Colorado at No. 24 UCLA – A Preview … “T.I.P.S.” for CU’s first game against a ranked opponent this season

The last play of last year’s game between Colorado and UCLA is probably seared into your memory … Bruin quarterback Brett Hundley running unmolested up the middle of the Buff defense for an eight yard touchdown to finish off a 40-37 double-overtime win for UCLA.

Many college football observers thought that the weak link for the 2015 UCLA Bruins might be at quarterback, with Hundley finally out of Westwood.

Not so much.

“I thought, losing (former quarterback Brett) Hundley that they might take a step back with their quarterback spot,” said CU head coach Mike MacIntyre at the Tuesday press conference. “But I think (current QB) Josh Rosen is an incredible freshman quarterback and I mean the word incredible”.

Colorado faces a ranked team this week for the first time this season (the latest that has happened since 1992), when the Buffs take on the Bruins in the Rose Bowl (1:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks). The line for the game started at 18.5-points for the Bruins, but has since moved to 21.0-points.

The money seems to be on UCLA to take care of business against Colorado.

Do the Buffs, coming off their first conference road win in three years, have in in them to win back-to-back conference games since the last game of the 2011 season (17-14 over Utah) and the first conference game of the 2012 season (35-34 over Washington State)?

Here are this week’s “T.I.P.S.” for Colorado at No. 24 UCLA

 

T – Talent

All freshman quarterback Josh Rosen did for the Bruins last week is throw for a school-record 34 completions, 399 yards, and three touchdowns in UCLA’s 40-24 win over No. 20 California.

Not a freshman record for completions, mind you, but a school-record.

Against Colorado, Rosen will be looking for his third-consecutive 300-yard passing game (which would tie a school record), and his third game overall of over 350 yards passing (which would also tie a school-record).

This just in … Josh Rosen is good …

… and he has weapons.

Wide receiver Jordan Peyton has caught at least one pass in 23 straight games (Nelson Spruce’s run is up to 33 straight games), is third on UCLA’s all-time receptions list, and has over 2,000 career receiving yards (last year against Colorado, Peyton had five catches for 65 yards and a touchdown). In his last four games, Peyton has 25 catches for 363 yards and two touchdowns.

There remains uncertainty as to whether star running back Paul Perkins will play. Perkins was injured during the Cal game, but did practice this week. If Perkins is held out for precautionary reasons – or just because they want to rest him for a November push which includes three out of four games on the road – that would be just fine with the Buff Nation.  Perkins, with 24 career touchdowns, is just one shy of the school record, and has run for at least 80 yards in 19 career games (including 180 yards and two touchdowns last October in Boulder – remember the 92-yarder on UCLA’s second offensive play?). If Perkins can’t go, Josh Rosen may be handing the ball off to another heralded freshman recruit, Soso Jamabo.

Perkins is just the latest in a list of star players who have gone down for UCLA. The Bruins have lost several star players on defense, including two-way star Myles Jack, who has already left school and declared himself eligible for the 2016 NFL draft.

Still, the UCLA defense has continued to play well. The Bruins are riding a streak of 45 straight regular season victories in which they held the opponent to less than 20 points.

The last time UCLA held an opponent to less than 20 points and lost? A 16-14 loss to Colorado in 2003.

So the Buffs have that going for them, which is nice.

 

I – Intangibles

Want another bit of positive karma?

The Buffs have lost 24 straight road games to ranked opponents (no, that’s not the good news). The last time Colorado did win a road game against a ranked opponent, however, was in 2002, against UCLA, in the Rose Bowl (a 31-17 win which just happens to be the current Archive Game of the Week).

Or perhaps this bit of karma will help:

The coach for the Buffs the last time they defeated a ranked team on the road, as well as the coach for the Buffs the last time UCLA lost a game when holding an opponent under 20 points?

Gary Barnett.

The same Gary Barnett who marks his debut this weekend in the color commentator role on KOA radio (Barnett will replace the retiring Larry Zimmer permanently for the 2016 season).

More karma?

Last season, UCLA was 5-2 heading into their game against Colorado, and was ranked 25th in the nation. This year, the Bruins are 5-2 again, and are ranked 24th. Last season, the Buffs were only 2-5 heading into the contest, yet took the Bruins into double-overtime.

This year, the Buffs are 4-4 …

Not a lot to go one, but the Buffs are 2-8 all-time against the Bruins, and have lost all four of their games to UCLA as members of the Pac-12 conference.

Karma, do your stuff …

 

P – Preparation / Schedule

UCLA has had an extra two days (actually three) to prepare for Colorado. The Bruins last played last Thursday night at home, taking down No. 20 Cal. Meanwhile, Colorado played on Saturday, but the CU coaches gave the players Sunday off since the Buffs didn’t get back from Saturday night’s game in Corvallis until 5:15 a.m. Sunday morning. The Buffs were also off Monday, their first two day break since the season started.

So, UCLA started working on CU in practice last Friday; CU started working on UCLA in practice on Tuesday.

You would think that would be a distinct advantage for UCLA, and you might be right, but the discrepancy in preparation time might actually work to CU’s advantage.

First, you would have to think that the UCLA players would be a bit bored studying CU film. After all, the Bruins are three touchdown favorites, and none of the current Bruins have ever lost to the Buffs.

Second, the Buffs, fresh from their first Pac-12 win in two years, have had a little extra bounce in their step in practice this week. “The guys are really upbeat, a lot of high spirits this week—you can attribute that to the win,” said Sefo Liufau on Tuesday. “A lot of guys were bouncing around, really good tempo at practice today. We’ll be ready for UCLA come Saturday.”

