Photo by Steve Cheng

Game Week Full UCLA vs. BYU Preview

Sept. 17 -- A physical and ranked BYU team comes to town this Saturday and could present some real challenges for UCLA...

• UCLA returns home this week to play BYU Saturday, Sept. 19, at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised by Fox Sports 1.

• UCLA, after its two wins over UNLV and Virginia in the last two weeks, has moved up to #10 in the Associated Press poll, and moved up to #12 in the Coaches’ poll.

• BYU is also 2-0 after wins over Nebraska and then-No. 20 Boise State, and the Cougars are now ranked #19 in the AP poll and #22 in the Coaches' poll.

• The Cougars are the winners of two dramatic games in their first two contests. Against Nebraska, BYU won on a last-second Hail Mary, thrown by backup quarterback Tanner Mangum, who took over for Taysom Hill, who will miss the season with a fracture in his foot. Then, last week against Boise State, Mangum once again converted a deep bomb in the last minute, this one a 35-yard touchdown to Mitchell Juergens with 45 seconds to go that put BYU ahead by four.

QB Tanner Mangum (USA Today)

• The last time BYU beat a top ten team was 2009, when the Cougars upset then-ranked No. 3 Oklahoma in a neutral site game in Arlington, Tex. BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall is 1-5 against top ten teams in his tenure at BYU.

• Against ranked teams in general, Mendenhall has a 7-14 record as the BYU head coach.

• BYU is now in its fifth season as an independent, with no conference affiliation, and this year the Cougars will play teams from six different conferences in the regular season.

• BYU, which is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, boats 91 players on the 2015 team who have served on church missions, which means that the Cougars are, on average, generally quite a bit older and more mature than their counterparts on other college teams.

• The last time UCLA played BYU, the game was a bloodbath. The Cougars won 59-0 in Provo in 2008 during Rick Neuheisel's first year as the UCLA head coach. Interestingly enough, UCLA played BYU three times within 370 days, beating BYU on September 8, 2007, losing to BYU later than year in the Las Vegas Bowl on December 22, 2007, and then losing again on September 13, 2008. In total, BYU is 3-7 against UCLA all-time, with a 2-1 record under Mendenhall against the Bruins.

• Since going independent, BYU has regularly scheduled Pac-12 opponents every year. Over the last four years, the Cougars are 3-5 against Pac-12 opponents, including losing to Washington in a bowl game.

• UCLA has a home-and-home with BYU, and the Bruins will play the Cougars next year in Provo. The last series UCLA had against a conference independent was against Notre Dame. The Bruins lost each game of the home-and-home, with a loss in South Bend in 2006 and then another loss at the Rose Bowl in 2007.

• UCLA has won 13 of its last 14 non-conference matchups and ten in a row since losing to Baylor in the 2012 Holiday Bowl.

• With last week's win over UNLV, UCLA has now set the record for the most consecutive victories in games played away from the Rose Bowl. The streak is currently at 11, which bests the school record of 10 set in 1997-98.

• UCLA has also won all 11 non-conference regular season games played under Jim Mora.

• BYU is helmed by coach Bronco Mendenhall (49), who is now in his 11th season as the head coach. In that time, Mendenhall has had generally very good success, though the program may have peaked in his first stint on the job. After finishing 6-6 his first season, Mendenhall rattled off four straight seasons of 10+ wins, including 11-2 campaigns in 2006, 2007, and 2009. The Cougars had little to show for it, though, with BYU ending up in the Las Vegas Bowl each of those four seasons despite finishing three of those four seasons ranked in the top 15. Since the move out of the Mountain West, BYU has had more variety in bowl games, but hasn't reached the level necessary to compete for larger bowls, with back-to-back-to-back 8-5 seasons in each of the last three years. Mendenhall is under very little pressure, however, as he's turned out a consistent winning program and has a 92-39 record through his 10+ seasons.

• The Cougars have earned a reputation for dirty play over the last few years. Last week against Boise State, BYU's Ului Lapuaho was caught on camera punching a Boise State player in the testicles while fighting for a loose ball (see what we did there?). The previous week, BYU DB Jordan Preator attempted to clip a Nebraska player's knee long after the ball had flown past the receiver. Last season, of course, BYU was involved in a brawl in its bowl game, with one BYU player full-on sucker punching a Memphis player in the back of the head. BYU, like UCLA, is one of the most penalized teams in the college football year-in and year-out, but the Cougars certainly add some special zest to it.

