Scouting the Opposition

… Previews for Colorado State, Texas State, Northern Colorado and Washington can be found here

Game Five – at UCLA – September 30th

… November 3, 2016 – No. 21 Colorado 20, UCLA 10 … Last season, the Buffs began a November to remember with a 20-10 home win over the Bruins. Isaiah Oliver had two huge punt returns, including a 68-yarder for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to seal the victory … (Game story: “Even Ugly Wins Count“)

… Despite finishing with a 4-8 record last season, the pundits are placing faith in the return of a healthy Josh Rosen at quarterback. One anonymous Pac-12 assistant coach put it this way: “They’re always scary because, hey, they’re UCLA, and they have players. When they play well, they look like they can beat anyone in the country”.

2016 UCLA results – 4-8 (2-7 in Pac-12 play)

– Returning starters, Offense: 6 … Returning starters, Defense: 4

– 2016 National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 96th … 24.9 points per game  (Colorado – 51st … 31.1 points per game)

— Rushing – 127th … 84.3 yards per game  (Colorado – 56th … 182.6 yards per game)

— Passing – 19th … 295.6 yards per game  (Colorado – 47th … 254.5 yards per game)

— Total – 91st … 379.8 yards per game  (Colorado – 47th … 437.1 yards per game)

– 2016 National Rankings (Defense)

— Scoring – 59th … 27.5 points per game  (Colorado – 20th … 21.7 points per game)

— Rushing – 63rd … 171.5 yards per game  (Colorado – 44th … 148.9 yards per game)

— Passing – 43rd … 210.5 yards per game  (Colorado – 20th … 193.6 yards per game)

— Total – 47th … 382.0 yards per game  (Colorado – 19th … 342.5 yards per game)

How the Buffs fit into the Bruins’ 2017 schedule

UCLA opens the season at home with a re-match against Texas A&M (the Aggies won, 31-24, in overtime last year). Up next will be an easy home game against Hawai’i, before heading out on the road to face a Memphis team which went 8-5 in 2016.

The real test of how well UCLA will fare in 2017 will come the week before the CU game, when the Bruins travel to Palo Alto to face the Stanford Cardinal. If Josh Rosen can lead UCLA to a win in their Pac-12 opener against Stanford, the Bruins will return home to face Colorado with significant momentum. If the Bruins fall to the Cardinal, there may be rumblings about a post-Jim Mora era when the Buffs run out into the Rose Bowl on September 30th.

Street and Smith’s has UCLA as the No. 4 team in the Pac-12 South, projecting the Bruins to earn a bid to the Armed Forces Bowl as the Pac-12’s No. 8 bowl qualifier.

Josh Rosen showed up at spring practices sounding like a changed man, and it is easy to see why.

For the talented UCLA quarterback, 2016 was both painful and humbling. So instead of talking about winning a national championship as he did before last season – while others spoke of the Heisman – Rosen returned from a midseason shoulder injury to speak of his new perspective and a desire to simply make “day-to-day” incremental improvements.

… All the new faces on the defense, and the questions on offense that first-year offensive coordinator inherits, hardly project UCLA to a national championship, a Pac-12 division crown, or any sort of title. The Bruins might be lucky just to add a few wins to the four they collected last season. But the problem is that, at UCLA, even that incremental improvement may not be enough to keep the heat off of head coach Jim Mora.


Lindy’s has UCLA as the No. 3 team in the Pac-12 South, the No. 38 team in the nation

Primary Strengths … Rosen remains one of the most highly-touted quarterbacks in college football, but he regressed last season after a standout freshman season. And not just his injury: The Bruins were just plain bad on offense. This year, with Flech in the fold, the passing game should take tremendous strides. UCLA’s front seven had some big losses to the NFL draft, but there is plenty of talent left on the table.

Potential Problems … The Bruins were shockingly ineffective on the ground last year, and it will be telling how much they commit to the run this year. Likewise, UCLA’s rushing defense has been perennially mediocre, and while the pass rush should be nice, the front seven much contain the outside run better.

Overview … The honeymoon period is over at Westwood for Mora, and one more bad season could put him on the chopping block. After 37 wins in his first four seasons, the wheels came off when Rosen went down in Year 5. After changing up the coaching staff, the buck stops at Mora this year. Better get the running game back, and in a hurry.

Athlon has UCLA as the No. 2 team in the Pac-12 North, the No. 33 team in the nation (CU is 3rd in the Pac-12 South; No. 34 overall)

Final Analysis … Those who swore allegiance to the powder blues have been trying to figure out if the Bruins’ disastrous 2016 season was a blip on the radar or part of a troubling trend under Mora. Injuries to key players like Rosen were a big factor in the team’s recent backslide, but two straight campaigns of declining win totals have many thinking that 2017 will be a referendum on the head coach’s tenure.

Despite concerns, the return of Rosen to the starting lineup is enough to get people to buy low on a team which should make big gains offensively. That should take some pressure off a re-tooled defense that is stuffed with talented players, and it’s hard to go anywhere but up on special teams.

It may be tough to have a breakthrough season given how competitive the Pac-12 South has become, but this has the potential to be a top-25 team if the pieces fall into place.

National Unit Rankings … Quarterbacks – No. 11 … Defensive backs – No. 20 …

One Reply to “Scouting the Opposition”

  1. UCLAssless Bruins = No Discipline!!

    Cheap shot artists with no character. Will wilt when pushed by a better disciplined squad, so nothing changes until Mora goes.

    Go Buffs!

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