Third, the Buffs won’t have a lot of extra time to dwell on how great UCLA is, and be reminded time and time again how they don’t have a chance. They will only have time to focus on the task at hand. The longer the wait, the more doubt can creep back into the players’ minds.

Finally, the Buffs, after playing four straight night games, will be playing in the afternoon for the first time since the Nicholls contest in September. ““It will be good,” said Liufau. “We practice in the morning, so I think we will be very prepared for this game at noon (P.T.). We’ll be ready to go. It’s an earlier game, which we’re excited about, not sitting around the hotel all day, twiddling our thumbs and waiting to go. Excited, and happy to get back before midnight”.

As Nike would say, “Just Do It”.

 

S – Statistics

As you would imagine, UCLA, a team ranked as high as 7th in the nation this fall, has some impressive statistics behind its 5-2 record.

UCLA is 23rd in the nation in total offense (478.4 ypg.) and 31st in scoring offense (35.6 ppg.). The Bruins are 33rd in the nation in pass defense, giving up only 193.1 ypg.

There’s also this … teams are actually averaging negative yardage on punt returns against UCLA. In eight games, the Bruins have allowed all of two punt returns, going for a minus-one yard, good enough for 2nd in the nation.

UCLA, though, is not without its warts:

–  The Bruins are just about as bad as the Buffs in stopping the run. UCLA is giving up 203.9 ypg. rushing (104th nationally), up there with CU’s 209.5 ypg. (110th);

– UCLA is actually worse than Colorado in scoring defense, giving up 27.1 ppg. (71st), compared to CU’s 25.8 ppg. (57th);

– Not that the Buffs want to take too much advantage of this, but, paradoxically, the team which is 2nd in the nation in punt return defense is 124th in the country in kickoff return defense;

– UCLA is 113th nationally in penalty yardage per game, and is a minus-one overall in turnovers (78th nationally), while Colorado is a plus-four on turnovers for the season.

 

Prediction … You are going to hear this often in CU’s final five games of the 2015 season: The Buffs need to play a perfect game to win.

To-wit:

–  Sefo Liufau, who has thrown only three interceptions all season, needs to be more than a game manager – he needs to play his best game;

– Colorado needs to take advantage of UCLA’s poor rush defense numbers, and stay on schedule on offense. UCLA is content to let the opposition keep the ball (the Bruins are 113th in time of possession) – CU needs to exploit that;

– The CU defense needs to contain Josh Rosen as much as possible (a huge task), and not give up any huge plays (the Buffs did not surrender any plays of 40+ yards to Oregon State);

– Special teams battles have to be won. This will be a difficult task, as UCLA excels on special teams; and

– Even with all that, the Buffs will need several turnovers and key penalty calls to go their way.

It’s nice to have the consecutive loss streaks behind us, but the 4-4 Buffs are not yet ready for prime time. Perhaps the early kickoff (noon, PT) and smaller than usual crowd (though it is homecoming for the Bruins, it’s Halloween, and the opponent is, after all, Colorado) will keep the Bruins from running out to a quick early lead. Perhaps staying with the Bruins for awhile will give the Buffs increased confidence. Perhaps …

Sorry, still can’t see it …

No. 24 UCLA 40, Colorado 21

—–

 

6 Replies to “CU at No. 24 UCLA – A Preview”

  1. Well, there is a glimmer for an upset on this board, other than Stuart’s & theOCJBuff’s sane predictions, so I have the Buff’s comming home with a 2 point victory. The score, a U-Pick’m Special.

    Our Buff’s need to make this happen !! Win this one and we still have an outside shot @ Bowl eligibility ; so this is a good indicator game to see if we have improved on our mental performance since they became unnerved after taking the lead against Arizona.

    The best shot for this to happen, both teams need to have long possession and time-consuming drives; with the Buff’s denying UCLA points on two of its forays.

  2. I was at the Rose Bowl for the 1st UCLA game of the MacIntyre era. Altho CU was beaten soundly on the scoreboard, it was the first game that they truly started to put it all together. I remember thinking “they are actually starting to play real football!” That was the game where UCLA’s big name Defensive player Anthony Barr hit Liufau late and Liufau got in his face and then the whole CU Offensive line came and surrounded the scene! We were finally getting our confidence…

    Last year we took UCLA into double OT at home and were likely just one Tedric Thompson injury away from winning that game (meaning if Thompson hadn’t been hurt in the 1st OT, we win in the 2nd).

    This year I can’t wait. Not necessarily predicting a win, but I feel like we could keep this game close… and if we are close in the 4th Quarter, anything goes. Go Buffs!

  3. If we do not see the pro offense almost exclusively with a lot of downhill running I think we may be in for a long night. If we make the change and stay committed I think there is a shot we shock the world. Maybe Lindgren is a genius and the reason we ran no pro style last week against OSY is he didn’t want to show UCLA what we planned…… That’s probably too much to hope for.

  4. Really nice article Stuart, especially with all of the stats and history.

    Like you, I think you have the score about right…. especially since WE have a tendency to shoot ourselves in the foot on drives that could potentially produce points.

    With no stupid penalties, I can see where we might stay in the hunt and might pull-off a nice surprise. Or, at least, we can hope.

  5. Crazy theory. CU coaches, realizing a short practice week for UCLA, ran a vanilla offense vs. Oregon St (ok, more vanilla than usual), and started working on UCLA early. The Buffs come out firing and hang with the Bruins. Oh, who am I kidding. UCLA 40 CU 28.

    Really just hoping for an entertaining afternoon with the Buffs playing competitive football.

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