• Despite punching a player in the testicles during a football game, which is not a sport where punching players in the testicles is generally condoned, it was announced this week that Lapuaho will not be suspended for the UCLA game.

• UCLA is favored by 16½ points.

• The weather forecast calls for a high of 88 degrees in Pasadena on Saturday, and probably in the mid to high 70s at game time.



BYU’s Offense vs. UCLA’s Defense

It’s fairly certain that BYU’s offense at this point of the season looks nothing like what Cougar fans would have expected a little over a month ago.

A month ago, BYU thought it would have a potential star at running back in Jamaal Williams, who has run for over 2500 yards in his three-year college career.

A month ago, BYU thought it would have a Heisman hopeful at quarterback in Taysom Hill, who has thrown for 31 touchdowns in his four-year career and rushed for over 2200 yards.

A month ago, BYU thought it had a traditional tight end in Steven Richards who could add dimensions to both the pass and run game.

Now, BYU has none of those guys. It was announced at the beginning of August that Williams would miss the season due to an undisclosed rules violations. At the end of August, Richards went down with a knee injury that will sideline him for the entire year. And then, in the worst hit of all, Hill broke his foot in the first game of the season and will miss the year, which gives him a second consecutive year lost to injury.

Still, despite the injuries, the Cougars have been fairly productive offensively so far this season, against two quality defenses in Nebraska and Boise State. The Cougars are averaging the exact same yards per play (6.1) as UCLA, but against significantly better competition. The offense has had to change somewhat, with the losses of Hill, Williams, and Richards, moving away from the dual-threat running game to emphasize the pass, and so far the results have been fairly good.

Leading the charge for BYU, actually, has been Hill’s backup and the new starter at quarterback, freshman Tanner Mangum (6’3, 210). As many have pointed out, Mangum isn’t a traditional freshman, and, in fact, just celebrated his 22nd birthday last week. So far this year, he also hasn’t played like a freshman, looking poised and confident against both Nebraska and Boise State. Mangum is a good athlete who has the ability to buy time and roll out. He’s adept throwing on the run, but also can quickly set his feet to throw long bombs after roll outs. He has a strong arm, which he has showed off to great effect in back-to-back games, winning the Nebraska game on a Hail Mary and then beating BYU on a 35-yard touchdown pass in closing minutes of the 4th quarter. He’s completed several long passes in the first two games, and it’s a fair bet that BYU will try to continue to exploit his ability to throw deep.

Mangum isn’t much of a downfield running threat, but he is a good athlete. He forced a couple of throws during the Boise State game for interceptions, but the expectation is that he’ll get more comfortable and reduce his mistakes over time. He has also benefitted from a strong receiving corps, which has helped to turn some of his jump balls into perfect lasers in the box score.

WR Mitchel Juergens (USA Today)

The group has actually been led through two games by junior Mitchell Juergens (5’10, 182), who was actually a walk-on as recently as a month ago. He exploded for 172 yards and two touchdowns against Boise State, including catching the go-ahead touchdown late. He plays bigger than his size indicates, and is strong after the catch. He’s effectively an H-back, which means he’ll line up all over the field, oftentimes out of the backfield or in the slot. The rest of the receiving corps is full of big guys who are simply tough to cover due to their size. Aside from senior Devon Blackmon (6’0, 187), the rest of the main group of receivers runs well north of 6’1. Blackmon is probably the fastest receiver and currently leads the team in catches with 11. Senior receiver Mitch Mathews (6’6, 215) has been a big target, particularly in the red zone this year, and is an excellent possession receiver. Blackmon’s backup, junior Nick Kurtz (6’6, 205), is another huge target who has five catches so far this year including a long 53 yards. Senior inside receiver Tereen Houk (6’5, 225) is another huge target who can be utilized in the red zone or short yardage situations. It’s just a big, big group of guys, and will present a matchup challenge for any teams they face this year. Having that kind of size has helped give Mangum a little bit more of a safety net on some of his more contested throws.

The running game hasn’t been particularly good with the loss of Williams. Senior Adam Hine (6’1, 216) has gotten the most work, and he’s been OK so far, rushing for 130 yards on 23 carries through two games. There’s a significant drop off behind him, though, with junior backup Algernon Brown (6’1, 235) rushing for just 23 yards on eight carries. Heck, the third string running back, senior Nate Carter (5’9, 189), has run for -9 yards on six carries. It’s a poor rushing attack, without a ton of individual talent, which has put even more of the onus on Mangum and the passing game.

