Countdown to 2014 season – No. 2 – UCLA

Note … This is the eleventh in a series of previews for the 2014 season, ranking CU’s opponents from the easiest to most difficult.

Previously posted … No. 12 Massachusetts; No. 11 Hawai’i; No. 10 California; No. 9 Colorado State; No. 8 Utah; No. 7 Oregon StateNo. 6 Arizona; No. 5 Washington; No. 4 Arizona State; and No. 3 USC.


Christmas came a little bit late this past winter for UCLA head coach Jim Mora … but he didn’t mind.

On January 6th, Bruin star quarterback Brett Hundley announced that he would be returning to Westwood for his junior season, and Jim Mora’s outlook on life got a great deal better.

Hundley’s return allowed UCLA, No. 16 in the final polls last year, to enter the 2014 season as the No. 7 team in the nation (in the preseason USA Today/coaches’ poll). Hundley is on all of the preseason watch-lists, including those for the Heisman trophy.

Hundley’s return was huge, but UCLA was going to be very good this fall regardless. A total of 18 starters return for a team which has its sights set not only on a Pac-12 South title, but a conference crown and playoff berth.

“With what’s coming in and what we have already”, said Hundley, “I think the stars are all aligned”.

And it certainly appears that UCLA will be good for the foreseeable future. In posting their first ten-win season since 2005, the Bruins played 18 true freshmen and 16 red-shirt freshmen.

So, unless the NFL comes calling, Jim Mora may still be in Westwood for many Christmases to come …

2013 Season

The tone for UCLA’s 2013 season was set early.

After an easy romp in the opener against Nevada (58-20), the Bruins faced adversity. First, they lost a receiver, Nick Pasquale, who died in a car accident the week leading up to their road game against No. 18 Nebraska.

Then, the Bruins fell behind the Cornhuskers, 21-3, late in the second quarter.

A touchdown in the last minute of the first half got UCLA back into the game, and propelled the Bruins to a huge rally. UCLA out-scored Nebraska 28-0 in the third quarter (breaking a 27-0 one-quarter scoring record set by the Buffs in the 27-12 win in Lincoln in 1990), finishing off the Cornhuskers with a 38-0 run overall, and a 41-21 victory.

Wins over New Mexico State, Utah and Cal set up a showdown with Stanford. The 5-0 Bruins, now up to No. 9 in the polls, were not able to handle the Cardinal, however, falling 24-10. A humbling 42-14 loss to No. 2 Oregon the following week eliminated UCLA from national title contention, and dropped the Bruins to No. 20 in the polls.

The following week, Colorado hung with UCLA … for a half. The Buffs played well, even taking a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter. The halftime score was 21-13, UCLA, but the Bruins then got their act together with a pair of third quarter touchdowns on their way to a 45-23 victory.

Wins over Arizona and Washington followed, setting up a showdown with Arizona State for the Pac-12 South title. Playing at home, the No. 14 Bruins were surprised by the No. 19 Sun Devils, 38-33.

Comfortable wins over cross-town rival USC (35-14) and Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl (42-12), gave the Bruins ten wins and some matter of satisfaction.

But, even with a No. 16 final ranking, the Bruins were not completely satisfied. The 2013 season extended UCLA’s drought – dating back to 1998 – without a conference title.

A drought Bruin fans expect to see end this fall.


Brett Hundley put up great numbers last fall, passing for over 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns (to only nine interceptions). The dual-threat quarterback also found time to lead the team in rushing, carrying the ball 160 times for 748 yards and another 11 scores.

To look at Hundley as a one-man gang, however, would be to miss the other weapons in the UCLA arsenal.

The wide receiver corps lost Shaquelle Evans to the NFL, but the next three producers from last season – Devin Fuller, Jordan Payton, and Paul Perkins – all return.

When Hundley decides to hand the ball off instead of keeping it himself, he has a pair of workhorses behind him. Paul Perkins (573 yards, six touchdowns) and Jordan James (534 yards, five touchdowns). Hundley can also count upon the Pac-12 offensive Freshman-of-the-Year, Myles Jack, who had 38 carries for 267 yards and seven touchdowns last season … when he wasn’t on the field earning defensive Freshman-of-the-Year honors at linebacker.

Three of five starters from last year’s offensive line return, but there is plenty of experience to exploit, with five juniors or sophomores back who saw extensive playing time last fall. Not that UCLA needs it, but the Bruins can supplement their line with the addition of Miami transfer Malcolm Bunche, who is eligible to play this fall.


Star linebacker Anthony Barr has left for the professional ranks, but most of the rest of the UCLA defense returns.

The headliner, of course, is sophomore linebacker Myles Jack, who had 75 tackles and a team-best 11 passes broken up last fall. Jack will team up with Eric Kendricks, who had a team-leading 105 tackles in 2013.

The defensive line returns two starters who earned their starting roles as freshmen – Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes. The pair will work with a senior moving into the starting lineup for the first time, “all-name” team candidate Owamagbe Odighizuwa.

UCLA needed to replace its entire secondary last fall, and the newcomers did not disappoint, with the group ranking third in the conference in pass defense. The unit returns in tact, and features junior cornerback Ishmael Adams, who led the team with four interceptions.


UCLA will know by the end of September whether the Bruins are to be Pac-12 and national contenders.

After opening with what should be easy wins over Virginia and Memphis (with the only difficulty in the opener being that the game in Charlottesville will have a kickoff time of 9:00 a.m., Pacific time), the Bruins face their first task of the season. UCLA will travel to Arlington to take on Texas in a de facto road game. The Longhorns were only 8-5 in 2013, leading to Mack Brown stepping down. Texas will be looking to make a national statement under new head coach Charlie Strong, so this game will be a challenge for the Bruins.

Pac-12 conference play then begins 12 days later with a Thursday night game against Arizona State in Tempe. The Sun Devils denied the Bruins a chance at the Pac-12 title last fall with an upset in the Rose Bowl, and the Bruins will be hoping for payback in the desert on September 25th.

After taking on a Utah team which has given UCLA fits since joining the Pac-12 (a 31-6 Utah upset in 2011, followed by close UCLA wins – 21-14 and 34-27 – in 2012 and 2013), the Bruins get their chance at a likely undefeated and top three team in Oregon at home.

If UCLA can get past those games, then the schedule lightens up, with road games against conference bottom-feeders Cal and Colorado. The November calendar has three of four games at home, with one lone trip to Seattle to play Washington offset by home games against Arizona, USC and Stanford. The finale is against the Cardinal instead of the Trojans (USC will finish with Notre Dame), a possible preview of the Pac-12 title game to be played the following weekend.


The Pac-12 has seven – seven! – quarterbacks on the preseason Johnny Unitas award watch-list, and UCLA’s Brett Hundley may be the best of the lot.

Colorado has had difficulty in recent years against mobile quarterbacks, and Hundley should do well (again) against the Buffs. Last season, in a game in which CU was actually competitive, Hundley went 19-of-24 (79% completion rate) for 273 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Hundley also had 11 carries for 72 yards (6.5 yards per carry) and two more touchdowns.

The Buffs do get a slight bump from the schedule makers, as Colorado gets UCLA at home as part of a stretch in which the Bruins play three games out of four on the road. The game is also on October 25th, perhaps late enough into the fall that the weather could play a factor.

Plus, the game will be played on the 28th anniversary of CU’s 20-10 upset win over undefeated and 3rd-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers. So the Buffs have that going for them … which is nice.

But probably not good enough to foresee a Colorado victory against a loaded UCLA team …





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *