Game Preview: Utah at UCLA

The Utes try to rebound from back to back losses in the historic Rose Bowl

Facts and Factors

Utah (2-3, 0-2 Pac-12) plays UCLA (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) in the Rose Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 13. Kickoff is noon PDT (1 p.m. MDT). The game will be televised nationally on FOX. Radio is ESPN700 AM (espn700sports.com) and SIRIUS/XM (139/201).

Utah hopes to snap a two-game losing streak after starting its Pac-12 season with losses to Arizona State and USC. Last season, the Utes started 0-4 in conference play before winning their next four Pac-12 games, including a 31-6 victory over UCLA.

Utah trails the series 8-2 but has won the last two games with UCLA in 2007 and 2011. The Utes are looking for their first win on UCLA's home turf, where they are 0-5.

Kyle Whittingham is 2-1 against UCLA with wins in Salt Lake City in 2007 and 2011 and a loss in Pasadena in 2006.

Utah's only previous appearance on FOX was the 2009 Sugar Bowl—a 31-17 Utah win over Alabama.

Utah starting sophomore wide receiver Dres Anderson's father Flipper played wide receiver for UCLA from 1984-87. He led the Bruins in receiving yards in 1986 and 1987 and ranks 10th in school history with 2,023 yards. A second-round draft pick, he played in the NFL for 10 years.

Utah leads the nation in forced fumbles with 13. Opponents have fumbled the ball a total of 18 times.

Utah has 37 Californians on its roster.

When Utah has the Ball

This one is somewhat of a question mark... Hays or Wilson? Personally, I believe Wilson gets the start, but both take some snaps. There will be a great contrast in what you will see from the Utes depending on who is under center. Either way, I think you will see the offense spread out, and a lot of snaps out of shotgun. The shotgun formation was effective against USC, and allowed Hays to release the ball quickly, without much interference from the pass rush.

Hays and Wilson will have to work against a UCLA front 7 that is going to bring pressure. Outside linebackers Anthony Barr and Damien Holmes have combined for 11 sacks, while defensive end Datone Jones is a beast in both the passing and run game.

The shotgun also seemed to get the run blocking going some as John White IV showed some flashes of the old Wolfman. John White was slashes through holes and gaining 5-10 yards on the majority of his carries. I think you can expect the Wolfman to get a heavy workload in Pasadena on Saturday. Kelvin York, White's primary back-up has come to life over the past two games, though he only had 4 touches against USC should also be a factor against the Bruins. For the Utes to compete and potentially pull the upset, White and York need to move the ball effectively on the ground.

Stopping the running game, UCLA will rely mostly on inside linebackers Jordan Zumwalt and Eric Kendricks. Both are very talented guys. Kendricks leads the team in tackles and Zumwalt is one of the biggest hitters on the team.

While the quarterback situation is somewhat unknown, the main targets in the passing game are quiet obvious. Devonte Christopher, Dres Anderson, Kenneth Scott, and Jake Murphy are the main aerial weapons for the Utes. Each of the 4 has showed up big in small spurts, but never have they put it all together for a full game. Kenneth Scott has been nearly unstoppable, yet clearly Scott has been underutilized. Look for Scott's size and athleticism to be used against UCLA on Saturday. Dres Anderson's dad, Flipper Anderson, is an all-time UCLA great, this may fuel Dres' fire and spark a big game for the talented Sophomore.

The Utes will work work against a Bruin secondary that has been up and down. UCLA has 10 interceptions on the season, lead by cornerback Sheldon Price's 4 picks, but their inability to defend the deep ball has been an issue. Price, along with Aaron Hester are big corners with great size, but make way too many mistakes. Whichever Utah cornerback that plays, will need to make them pay.

When UCLA has the ball

Unfortunately for the Utes, the sledding doesn't get much easier after the tough loss to USC. UCLA's offense has created numerous problems for the opposition this season. While Jonathan Franklin's early heisman hype may have died off, he may be the best all around back in the Pac-12. When it is all said and done Franklin should be the all-time leading rushing in school history, which is no small feat. The Utes D struggled to bring Silas Redd down with weak arm tackling and attempted knockout hits, the results could be very similar at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.

The Bruins passing attack is not up to par with what the Utes faced at RES last Thursday night, but then again who's is? Stopping Brett Hundley is a difficult task, but perhaps Cal's D made a blueprint on how to do it? He is young and susceptible to making poor decisions if pressured. With that being said, he is a big nimble athlete who can make pass rushers look silly, and can beat you with his legs, as well as his arm.

Franklin and Hundley will work behind an offensive line that features 3 freshman, including newbies at both tackles spots in Simon Goines and Torian White. They'll need to be better than they were against Cal when Hundley was under pressure for much of the game. UCLA does have two elite guards though in Jeff Baca and Xavier Su'a-Filo that they'll run behind. If either tackle struggles, both Baca and Su'a-Filo can slide out and play on the outside.

Weapons to look out for in the passing game are Shaq Evans, Steven Manfro, and Joe Fauria. Joe Fauria is the guy to key on for the Bruins aerial attack, at 6'7 255 lbs, Fauria is pretty hard to miss. Trevor Reilly will matchup on Fauria throughout the game in a battle should be entertaining to watch.

Prediction

This is the season. If the Utes win, the season can be salvaged, and a winning record is probable, if the Utes fall to 2-4... it is going to be a long 2nd half of the season. I believe the Utes are at their best when their backs are against the wall and they have very few believers. With the uncertainty revolving around the quarterback situation, I hesitate to pick the Utes, but I saw a clear improvement with Coach Johnson and the offense against USC, and UCLA is coming off of a bad loss. I think a heavy dosage of John White, one or two home runs in the passing game, and solid D lead the Utes to an upset.

Utah 24 UCLA 17

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