The offensive line has been just OK so far this year, and has looked a lot better than it’s been because Mangum is good at avoiding the rush. So far this season, the offensive line has already given up seven sacks. Coupled with the poor rushing attack, that smacks of an offensive line that is largely underperforming. It’s a relatively young offensive line for BYU, at least by class standing, with three sophomores, one junior, and one senior in the starting lineup. First, the good part is that from center to left tackle, BYU has some quality players. Senior left tackle Ryker Mathews (6’6, 320) is the most experienced of the group, having started 13 games a freshman and having played in a combined 20 games over the last injury-riddled two years. He was on various watch lists heading into the season, and is a massive lineman who could cause UCLA some issues on the edge rush. Next to him, junior Kyle Johnson (6’4, 303) is probably the next most experienced in the unit, with two years of starting under his belt. Sophomore center Tejan Koroma (6’0, 290) started every game last year as a true freshman and actually beat out a returning senior starter to win the job, which says something about his talent and ability.

The right side of the line has been somewhat problematic, and BYU is still trying to find the right combination there. Sophomore Tuni Kanuch (6’3, 330) will likely start on Saturday at right guard, but he didn’t start the opener and has had issues in both run blocking and pass protection. The very controversial sophomore Ului Lapuaho (6’7, 330) was made famous after the Boise State game for punching a Broncos player in the crotch and he’ll likely start at right tackle after playing left tackle most of last year. If there’s an overall issue with the offensive line it’s that it trends toward big and powerful rather than agile and quick, which doesn’t work quite as well when the offense is now geared more toward the pass.

On the UCLA side, the Bruins have had, statistically, two very good defensive showings to start the season. The Bruins have allowed just 4.2 yards per play through two games, which is good enough for 24th in the country, and allowed a minuscule .14 points per play, which is good for 11th in the country. It’s a small sample size, of course, against two not very good offenses, but still, it’s a positive sign for a UCLA defense that underperformed a year ago.
UCLA Defensive Linemen (photo by Steve Cheng)

The Bruins have been led, largely, by excellent play up front. Despite the loss of Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA’s defensive line performed very well against UNLV last week, with a combination of Eli Ankou and Matt Dickerson taking on more of the responsibility. Ankou in particular had a really good day, generating two tackles for loss and looking stout against the run. Dickerson was brought in on passing downs and looked very good as an interior rusher, and that feature of the defense is probably something UCLA will use more of as the Bruins get into Pac-12 play. Defensive end Takkarist McKinley also played really well, pressuring UNLV’s quarterback into an interception and looking stout against the run. All of that is without even mentioning Kenneth Clark, who might be one of UCLA’s top two or three pro prospects regardless of class and who has had long strings of dominance at different points of the first two games.

The linebacker corps didn’t have a great first game, but looked better in game two. Kenny Young seemed to settle down some in the middle linebacker role, and Myles Jack seemed to have a bigger positive impact on the game, particularly on the perimeter. Deon Hollins was exceptional in the game, oftentimes successfully defending the zone read all by himself. His awareness and lateral mobility have come a long way in the last two years, and so far he’s looked very good. UCLA went to more of a 4-3 type look in this last game, with Young manning the middle spot, Jack playing an almost weak side linebacker role, and Jayon Brown coming in to play significantly in place of Aaron Wallace. It’ll be interesting to see how much UCLA uses that formation going forward.

The secondary went mostly untested last week against UNLV, since the Rebels’ starting quarterback went down in the first half. This will probably be the toughest test of the early season for cornerbacks Fabian Moreau and Marcus Rios, who will be asked to defend players significantly bigger than them at times. Overall, the best player in the secondary so far this season has probably been sophomore safety Jaleel Wadood, who has been effective in the run game and also good in coverage.

So far, we haven’t seen much pressure from defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. Admittedly, the Bruins haven’t needed to pressure much to have effective games against UNLV and Virginia, but it will be interesting to see if the defense gets a little more exotic heading into tougher games over the next few weeks.

ADVANTAGE: UCLA

This BYU offense will, without a doubt, be the toughest one UCLA has faced this season. It’s a fairly one-dimensional attack, but BYU does that one dimension better than Virginia or UNLV do anything. The Cougars’ strength and size at the skill positions will present some matchup difficulties against UCLA’s relatively small secondary, and could almost cause UCLA’s defenders some Stanford-like issues. BYU actually resembles Stanford in several ways, but certainly in overall size and strength.

