This is only the second meeting all-time between the two schools in football, the first being last year’s season opener in Charlottesville, with the Bruins holding on for a tough win on the road, 28-20.  UCLA took advantage of three defensive touchdowns in the second quarter.

•  Virginia wasn’t necessarily as bad in 2014 as the 5-7 record might indicate.  They started out 4-2, with a win over then-ranked #21 Louisville, with their two losses coming on a good effort against UCLA and BYU on the road.  They then went on a four-game losing streak, getting beat by some good teams – @ Duke, by one point against North Carolina, @ Georgia Tech and then @ then-ranked-#2 Florida State.  They then beat Miami pretty soundly, but suffered a tough loss to end the season against rival Virginia Tech, and just missing that sixth, bowl-berthing win.

• UCLA returns nine one-time starters on offense from 2014, and nine starters on defense.  Virginia returns 10 starters on both sides of the ball total from last season.

•  It is just the second home opener for UCLA in the last six seasons. In 2013, the Bruins beat Nevada to start the season, 58-20.

• UCLA has won 11 of its last 12 non-conference matchups, and eight in a row since losing to Baylor in the 2012 Holiday Bowl.  It has won all nine regular-season non-conference games in that time.

•  Virginia is coached by Mike London (54), who is in his sixth year with the Cavaliers. In that time, he’s posted just one winning season, in his second year in 2011. In the off-season there were some questions of whether London would be replaced, but Virginia Athletic Director Craig Littlepage publicly confirmed that London would be retained as the head coach for 2015.  London’s background is in defense, coming up through the ranks primarily as a defensive line coach and then getting his first defensive coordinator job at Virginia in 2007 by then-Virginia head coach Al Groh.  Since being at Virginia, his defenses have generally been pretty good, with UVA’s defense last season being ranked 28th in the nation overall (UCLA’s was 63rd).  If he was thought to be on a hot seat last season, however, London is definitely sitting on a skillet for 2015.

•  UCLA head coach Jim Mora has, obviously, transformed the UCLA football program, not just off the field, but on. In Mora’s first three years, his 29 total wins are the most-ever by a UCLA coach in his initial three seasons on the job.  Finishing the season ranked 10th in the AP Poll was the highest season-ending finish for the program since 1998.  In his 4th year, Mora still needs to push through some roadblocks, namely beat Stanford and Oregon (the Bruins don’t play the Ducks in the regular season this year), and win a Pac-12 championship. 

•  One of the most amazing stats in the Mora era is that UCLA is 25-0 under him when leading at halftime.

•  Under Mora, UCLA has started each of his three seasons with winning streaks.  In 2014, it started with four wins; in 2013, five and in 2012 it started the season with three straight wins.

•  Despite a projection of starting just four seniors going into the 2015 season, UCLA is one of the most experienced teams in the country, being among the teams in FBS with the most cumulative starts among its players.

•  The Virginia game, of course, is the first game in the Jim Mora era without Brett Hundley starting at quarterback.

Jim Mora and Brett Hundley

•  UCLA is 18-13 all-time against the current Atlantic Coast Conference. 

• Virginia hasn’t won a bowl game since 2005.

•  Although the Cavalier is the official mascot of Virginia, they often referred to themselves as Wahoos, or even Hoos for short. The story goes that in the 1890s they were dubbed “Wahoos” by students from the in-state, then-rival school Washington and Lee University.

•  The betting line opened at UCLA -14, and has since moved to just about -19.  

•  Despite a recent heat wave, there is a cooling trend in Southern California this week, with a very mild projected high of 81 degrees at the Rose Bowl for Saturday. 


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