The big key for UCLA will be handling Mangum. The Bruins’ job is two-fold: first, they have to get pressure on Mangum to keep him from getting too many free looks downfield. Second, and this is the hard part to couple with the first, they also have to keep him contained to the pocket, where he can’t use his feet and mobility to find open space from which to plant and throw. He’s completed several passes through just two games where he’s been able to roll out and hit deep throws, and those sorts of plays seem to be well within his comfort zone.

UCLA’s edge defenders have been fairly good at containing quarterbacks so far this season, so we’d bet on their ability to keep Mangum mostly contained to the pocket. Then, from what we saw last week against UNLV, we think UCLA might have the makings of an interior pass rush in some combination of Dickerson, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, and Ankou. If UCLA’s interior rush can somewhat consistently get in Mangum’s face, and the edge guys can keep him fairly contained to the pocket, UCLA should be able to stifle BYU’s offense.

We’d also anticipate this being a game where Jack is used quite a bit in coverage. He has the size and strength to handle BYU’s bigger receivers while also being a far better athlete. Odds are, Mangum hasn’t seen a defender like Jack before, and Jack could be used to single-handedly take away Mathews or one of the other bigger receivers Mangum likes to throw to.

BYU is probably going to make some downfield plays. We’re not completely sold on UCLA’s secondary through two games, and we could see BYU’s size causing UCLA’s safeties and corners some issues. But overall, we think UCLA’s defensive line will do a good enough job of keeping Mangum in the pocket and under fire that he won’t have time to make too many of the dazzling plays he’s made through two games.



BYU’s Defense vs. UCLA’s Offense

Just like on the offensive side of the ball, BYU has had to deal with a critical injury on the defensive side — and, just like on offense, the Cougars have found a way to churn out a credible defense even with that critical injury.

Starting junior nose tackle Travis Tuiloma (6’2, 300), who has been called by Bronco Mendenhall BYU’s best and more important defensive player, suffered a knee injury during the opener against Nebraska that will keep him out for another few weeks. Tuiloma was a big, powerful lineman who was more than capable of plugging the middle of the run defense while also making the occasional play in the backfield.

His loss has forced BYU to mix and match, and through one game, the Cougars have done an OK job of it. BYU runs a 3-4, so the nose tackle position is critical, but Mendenhall, who is the de factor defensive coordinator for BYU, has mixed things up from play to play to help disguise the hole in the middle. Sometimes against Boise State, he used four down linemen. Sometimes he used three. Other times, he used something like an amoeba front, with maybe one down lineman and a bunch of other players standing up near the line of scrimmage. It looks like smoke and mirrors to compensate for a lack of a true nose tackle, but through one game, it worked pretty well.

By the numbers, BYU has been pretty average defensively, giving up 5.2 yards per play. The Cougars have seven sacks through two games, though, which speaks to some big play ability. The run defense has been good, with BYU giving up an average of 2.8 yards per rush (good for 22nd in the country).

DE Bronson Kaufusi (USA Today)

Even without Tuiloma, the defensive front is probably the strength of the team. It starts with the defensive line, which boasts several big, strong, physical players in the two-deep. Watching the Boise State game, senior defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (6’8, 280) stood out as a playmaker. When Boise tried to run away from his side, he was excellent in back side pursuit, and he was also able to put a good deal of pressure on the Broncos quarterback. He’s a good athlete who actually transitioned last year from playing outside linebacker, and he’s someone UCLA’s offensive line will definitely have to pay attention to during the game. Senior Logan Taele (6’2, 293) is taking over for Tuiloma at nose tackle. Taele has had a weird career at BYU, having been cut from the team at one point after starting out as a linebacker. After packing on some weight and strength, he’s now the team’s starting nose tackle. He still has some of that linebacker athleticism, which makes him maybe more of a pass rush threat than Tuiloma, though he lacks some of that bulk and strength that made Tuiloma more of a run stopper. Another senior, Graham Rowley (6’5, 280) mans the other defensive end spot, and he’s another big, strong guy who has some ability to rush the passer. The defensive line is definitely designed to eat up blocks and stop the run first and foremost, but each of the three starters has a sack this year, so there’s some real individual ability to get to the quarterback. Senior defensive end Remington Peck (6’4, 275) has appeared to get the most time as a backup lineman, and, as his size indicates, he’s another big lineman who’s difficult to block in the run game.

BYU also has some good players in the linebacker corps. Junior middle linebacker Harvey Langi (6’3, 240) is the star of the group. Langi is great against the run, but what sets him apart is how adept he is at blitzing up the middle. He already has four tackles for loss through two games, including three sacks. BYU is not shy about using him as an extra rusher, and against Boise State, Mendenhall moved him around some to put him in advantageous positions. Fellow inside linebacker, senior Manoa Pikula (6’1, 235), is a steady hand on the interior, and will probably come pretty close to leading BYU in sacks this year. He’s not a flashy player, but he has a reputation for being disciplined and playing his assignments. The most athletic of the starting linebackers is sophomore Fred Warner (6’4, 225). He’s the second leading tackler on the team, and is asked to do a fair amount in coverage as well as in run support. Interestingly, he suffered both a broken wrist and a broken back last season, but hasn’t seemed the worse for wear this season. Senior Jherremya Leuta-Douyere (6’0, 230) is a bit of a do-everything player for the linebackers, and will line up anywhere from inside linebacker to nickel depending on the formation. Junior middle linebacker Austin Heder (6’2, 242) will also get a considerable amount of time in a backup role.

The secondary made some absolutely huge plays against Boise State last week, and were led in that charge by junior safety Kai Nacua (6’2, 213). Nacua had three interceptions against Boise State and had two last year in his first year of considerable playing time, so he’s developing into a bit of a ballhawk. The safeties are definitely the strength of the secondary, with senior free safety Michael Wadsworth (6’2, 221) playing the part of a big, bruising safety who can play in coverage but also drop down into the box to provide run support. He’s leading the team in tackles currently with 16. The corners are a little bit of a weak spot. Sophomore Micah Hannemann (6’0, 200) is a great athlete who had a big interception against Nebraska, but had a miserable game against Boise State last week, getting beaten badly on a few plays. He needs to play with a little bit more discipline, but he has the athleticism to eventually be a good corner. On the other side, junior Michael Davis (6’2, 195) will likely start. Davis was charged with misdemeanor assault earlier this month, but it hasn’t kept him from playing in games, and he is still listed No. 1 on the depth chart. When playing, he’s a little steadier than Hannemann, but not quite the same level of athlete. Behind those two, BYU has a couple of freshmen in Michael Shelton (5’8, 169) and Micah Simon (6’1, 187) who the Cougars would rather not rely on extensively.

Offensively, UCLA had a weird game against UNLV last week after having a near-perfect showing against Virginia in week one. The Bruins never seemed to get into a perfect rhythm against the Rebels, and though they scored 30 points on offense, it was a quiet 30 points, only ten of which came in the first half.

Part of it was that freshman quarterback Josh Rosen, who had been basically perfect in his first game, was a little more human in his second game. He missed all of his deep throws against UNLV after making the vast majority of those throws against Virginia, and that right there might have been difference in UCLA’s offense not putting up 40+ points against UNLV. He was also hurt, a little, by UCLA’s receivers not getting great separation against UNLV and also not catching the ball particularly well. Slot receiver Mossi Johnson, in particular, had a couple of drops in the game, and aside from Jordan Payton, most of the receivers had a tough time getting open enough to present a really good target to Rosen.

That said, the offensive line once again had a really good game, by and large. The run blocking was effective, and UCLA once again did not allow a sack. This game may be a little bit easier, too, because offensive line coach Adrian Klemm will be back after serving a two-game suspension for alleged rules violations. With Klemm back, the expectation is that UCLA’s offensive line should be able to do a better job of correcting details in-game. One thing to monitor, of course, is the health of senior center Jake Brendel. Brendel sat out the second half of the UNLV game with a foot injury and was actually on the sideline in a boot during the second half. Jim Mora has said that he should be good to go for the game.
RB Bolu Olorunfunmi (photo by Steve Cheng)

With the passing game not quite hitting on all cylinders, the running backs had a break out game against UNLV. Paul Perkins had a combined 175 yards running and receiving, and Nate Starks and Bolu Olorunfunmi both had really effective games as well. Sotonye Jamabo didn’t really find much running room against UNLV’s defense, but he’ll continue to get opportunities going forward.

ADVANTAGE: UCLA

We’ll give the advantage to UCLA, but this is a close one, and a little difficult to assess at this juncture. UNLV didn’t have a particularly tough defense, but UCLA struggled to put up a ton of points against the Rebels. Of course, the Bruins manhandled a better defense in Virginia in the opener. In other words, our uncertainty about this matchup has more to do with not knowing exactly what we’ll get out of UCLA’s offense after two games than it does with anything related specifically to BYU.

The Cougars are probably a little bit better than Virginia defensively, so this will be the toughest defense UCLA has played this year. Up front, BYU has some size and strength, and could cause UCLA’s offensive line more trouble than they’ve had so far this season. Kaufusi in particular looks like he could be difficult to block, with very good size, length, and athleticism.

Ultimately, though, we weren’t impressed with the overall team speed of the BYU defense. It’s a big physical group up front, but Boise was able to attack them on the edges at times. UCLA has a better quarterback and better playmakers, with a scheme very much designed to attack the edges of defenses, so we think in that sense it’s a pretty favorable matchup for the Bruins.

But much will depend on what UCLA offense shows up. BYU has a pass rush, and the Cougars are not afraid to bring pressure. If UCLA’s receivers have the same trouble getting open and catching the ball against BYU that they had against UNLV, it could make for a tough day for Josh Rosen in the pocket. Mendenhall is a good defensive coach, and he’ll most likely have some tricky things cooked up for the true freshman quarterback.

We ultimately think UCLA has a little too much athleticism and firepower for the bigger, slower BYU defense, but this will certainly be a physical test for the Bruins.

Special Teams

BYU’s kicker is senior Trevor Sampson (5’11, 177) who is a perfect 2 for 2 on field goals this year, with a long of 41 yards. He’s a good college kicker who’s basically automatic from 40 and in. BYU hasn’t tried him on a kick longer than 45 yards, so it’s difficult to assess his effective range. He’s only kicked 16 total field goals in his collegiate career, and has made 14.

Junior Jonny Linehan (6’0, 195) will handle the punts, and he kicks kind of rugby style, which makes it difficult to generate much of a return. Boise came pretty close to blocking a couple of his kicks, though, so that could be something to watch.

Both Blackmon and junior cornerback Eric Takenaka have returned kicks this season, and neither did a very good job. It’s an absurdly small sample size, though, as BYU has only returned two kicks all season, so there’s little to take from it. Blackmon has the potential to return a big one, with good speed. Hannemann handles the majority of punt returns, and as we said, he’s a pretty good athlete with the ability to return one deep at some point.

UCLA’s special teams were better against UNLV. Ka'imi Fairbairn made all three of his field goal attempts, and Matt Mengel was much more consistent with his punts. Special teams coverage was also excellent, as usual, and the Bruins snuffed out a fake field goal a week after allowing a first down on a fake punt, which was all good to see.

The return game is still a bit of a question. Randall Goforth had a near muffed punt, and soon after, Devin Fuller was brought in to handle punt return duties. Fuller is much more sure-handed than Goforth, but with him lining up at punt returner and kick returner, UCLA loses a little bit of big play ability. That’s not to say Fuller can’t have a nice return, but he hasn’t shown the explosive ability to score on returns, which is really what you want out of a kickoff returner especially.

ADVANTAGE: Even

Prediction

BYU always seems to churn out physical teams that can beat a team up if they’re not ready for the challenge. UCLA experienced this the last time the Bruins had a series with BYU, and this year’s squad, while a little banged up, is once again a strong, physically mature team that plays with an edge.

The Cougars are depleted, though, with injuries at key positions on both offense and defense. Against Boise State and Nebraska, BYU was able to eke out desperation, last-minute wins, but for large portions of each game, the Cougars struggled. UCLA is better than Boise State and Nebraska, and perhaps significantly so, so in that sense, you’d expect the Bruins not to let BYU hang around in a one-possession game through the 4th quarter.

It would be a different thing if BYU had Hill, Williams, Richards, and Tuiloma. Without Hill and Williams, though, BYU is very one-dimensional offensively and, without Tuiloma, BYU is really unable to run the defense it’d like to run, since it lacks that key nose tackle who makes a 3-4 work.

On defense, UCLA’s team speed and strength up front should be able to stifle the inept BYU rushing attack, and, while Mangum might hit a couple of big plays through the air, we doubt he’ll be able to do it with enough consistency to the move the ball the way BYU will need to move it to score 25+ points. On offense, the Bruins might have some difficulty running the ball initially against BYU’s stout front, but the quick game to the edges should be there for Rosen and company early, and that’ll allow the offense to generate a rhythm and evolve into more of a downfield rushing attack as the game progresses. BYU hasn’t given up deep plays so far this year (no passes given up of over 30 yards) but that shouldn’t stop Rosen from taking his shots, and we’ll be he connects on one or two.

We think it’ll be a tougher game than Vegas predicts, but, ultimately, the Bruins will emerge comfortably victorious.

UCLA 31
BYU 21

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